The article below was over ten years in preparation and included dozens of interviews with doctors, scientists, corporations and families familiar with the work of the Alphalearning Institute and attendance on three of the Institute’s training courses. Copyright 1995 – 2003: Jules Marshall / TCS.
(…) No reading, no access to the rest of the curriculum; in a knowledge-driven economy this amounts to an appalling handicap and the impact of constant failure on children’s self-esteem is debilitating – it should be no surprise that 66 percent of US prison inmates are functionally illiterate.
Ask Julia Lowes about dyslexia. Her educational psychologist, a dyslexia specialist pronounced Julia ‘severely dyslexic, in fact one of only six genuine dyslexics she’d encountered in 16 years’. She eventually and reluctantly did the Alphalearning course in 1994, after being badgered to do so by her brother, who discovered it when trying desperately to get back to university following brain damage from a car crash.
“Three hours into the course, straight after my first go on the Brainwave, I phoned my mum and asked her to buy me a book,” says Julia. “I immediately and for the first time in my life, saw that I could relax my brain enough to see the words. It’s a problem to describe, let alone teach: how do you ‘relax’ your brain?” There’s been gradual improvement ever since, her reading speed is up from 3 words/minute to 190 words/minute.
When Julia and her mother went back to her educational psychologist, she “blustered about how all kinds of changes can happen, adolescence, etc. She skipped 2-3 parts of the 11-part Weschler IQ test to avoid having to discuss or confront the real changes that had occurred, changes that could only have come from the course,” says her mother Pippa. “She completely shut the door on us.”
Julia was an Olympic race horse groom, and when she bought a Brainwave I herself, she set it up in the stables where she worked. Soon several riders and trainers remarked how calm two of the horses were she looked after. It was the two next to her PC, which brought back Alphalearning’s claims that ‘brainwaves are contagious’ – maybe even to horses?
She got her chance to test the theory in Dubai, where she’d been flown by the Alphalearning, who was conducting a private course for two sheiks. One had an 8-year-old horse, a grey, that was impossible for anyone to get near without causing extreme distress. Its vet was finding it increasingly hard to approach even with a head harness, and it could only be ridden after a long, tiring battle. She put the headphones on its neck and held the lights over its eyes – the Institute has a video of it – and sure enough, incredibly, the system seems to work on animals too. “The faces on the grooms!,” laughs Julia. “Their chins hit the ground. To see it following me round like a meek puppy after 20 minutes.”
Julia Lowes (left) and her assistant connecting an EEG machine to the horse.
Julia Lowes and the Lotus software
When I was born apparently it was a very difficult birth from my mother and there were problems. Eventually I was delivered by cesarean section. There was a lack of oxygen in my brain. That’s where this brain damage comes from.
When I was dyslexic and where the early memories started to go wrong is when I was about 4 or 5. I had been doing quite well in my primary school and then all of a sudden they put me up an extra year because I had been doing so well and then a lot of things went wrong. I had a lot of problems with reading.
My first real memory was when my mum took me to have my eyes tested to make sure that the eyes were not the problem. That’s why they suddenly thought I was not doing very well at school. The doctor told me that I had bad eyesight and I would have to wear glasses and so I would have to stop riding horses. Well, being a little girl and being told things like that I virtually threw the spectacles in the bin. I remember my mother asking the doctor, and saying boys that wear glasses don’t have to stop playing football. The doctor said, yes, they should stop. My mum didn’t really believe it, so she took me to quite a few specialists in London and there wasn’t much of an eye problem. There was a little problem but not a big thing with my eyes.
I don’t really remember much at that age, but I do remember coming home with words where every time I got them wrong or couldn’t read them, I had to put them in a little box. I would have to go over and over and learn them but it never really helped. Then we moved and I went to a new school and my parents got divorced and my mother moved back to where she was brought up and I went to the same school she did and I enjoyed it there, but still had problems with the reading.
They suggested that I went to the children’s hospital in Great Ormond Street, so we went there. A lady doctor, Dr. Lodascher, diagnosed me as a dyslexic at about age 8. She suggested a few things for school and everything was going pretty well. And then the school, when I got to the age of 9 or 10, said to my mother, “Sorry, I think we can’t take your daughter next year because she really needs to go to a proper school for dyslexia”. They didn’t feel that they could help me much, which was fair enough at the time, but I felt like that even though I had been struggling, nobody wants me anymore and I tried school and was failing.
We looked at many schools and they came up with this one school in Eastbourne called Chance Hall. It was a boarding school and I don’t think I ever really wanted to go there, but it was for the best for the dyslexia. I didn’t want to leave mum and I didn’t want to leave home, but anyway I went there. And from the first day I absolutely hated it. It did have a special dyslexic unit there, but I don’t think it ever really helped. I hated it, I was so unhappy there.
My mother tried to take me away but my father took out a court injunction for my mum to make me stay there. Mom had me coming home every weekend in tears, but wanting to go back to school. I remember I really hated it. I can see the place now. I used to dream about running away and going away. I was there a year and then they moved me up and I was the only girl in my class.
Boys teased me like you would not believe. Don’t play with the dyslexic – she might be contagious!
They made it quite obvious that I sort of stuck out amongst the others, I felt I was such an odd person and why was I such an odd person. Nothing made sense. Then eventually my mother managed to persuade my father to let me leave and I did leave.
We had great problems trying to find a new school. I felt that I had done something wrong, that somebody was punishing me for doing something wrong, and for all the trouble I was causing my mother. I was a very, very unhappy little girl and mum couldn’t find a school so when I was 10 1/2 or 11, I had a private tutor for a year, which helped a bit, yet I always felt like an odd person out. I never really made any friends. I was always alone somewhere and it was like somebody punishing me because I had trouble with my reading. It made no sense. The tutor and I got on very well and so we started to make progress.
Mum eventually found a lovely school in Surrey, and I went there in March when I was 12 in summer, and I absolutely loved that school. It was only a small school, about 23 people or something, mixed, and the headmaster became the father that I never really had. I loved him and it was such a lovely calming atmosphere that I started to actually enjoy school and I made a lot of absolutely lovely friends there and they had horses and I could ride horses and still be happy and do well at school. My reading and dyslexia got quite a lot better. I was there for a year and a term and then I had to leave because you can only stay up there until you are about 13.
Then I went to my local state school, which was trouble after I had always been in private schools and talked with a posh upper class accent. I got picked on because of my accent and because I had been to private schools.
My first year memory of that school was sitting in the class that first day. It was an English class, and they were going down the room asking people to read out loud and I can see me now sitting there getting more scared and more scared, tears rolling down my cheeks waiting to be picked on, so frightened. Even talking about it now for me brings tears to my eyes.
I was so scared, when it came to my turn I collected up enough courage to say to the teacher, “You know I am dyslexic, I shouldn’t have to read this, this is wrong”. And she said “We know nothing about you being dyslexic.” So I had to tell all my teachers. I had to stand up and be made a right fool of, to tell everybody I was dyslexic. I hated that place, but I only had 2 years left so I struggled through.
Eventually with my mother’s battling and help, I managed to get some extra help because they didn’t think I was bad enough, because I wasn’t stupid. Being a state school, I didn’t really take it all in. I was more intelligent than the local village idiot, as it were, you know the people that didn’t do well at school. But I knew I could do better. When I had things read to me, I was getting top grades, but when I didn’t, I was always falling back.
Eventually my mum got me a private teacher for extra reading lessons. I had a very nice teacher who I loved and she and I got on really well. Then it got towards my exams in the fifth year in my math class (my math’s had always been very good which no one could really understand).
Looking back on it now that I understand brain damage, it made sense. They made me stand up and then the teacher said this girl cannot take her O levels math’s because she is dyslexic and she can’t read the paper so she will fail, we will have to put her in a low level.
All my classmates were doing the exams and I felt like such an idiot and a fool. It was so frustrating knowing that I could do it if only somebody could read me the paper, because I was good at math’s. It was like banging your head against a brick wall knowing that you can do it but it is just that your reading is the problem.
I knew that I was smart. My mother always said that if you could have a little mouse to sit beside you to read everything you would go on and finish and go to college. Just before the exams started I didn’t want to talk about college. I thought no way, as soon as I left school that was going to be it. I was out of there.
Anyway, going on a few more months, my mother, my private tutor at the last school and my remedial reading teacher all got together and eventually they managed to get a reader for me during the exams and extra time in my exams. If I had been in a different school area, I could have had a writer as well and had a whole lot more opportunity, but it seemed political problems in the school were such that I could only just have a reader.
I felt quite guilty because there was another boy in my English class that was worse than I was and because his parents didn’t fight for him he got nothing, he didn’t get any help at all. It always got to me that, because I always felt that if I didn’t have my mother and the other people behind me I would have been like him.
Anyway, I struggled through the exams. I did quite well and it finally came time for me to leave school and I was very glad to leave school and at long last I could stop feeling inadequate. I did feel that I did not belong anywhere because I was intelligent but I was put with the real idiots, I mean that sounds an awful thing to say, but that is what I felt like. I just didn’t want to know about school for a very long, long, long time. I always said about a year later when I was happy and relaxed and my mum said as well when I was happy and relaxed it would come a bit more.
Over the years after leaving school and when I went to Australia I felt that it did improve because I had to. I was happy and I said stuff it, who cares if I am dyslexic, it is something I’m living with and who gives a damn, you know, who gives a damn and that attitude helped me as well to tell more people.
It was only when I left school I felt actually comfortable telling people, like telling my new bosses, please don’t ask me to insert a clause or something because I’ll ask you again cause it will get written down because my reading was not so good because I’m dyslexic. And I could tell people and I felt comfortable telling people. But that was 8 years after I had been diagnosed and now I can talk about it like you wouldn’t believe.
Things got a lot better over the years. I did a course at the Alphalearning Institute and as the letter I wrote them shortly after the course says;
“Thank you for your help. I am doing my exercises and have read over half of my book. I can’t thank you all enough for what you have done for me. It has opened a whole new world
It is very difficult to now know where to start and in which direction. They say life begins at 40 but my life began when my brother found you and backed me into a corner to say yes to go to the Alphalearning
My boyfriend, mum and other people and the people I work with could not believe that I was the same person. I now have confidence that I have never felt before. Hope your trip is going well and hope you help more people. I will keep in touch.”
That was a year ago and now I have read another book and I’m halfway through the second and I actually for the first time in my life enjoy reading. I think of going to bed now and I’ll read two pages, OK, it’s not a lot, but I’m actually wanting to read and I’ll go into book shops and it doesn’t fill me full of horror now. I’m even beginning to enjoy it.
I went on holiday before Christmas and I used to get quite bored, but I always managed to mingle and do other things when other people were reading, but looking back I don’t remember what I used to do when I couldn’t read. I took my book, went down to the beach and read a couple of pages and then read to my boyfriend and he couldn’t believe the change in me. Just after 3 days at the Alphalearning.
I can’t thank the Alphalearning Institute enough, and I still can’t. I hope if I can help other people by writing this letter, I hope to God I can, to save the pain and the agony so that other children, you know, they don’t have to go through it like I went through it.
My mother was always great, my father was not very helpful. I can remember my granny grabbing hold of me and sitting me down when I was about 12 (she’s dead now) and saying, I had to study at school and work hard to get good grades, and like I hated her for the pressure that she put on me. Now that I am a lot stronger person, I can forgive her, but at the time it was such a battle.
I hope I can stop one person from going through this trouble and the anxiety that I went through. That would make me really happy.
Thank you very much.
FOOTNOTE: Julia continued to work with her own Brainwave. She has improved her reading speed from 3 words/minute to 250 words/minute (the average college graduate only reads at 225 words/minute).