From The Province Newspaper, Vancouver, BC

How Jeff conquered the jumble

With severe dyslexia, he climbed huge learning obstacles to succeed at his trade

By Katie Mercer, The Province April 21, 2009 7:31 AM
Jeffrey Moore knew beating the odds would be tough. School tests were severe and the concentration often gave him headaches.

Jeffrey Moore knew beating the odds would be tough. School tests were severe and the concentration often gave him headaches.

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, The Province

Name: Jeffrey Moore
Category: Against the Odds
Age: 22
Town: North Vancouver
Trade: Red Seal Plumber (awaiting Journeyman Plumber certificate)
Current Job: Plumber, Steven's Plumbing
Years in Trade: Four
Education: BCIT

Why would someone want to be a plumber? "It pays quite well and you can really get into it, and right off the bat. You're not paying off a student loan and you're making money. It's a pretty quick way to start making money for someone who wants to have a useful skill and a good income."

Why did the judges choose him to win? "Dyslexia is a learning challenge and it is not a choice; Jeffrey has worked hard to overcome this and still be the best in a difficult trade."

Why did you nominate Jeffrey for this award? "He's taken what was a real negative in his life and through his own hard work, he's overcome those difficulties and is now a stronger person for that." — Rick Moore, Jeffrey's father
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Growing up, the light at the end of the tunnel was tiny for Jeffrey Moore — until he discovered his passion for plumbing.

"I like the hands-on approach," said Moore, who has severe dyslexia, a learning disability that makes reading and writing difficult. "Going to the schools I've gone to, they've really given me the tools I need to deal with it."

Moore has had to overcome extreme obstacles to get to where he is today. At every step of his education he struggled, often wondering if he would ever be able to learn.

"Words in books can get really jumbled for me when I look for them and it gets difficult to follow along," said Moore. "When I get a little bit of anxiety, it makes it worse."

Self-esteem has always been an issue for him. He recalls being embarrassed at birthday parties when he struggled to make out the jumbled letters and words in his birthday cards. "I didn't know what was going on, at that point I just felt stupid."

Worried, his parents hired Deirdre Bell, an Orton-Gillingham tutor, whose multi-sensory, phonics-based approach to teaching reading made sense to Moore. But by Grade 3, he was back in the classroom where teachers still struggled to teach him in a way he could understand. He began to have severe migraines from the stress. Later that year, he was properly diagnosed with dyslexia.

In the beginning of Grade 4, when Moore was still reading at a Grade 1 level, his parents sent him to Kenneth Gordon, a private school specializing in learning disabilities. He would later move on to Fraser Academy, another school for learning-disabled students.

But learning didn't come cheap. Over nine years, his parents paid a staggering $100,000 for their son's private education.

In 2001, his father Rick filed a human-rights complaint, claiming Moore didn't receive the support he required in the public-school system. The Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2005 that the B.C. Education Ministry and the North Vancouver School Board had discriminated against students with severe learning disabilities. But the landmark case was overturned last February.

As his high-school career ended, Moore was unsure what to do. He knew he didn't want to be stuck in a classroom or eventually behind a desk. "I got into plumbing because I always wanted to own a house and I thought it was one of the best ways to accomplish that and it's handy to know."

He threw himself into his training as a plumber and was able to keep up with his apprenticeship and classwork with help from staff at the B.C. Institute of Technology.

"It was not easy," said Moore. "The tests are hard and even with extra time I would definitely still be a little overwhelmed with how it went. I was getting homework for five to six hours a night. It was very intense, but if you can finish that you can do anything."

He's currently employed at Steven's Plumbing in North Vancouver and working on completing his hours so his journeyman plumber certificate will be signed off.

Moore hopes his struggles will inspire others. "I want to show that if people can get the access to these schools — because it was so expensive and my parents sacrificed so much to get me to them — look at what they can accomplish and not fall through the cracks."

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