SASKATOON -- Jim Clifford has written a book, has a Ph.D under his belt, and was awarded Best New Researcher by the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan.

The U of S history professor also has severe dyslexia and struggles to read and write on a daily basis.

“I had a teaching assistant who would sit with me and type as I wrote out loud,” Clifford said, reflecting back on high school in Surrey, B.C.

It wasn’t until Clifford pursued his undergraduate degree at Bishop’s University that he learned how to write on his own.

Now, Clifford is pushing for the Saskatchewan school system to better accommodate students who face similar challenges

He credits a supportive school system, specifically in Surrey, and he praises his parents – a former teacher and principal – for advocating on his behalf.

However, not everyone is that fortunate, he said.

“Maybe standout students are still getting support. We see the students arriving at the university, but what I hear from parents is that they’re having to fight very hard to get this accommodation,” he said.

Rachel Engler-Stringer, on the board of Dyslexia Canada, is also lobbying for early screening. She wants all kids to be tested for dyslexia in kindergarten.

She said screening is vital, because dyslexia isn’t always noticeable.

“If a kid is identified as likely having dyslexia they should be provided immediately with a little bit more intensive instruction, but not just any instruction, research-based, evidence-based instruction in what we call structured literacy. This is a way of teaching that specifically uses phonics and phonemic awareness,” Engler-Stringer said.

With October being Dyslexia Awareness Month, both advocates want students to know they can overcome anything they set their minds on.