Interview with Ersin Öztoycan – founder of the Northern Cyprus Dyslexia Association.Ersin is a parent who has two children with dyslexia, in addition she is dyslexic herself.
When did you first find out that your children were dyslexic and what was your reaction?
I first found out that my child was dyslexic when he started experiencing learning difficulties during the second year of his primary school education [age 7]. My son and I were very relieved to learn that he was dyslexic because we had finally identified what the underlying reason was for the academic difficulties he was experiencing at school.
What sort of problems did your children encounter because of dyslexia?
I first noticed that my son was unable to remember simple words which we had spent hours teaching him. He had problems remembering the letters “b” and “d” and was always trying to write phonetically. He had a very bad short term memory and would forget instructions. As a result he would have difficulties in recording his homework tasks.
My child was a very social bright child and initially loved going to school, however when he started to fall behind his peers he started to cry and complain of a tummy ache every morning before he went to school. He absolutely hated the thought of having to go to school and actually ran away from school, at the age of seven.
How did schooling differ when you moved to N Cyprus ?
The difference between schooling in Britain and Cyprus was the pure fact that dyslexia was literally unheard of in Cyprus when we moved there in 1996. Teachers and psychologists had no idea how to assess or teach children with dyslexia and there was no research into the affects of dyslexia in Turkish speaking children.
When and why did you set up the dyslexia association?
I set the association up in 2001. The main reason was because I felt the need for such an association. I also did not want another parent or child to suffer the way my children and I did. My daughter was on the verge of committing suicide, due to the unsympathetic attitude of many of her teachers at school.
How did you set up the organisation?I first started working from my office at my husbands clothing factory. This however soon became too small to cope with the number of enquiries we were receiving. I applied for funding for a project to the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS).We were able to establish our centre as a result of the project entitled “Assistance for Those Affected by Dyslexia”.
What sort of difficulties did you face when you started the organisation? The main problem we face is the lack of material and information available in the Turkish language.
Special needs teachers’ had no idea on how to use multi sensory teaching techniques to teach dyslexic children.
The examination system in Cyprus is very unfriendly to dyslexic students and if you fail your end of year exams the child will have to repeat the year. However, as a result of our campaign dyslexic students are now being given extra time in exams and are able to sit oral exams.
What sort of activities do you run at the association? We provide an assessment service for child. We also provide one-to-one tuition for children assessed as being at risk of dyslexia.
We also provide teachers and parents with information on how they can help there child at home and at school.
We organise seminars and conferences for the teaching profession and professionals in the field.
What key advice or practical tips would you offer a parent whose child is dyslexic ? I think the main advice I can give parents is to educate themselves on what dyslexia is and the affects it has on a child’s life at school and at home.
Each dyslexic may have a cluster of different symptoms; therefore, parents need to be aware of their own child’s strengths and weaknesses. They need to discover how their child learns. Not all children learn in the way they are taught at school. Parents are the ones that will have to provide teachers with this information.
Parents need to let their child know that they are there for them. They should be sympathetic but should try not to over protect the child. The child needs discipline and structure to enable him/her to overcome his difficulties.
I understand you have written a book – could you tell me something about it? Yes, I have written an autobiography which was launched on the 23 June 2008. Parents of dyslexic children will find the book interesting because I not only write about the difficulties my own children faced at school; but I also start the book by explaining about the problems I came across as a school pupil. I was unaware that I too was dyslexic until my own child was diagnosed! I also talk about the cultural difficulties I faced as a Turkish Cypriot growing up in London. I go onto explain the process we had to follow to have my child assessed for dyslexia. This was the only way we could ensure that he received the help he needed.
For more information regarding Ersin’s book called ‘My Life’ go to :
The book is only in English at the moment but it is going to be translated into Turkish.
also see :
This is the Northern Cyprus Dyslexic Association site.There is some general information in Turkish about dyslexia for parents and teachers.