Early recitals

February 23, 1996

Identifying and educating very able children is fraught with difficulty. But higher education may provide the answer. Tony Tysome reports. Alexander Faludy's mother admits her son "stuck out like a sore thumb" from a very early age.

While there was nothing visibly wrong with him, there was "an awkwardness which set him apart from the others" when he attended playgroups and music clubs.

The awkwardness was a symptom of dyslexia, but he was also different in another important respect. By the age of three, he could recite hours of children's stories on tape.

Despite this sign of exceptional ability, teachers seemed determined to concentrate on what Alexander could not do rather than on his remarkable oral capabilities.

When an educational psychologist diagnosed Alexander as both dyslexic and highly intelligent, with an IQ of 135 at the age of seven, he also warned that if the boy's talents were not developed, he could become frustrated and disaffected.

"We realised that if we were going to liberate him from a life of frustration, it would have to be through his oral ability," his mother, Tanya Faludy, says. But this meant finding a way around the education system. Alexander listened to tapes of Othello and his mother, an English teacher, wrote down his thoughts on them. With these, she convinced the Southern Examinations Board and Fareham College that he was a suitable GCSE English candidate. When he became the youngest child to pass the exam, at nine, he was rated 20th out of 22 in his class at school.

Alexander now attends Milton Abbey School in Dorset where he is studying for an Open University BA degree.

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