Dyslexia: a Surmountable Obstacle

An interview with Charles Tisseyre

By Brigitte Blanchard

The art of making science accessible to the layman comes naturally to Charles Tisseyre, who for the last 25 years has been host of the Radio-Canada show Découverte. This ability to educate in a clear and entertaining manner was acquired with the help of some excellent teachers who continued to believe in him and nurture his love of science despite his dyslexia. Montréal en Santé recently had the chance to sit down with Charles Tisseyre and chat about how he overcame his dyslexia.

Montréal en Santé: How did you find out that you were dyslexic?

In primary school, I had a hard time learning how to read and write, and this caused me a lot of distress because I felt less intelligent than everybody else. The principal, my teacher and my parents decided that I should see a specialist. Despite the great patience of this kind lady, I still felt inferior to my peers who learned without any extra help. But after a few months, I learned to concentrate and to really understand the place of each individual letter, to decipher words and eventually to read and write on my own—but still more slowly than the others.

MES: How was the rest of your time at school after that?

I developed at a standard pace during primary school, but in high school I started to daydream a lot. As I was having difficulty learning, I was moved to another school. The strict discipline and excellent teaching methods of my new teacher allowed me to concentrate better and to improve myself.

Every night, I studied vocabulary for the next day’s dictation. I had to do well, otherwise I’d be sent to detention on Saturdays. Well, I went from 43 errors in my first dictation in December to an average of three faults by the end of the school year! This teacher was strict, but also very engaging. My desire to become a scientific journalist started with him; his biology, geography and arithmetic classes were very stimulating.

Nonetheless, I still had to repeat a year. But I slowly regained some confidence thanks to the principal of the school, who made me understand that in order to succeed I had to constantly provide a maximum effort. I had to take my homework and courses very seriously. Within three months, I enjoyed learning new things and improving my knowledge so much that studying had a become a pleasure for me. My pride increased: My teacher reported on my progress in front of the class. From then on, I realized that I wasn’t stupid and that I could succeed in school. I even graduated near the top of my class.

MES: What would you say to a dyslexic child?

Don’t believe for one second that you are not intelligent. Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. In the brain, there are connections between neurons, and for dyslexics, the nature of these connections makes reading more difficult than for others.

You can actually create new neural connections simply through hard work, repetition, study, and concentration. By simply applying oneself to reading and writing, everything becomes easier, due to the new neural connections that are being created. Just like me, you can get there!

Winter 2014, Vol 6 N°1

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