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Dyslexic businesswoman and teacher says 'reading made me feel sick'
READING out loud in class was what SueKerrigan dreaded the most.
She knew she would get something wrong and be corrected in front of everyone.
“I felt stupid a lot of the time,” she says.
Then there were the physical effects.
“Reading made me feel sick and giddy,” says the 40-year-old from Marchwood.
“I got through my GCSEs but I got abysmal Alevels.”
After an office job which she found very boring and which required the very skills that she had found difficult at school she started a teaching degree, but again struggled to learn.
But when she switched to a design and technology degree she excelled.
Sue hadn’t yet realised that she was dyslexic and when she found something that she was good at it was a revelation.
It challenged to the core her self-image as something of a failure.
“I realised: ‘Oh my God, I’m good at this. How can I be good at something? I’m not good at things, so how can that work?’.”
The memory still makes Sue emotional and at the time it was difficult to deal with suddenly feeling so differently about herself.
“I suffered from depression for a time because I couldn’t really get my head around it,” she says.
“It was mind-boggling.”
Sue achieved a first class honours degree and went on to become an engineer but after a few years she felt the urge to teach again.
As she trained in multi-sensory methods to tutor children who are struggling, she began to realise that her own reading and spelling were improving too.
It gradually dawned on Sue that she was dyslexic.
Her interest in helping children with dyslexia (which affects ability to read) and dyscalcula (which affects maths ability) led her to set up her own business, Let Me Learn, selling specialist educational games and learning materials, around seven years ago.
And in the last couple of years she has been developing her own resources, including Football Maths, which channels children’s interest in the sport to play fun maths games.
“Children who are struggling and failing with learning are demoralised in the first place so you’ve got to make it interesting, relevant and fun to switch them onto learning in their way,” she says.
Let Me Learn has been praised by Dragons’ Den star and businessman Theo Paphitis, winning one of his Small Business Sunday awards.
Sue puts her success down to her own experiences with education.
“Having not been a high flier at school, when someone says ‘I don’t get it,’ I can completely understand. It’s my responsibility to teach them in a way that they can get it.”
“I only read one book when I did my degree. I don’t know if I should admit that!” she laughs.
“I feel sad my dyslexia wasn’t picked up when I was a child.Mypartner knows everything about everything because he’s read it. If reading didn’t make me feel sick and give me headaches I’d know more and wouldn’t have felt the way I did – and still feel now.
“Even now, every day is a battle to come out of your shell because you’ve always felt like you were underachieving.”
It may be a battle, but it is one Sue is winning, and is helping hundreds of children with dyslexia and dyscalcula to do the same.
“I don’t think children like the ones I teach or who use my resources will grow up feeling the way I did. Attitudes about dyslexia are changing.
People are highlighting the things that dyslexic people are good at. Dyslexic people are often really creative and good at thinking outside the box. You don’t need to get hung up on whether they’ve made some spelling mistakes in an email.”
Attitudes towards dyslexia and dyscalcula have changed since Sue was at school and she can credit herself with being part of that change.
As she says: “With more awareness of dyslexia less people will be afraid of admitting they have it and feel that they can succeed in life too.”
* For more information, visit letmelearn.co.uk. Sue also runs a Facebook page with news, tips
and discussion: search for letmelearn.
* Dyslexia Awareness Week 2012 runs from October 8.
For more information and support, contact the Hampshire Dyslexia Association on 023 8033
3345 or visit hantsda.org.uk or the British Dyslexic Association on 0845 251900 or visit bdadyslexia.