THE TEACH TAPPER JOINS THE TRIBE
Sandra has overcome what some would see as impossible odds, in terms of comprehending the world around her, in order to do what she needs to do. She has had some quite interesting and intricate barriers that could have stopped her, including ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and more.
Yet she has turned herself into a force for change for others who have these conditions, via her business, Teach Tapping. She is a real gem in Tottenham.
A bit about me
My name is Sandra, Sandra Fox. I’m an assistive technology facilitator. I’m also an S.E.N. teacher in a college.
SEN is Special Educational Needs. So, for example, I have a disability, I have a specific learning difficulty. I’m able to do lots and lots of things but certain things make me fall down. Such as my education, my reading, my writing and my organisation skills.
“Woooow, who turned down the sound”?
I was working for the BBC and what happened was, someone put some overlay on some paper and I was able to read it. And I thought ‘wow’. So, I mentioned this to my optometrist – this was about 25 years ago. At the time I thought having the coloured lenses would make everything perfect, but that was not the case. It’s like having a car, it might not run at 100% however you can still get from A to B. In my case having the overlays enabled me to do a little bit, but I was still losing focus. After a while I, had a test for new glasses
I met a gentleman and he was talking about the overlays and I thought ‘yeah this is fantastic’. Then he came to the office here, did the test on me, and it was about reading and writing and so on. I can’t give much about the assessment itself, though. But what happened was, as soon as I had the test I put the new glasses on and the first thing I said was “woooow, who turned down the sound?” Everything was calm. All of a sudden, my coordination – because of my dyspraxia, we’re very clumsy, we walk like we’re on the other side of the road. These are all things that can be noted. However, after the new glasses, my colleagues noticed a change in me.
Before, I kind of felt I couldn’t say certain things you know? You’d kind of hold back. So, having the glasses enabled me to be the real Sandra and I don’t get headaches in my head anymore. I’ve spoken to everyone who’s had the assessment here and the first thing they said is ‘yep, the headache is gone’. A woman just came to pick hers up the other day, she’s got mobility issues. We found out that she’s dyspraxic, very heavy on her feet. As soon as she put the glasses on… she became more gentle and she’s also started speaking French! She hasn’t spoken French for over 30 years. And now she said that she can go and do her Masters’ degree. Before, she thought “no, I can’t” because dyspraxia. It’s not just about clumsiness, It’s also about spatial awareness. Like, I could talk for England but if you put me under pressure it’s like (Sandra starts to stammer ) I can’t do that. But I know I can because of my glasses.
A struggle behind closed doors
The personal thing for me is because I come across as so articulate, I come across as a professional but behind the closed doors I’m still struggling. Because of this, I had to make it easier for other people. I’ve worked in FE colleges, therefore most of my work in life is in higher education. So, I was in the right place at the right time and I excelled. Now I’m looking at people who are in colleges or at university, they think they’ve paid to be there but they’re not really getting what they’re entitled to.
A lot of students that I’ve supported have come here to England to study. I remember on one occasion I had two of them sitting next to each other and they both started crying! I said, “what are you crying for?” They both said, “nobody has ever spoken to me like that before .” I said “reality is, you’re doing a degree.
This is the future. You’ve spent a lot of money to sit there so take ownership”. And they go “thank you very much”. I just tell it as it is. I say to them, “if you’re in a shop or Imagine going into a pub and you’re buying everybody a round and everyone’s glass is half full, what are you going to say ?” You’re going to say, ‘no it’s okay?’ That’s what’s happening with education. Regardless of whether you’re in junior school, FE or higher education.
I met a young man last week, 17, non-verbal. I said, “where were you born?” His mum said he’s from England. “What happened?” “Can you help my son?” He needs to start taking responsibility now, not when everything goes wrong. Am I right?
A step further than an assessment
The assessment cost £500 it is an assessment for dyslexia it is not going to tell you about the emotional side of dyslexia and it doesn’t tell you about their day… but that piece of paper says you’re dyslexic.
I think that’s too big a word. I think the reason why… ( Sandra changes the subject) When I was working at a university, when I was made redundant, I could’ve stayed in college and just help the students. But most of the students cannot get into college now because of their lack of functional skills. That is a lack of literacy, numeracy… and then you’ve got a child who’s autistic, and I say, ’But mum what about you?’ and they say ’No, my child’ – and I say again ’but what about you?’ Your child will grow up’. Am I right?
Technology aids me to aid others
It’s global. I’m sorry to say but there are more people like me than there are like you. But society will diss me. That’s the way I look at it because you will never know I went to a special needs school, I never learnt to read and write. But look at where I am now. If I didn’t have the technology where would I be? Who would employ me? But I’m not angry. I’m just trying to aid other people. So they can get what they need, but not make it… diplomatic. It’s fact.
“The glasses are just the start”
Ingredients first, then we start
Being a spokesperson for this. To show that it can be – you can get through anything. You just need to have the right ingredients. As I say to my students, it’s like baking a cake. You need to have the right ingredients to bake the cake. If you haven’t got the ingredients it’s not going to go anywhere. And I use that scenario for everything. So, the first thing I would say is “can you cook/ are you a good cook? What’s the first thing you need in your ingredients?” And they go “Oh yeah!” that’s where we start. It’s not worth me telling you what you’re going to bake, because I can’t bake your cake. And, that is what’s happening within education! Everybody is given the same flavour, but not everybody has the same flavour. Most teaching is about kinaesthetic, not about talking. If you talk to me, I’ll fall asleep. But if you visually show me something I will contain it. Am I right?
The business, again, it will be global because the program that we’ve got through the job centre, there is nowhere in the country that does what I do. It’s because I’m coming from a different point of view.
The glasses are just the start.
I’d like people to come back say, six months later to see where they’ve gotten to. Have they done what they’ve said? And, if they haven’t, why
Then we will have a conversation – it’s not just about giving them a pair of glasses, it’s everything around the glasses and I think that’s what people forget. I think a follow-up is very important You know, you may have this and that but where’s the follow-up? Because we’re coming from a different perspective than before. Once a upon a time I would may have seen some individuals as being you better than me because at least they could read and write. I don’t believe that anymore because my philosophy is that you wouldn’t expect the blind person to read with out support but a dyslexic you would. And it’s word blindness.
Tappin into you
We’re tapping into you, it’s you, as an individual. You can’t call it disability because that’s a barrier. But when I tap in – but when you’ve got it, you’ve got it and you remember it. That was the whole point of me, from a dyslexic point. That’s how I did it.
It’s all about what the brain says, it doesn’t work because it’s what the brain says, not what we say. We can’t say it’s going to work for you. But then we’ve seen people who say it doesn’t work, yet we’ve seen a change. But if they don’t want to take ownership, we can’t force them.
You’re still a dyslexic (even if yours is more about organisation skills), it can be completely different.
Now society… I’m originally from Liverpool, Toxteth. I’ve seen the good with the bad and yeah, I live in Finchley, its my community. I see people and I’m thinking ‘we’re standing still’. I’m not talking about race or anything, I’m talking in general. You see my point? That is the hard bit for me, because people think I’m articulate, I’m this, I’m that and I’m thinking ‘maybe it’s because that’s what I’ve learnt is communications’. But that communication has opened the door for me and this is what we teach; communication. Because if you don’t speak up, you will stand still. And that’s my philosophy.
25 years, has been a powerful journey for me.
I’ve had glasses in six or seven different colours, but I didn’t quite get it. If you get my point. Even when I went away after the test I was still closing one eye. When I put these glasses on, I don’t see pink and blue, that’s the colour my brain sees. And it just puts everything into perspective. I remember thinking one day as I drove home ( this was the powerful bit) I would think ‘oh dyslexia… a hidden disability… wow’. People say to me “don’t be stupid Sandra, of course you” and I’ll cut them off saying “excuse me, you don’t know what it’s like to not be able to read”. It’s gone, you’ve lost it, you can’t catch it. And that’s that! Now I read every day. That’s powerful.
What you see is what you get
It’s like, when I do talks, and I ask if they would employ this person who went to a special needs school, can’t read, can’t write, poor coordination, a bit of ADHD, dyspraxia… they say no. We had a mum come all the way from Wembley and she cried when she heard me talk about my experience because she said that is her daughter. I met the daughter, she’s 24, and I said because of her dyspraxia (and she can never fasten laces), and I said what about your OCD? Mum had never noticed all these things about her daughter before I mentioned it. People just see that label, it’s what’s behind the label that is important. As you would know.
My birth children are dyslexic, and my son is a closet dyslexic, but he still excels because I gave him (both my children) the foundation. The rest they have to do themselves. As I said I’m learning. Do you know how I learn? Where do I get my knowledge from?
I get it from my clients, from experience. When you listen to some of these people you think ‘oh, I should put that on my shelf, then when I need it, I can regurgitate it and give it to somebody else.’ It’s quite an exchange, whatever country you’re from. It was the wise man who said what you see is what you get. It’s the society that makes you disabled. That’s the difference. Because I’m up here now because of my confidence. If you take away my confidence where would I be? Standing still.
Okay, this is where we need to sit down again by the storyboard. I’ve made another external device. We have Teach Tapin. That is the umbrella. Under Teach Tapin is TTS. TTS is a social enterprise, that’s where the Job Centre comes in, this is where we’ll be able to franchise that, that’s going to go national. They’ve even stated that. The glasses will be on a separate website, but the link will still be with Teach Tapin. Can you see where I’m going with this? It’s separate entities but, they’re all one part of holistic communications and that’s what it’s about. Because communications could be OCD, or mobility, or this, or that.