Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Steven Naismith: Sean Connery helped me with dyslexia struggle


STEVEN Naismith, the Rangers and Scotland footballer, has revealed how Sir Sean Connery encouraged him to speak out about his struggle to cope with dyslexia.

The sports star told how the Hollywood film icon got in touch to urge him to join forces with Sir Jackie Stewart, the three-times Formula One world champion, who has long campaigned to raise awareness about the learning difficulty.

Naismith said that while some of his classmates at school would “snigger” when he read, the condition may positively influence his decision-making on the pitch.

The 25-year-old was speaking at a news conference in Glasgow to promote the work of Dyslexia Scotland, a volunteer-led charity, and said he hoped that by speaking out, he would raise awareness about the issue.

Sir Jackie said both he and Naismith had been “saved by sport,” and revealed their conversations showed that both men shared the same “pains, frustrations, and anxieties” in dealing with dyslexia.

Naismith recalled: “I took a call from Sir David Murray who had been speaking to Sir Sean Connery about an interview I had done about my general life outside my career as a footballer.

“I had mentioned in the article I had suffered from dyslexia at school, and he thought it would be a good idea if I had a chat with Sir Jackie. I spoke to Sir Sean who passed his details on to me and I had a very good, long conversation with Sir Jackie.

“All through primary school and through secondary school, I was probably seen as a bit better because I was good at football, but inside I felt the struggle when it came to a spelling test.

“I was probably one of the lowest scores and, when you were reading a book as a class, I would skim ahead so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. The football got me through it. Football was an outlet, in a way.

“People with dyslexia tend to think about other ways around a problem, and I think that goes a long way to making them successful in other fields. [On the pitch] you can maybe see things happening early.”

The Stewarton-born player, who has won 15 caps for his country, said he is now a voracious reader.

Sir Jackie, who is president of Dyslexia Scotland, said: “I spoke with Steven and realised that we had similar frustrations, and anxieties when we were growing up, similar humiliations of not being able to read or write.

“To this day I can’t recite the alphabet, I don’t know the words to the Lord’s Prayer, and I can’t sing the national anthem. I can’t remember it.

“Both of us have been saved, if you like, by sport.

“I was assessed at 42, and I thought I had been saved from drowning. I genuinely believed I was stupid.”

Cathy Magee, chief executive of Dyslexia Scotland, said: “Dyslexia is still not very well understood. People can look up to Steven and Sir Jackie.”

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