UK

Peter Kyle: MP with dyslexia hits back at 'spelling police'

Peter Kyle Image copyright Jessica Taylor
Image caption Peter Kyle says he uses cream paper to help him avoid stumbling when making speeches

Labour MP Peter Kyle has asked social media users who call him "thick" over his writing mistakes to go easy on him as he is "living with acute dyslexia".

In a candid Twitter thread, he said the platform could be an "unforgiving place for people with unseen challenges".

The MP for Hove and Portslade, who was elected in 2015, said he gets picked up on his tweets every day.

"Mostly it's kindly or humorous which is appreciated. Sometimes it's sneering or brutal," he tweeted.

Mr Kyle said the last time he was formally assessed he was told he had a reading and comprehension age of an eight-year-old.

He said he was recently given a hard time for spelling "border" as "boarder".

Most people were forgiving, he said, but some responded by saying "resign and let someone with a brain take over".

Mr Kyle, 49, explained that his learning difficulty meant it sometimes felt as if his eyes were not properly connected to his brain.

"Sometimes words are just shapes," he wrote. "However much I try to engage my brain, the connection just isn't there. I can see the shape but it simply has no meaning. Frustrating, huh."

The MP described how his dyslexia caused him embarrassment at school, where he was forced to read Shakespeare aloud to the class "one painful word at a time".

He left school without any qualifications but said he decided to return aged 25, adding "just imagine the humiliation of walking into that classroom".

He went on to attend the University of Sussex, where he left with a degree and a PhD in community economic development.

"Above all I know I must work harder than most to achieve the same: prepping, writing, corresponding, reading... everything!" he wrote.

"This isn't depressing, it's liberating. Once you know this you have the tools to succeed."

'It's Dr Thick to you'

He explained that one of the techniques he employed to help him with his visual difficulties was using cream paper when reading a speech - which resulted in fewer stumbles. It is a recognised practice for dyslexic people.

Mr Kyle dismissed suggestions that he should get members of his staff to check his tweets for mistakes, saying he would prefer they do "something valuable".

He also told the "spelling police" that there were 649 other MPs out there, adding: "If after all that you still want to hurl insults the very least you can do is get my name right... it's Dr Thick to you!"

His post has been widely shared, with fellow Labour MPs Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper among those to praise him.

Ms Harman said "everyone needs to read this thread", while Ms Cooper said it was "really inspiring".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: "Massive respect to Peter Kyle for speaking out so openly about his dyslexia."

Mr Kyle told the BBC that he had no idea his post would get such a big reaction but he was excited that it seemed to have connected with people.

He said he was hopeful that speaking about his experience would give someone who was starting out on a similar journey as him "some kind of optimism".

"Most people from my background don't end up as MPs, which is tragic," he said.

Helen Boden, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, welcomed the MP "talking publicly and positively" about his dyslexia and applauded him for calling out people who have derided him over his spelling.

"Peter's frustrations with being assumed stupid by a niche who think grammar is synonymous with intelligence are echoed by millions of dyslexics," she said.

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