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Reading with a disability


He stopped going to school when he was 13. And when he turned 16--five days into grade 10--he officially became a high school drop-out.

And he admits he doesn’t know what grade level he was actually at.

But it wasn’t until he almost lost an arm in a bush accident when he was 25 years old that Guy Mudge found out he was dyslexic.

"I wasn’t surprised," the Fort Frances native, now 33, said. "I knew there was something wrong.

"[But] anybody with a learning disability back in the ’60s was considered mentally handicapped. So instead of encouraging you to get an education, they discouraged you," he added

That’s why Mudge took to the bush when he was 13, and he made more money logging than he ever dreamed of. But in 1989, a chainsaw accident ended his logging career.

Mudge said the Workers’ Compensation Board would only upgrade him for two years, and he knew it would take him longer to get his grade 12 diploma.

Turned over to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Mudge was tested in 1989 at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. There he found out he had "eye and memory" dyslexia.

"I can’t remember how to spell a word from day to day," he noted, explaining what it meant to have the reading disorder. "And there is a way around it. I just can’t afford it."

Mudge worked on upgrading through the MCSS until 1994 but noted, at that point, he felt he was lost in the shuffle. The person who worked with him was laid off, and there were a couple of others brought in to work with him over a few months.

But he didn’t feel they understood what he needed. Instead, the message he got was he just needed to focus and concentrate harder--not work with his special needs.

Through the years, though, Mudge continued to try and get an education--and acquire skills that would enable him to get a job.

"I went across the river and took a photography course. He passed me," Mudge laughed. "I couldn’t even understand my own notes. I don’t know how anyone else could."

He also was at a learning centre in Winnipeg for four months but that was very expensive. And with funding only on a yearly basis, Mudge said he didn’t want to start unless he could finish it.

His next step was to go through the Valley Adult Learning Association, which shares office space with the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau on Victoria Avenue.

"I’m now at a grade 10 level of English, they say," he noted. "But they also say that I lose it after a while if I don’t use it."

And with a new baby at home, he said he isn’t working with a tutor now. And he admitted he’s still shy about reading--even to his infant daughter.

"I get really nervous. I tend not to and that really disappoints me," he said,

Ideally, Mudge would like to go on to an interior decorating program at university but admits the time factor is a big problem. A university program probably would take him five years to complete--and that’s after the time it takes to get his high school diploma.

Despite the challenges he faces with his reading disability, Mudge said he’s happy with his life.

"Personally, I am," he smiled, noting a person couldn’t ask for anything better than being a new dad. "For personal goals, mind you, no. [But] I just try to keep that in the background.

"If I could, I never would’ve left the bush. I think a lot about that," he added.

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