Point of view: parent

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Baking, dyslexia and parenthood. Alex Tait’s on a roll…

I wear two hats. One that comes with being a specialist dyslexia teacher and the other, being a parent. Dyslexia has woven a path through much of my career. I began working with primary age children, moved into secondary and finished up working with students at Oxford University. Like most of us in SEN, half of my job was reassuring students that the way they were wired was as much a plus as a negative. But, if I’m candid, the truth was that in the narrow academic life they were in, being dyslexic or dyspraxic or on the spectrum made life harder, not easier. 

I mentioned my parenting hat because I have what they call ‘skin in the game’. Two of my children would probably see themselves as neurodiverse. My oldest, the only one with a formal diagnosis, (and late too, at 17) finds timing and organising a real battle. As for my youngest, she’s a brilliant melting pot of a bit of ADHD, a large slice of dyslexia and a dollop of (female) autism. 

Both of them have found their own ways of coping and (though of course I am biassed by being their Dad) I would say that their different wiring can at times be a strength, especially outside of academia. My oldest is still at University, and with finals fast approaching, still feels a bit exposed at times. A year abroad last year made her aware of just how good her life skills are—interacting with new people, budgeting, renting a flat in a strange city. Once the challenges were real, she had no issues with organising or timing because the hurdles she faced were meaningful.

My youngest daughter is also my business partner. Her anxiety and depression are challenges that she deals with amazingly. In a strange turn of events, what particularly helped was baking, and this has led to us starting a bakery and writing a book together (Breadsong). Every day I get to see how her extraordinarily wired brain makes her operate at a totally different level to me. She spots patterns in things early on and this enables her to scale up ideas or bounce sideways with ease. 

More than anything, she has cultivated relationships with everyone from millers to packers to printers which makes them want her to succeed. It is a tremendous skill. Both of them were able to use their neurodiversity when what they were doing had some sort of meaning and served a purpose for others. What had thrown them was an education system that was simply about achieving for themselves. Education by necessity is siloed, with a clear route to success and metrics to measure what that is. Where my children felt most comfortable was when they could set their own measures of success, which made sense to them. How they are wired hasn’t made them succeed but being in the right space to use it to their benefit has.

Alex Tait
Author: Alex Tait

Alex Tait
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Alex Tait trained as a primary school teacher before becoming a dyslexia specialist in London and Oxford. In 2019 he set up the Orange Bakery with his daughter and their book, Breadsong, was published in 2022.

Instagram: the_orangebakery

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