A PIONEER of helping children with dyslexia has died aged 92.

Jo Hewlett was among the first to see that dyslexic children were not stupid but saw the world in a different way.

She was born in Liverpool in 1929 and qualified as a teacher. She moved to Hampshire when she married a local farmer in the early 1950s and had four children. She taught at Bursledon and then Stanmore primary schools but soon realised that her passion was for supporting children with Special Educational Needs when she began teaching at Lankhills Special school (now Osborne School).

Struggling to understand why her eldest child James failed to progress academically despite having an IQ of 124 and after much research, Jo soon realised that James was suffering from what was then referred to as ‘word-blindness’. This relatively unknown and newly identified condition became the focus of her M.Phil (Master of Philosophy) with Sussex University.

Jo discovered that James’ difficulties were specifically around ‘cross-laterality’ where his dominant eye changed from his right eye when close reading to his left eye for distance reading, such as a blackboard. She implemented a range of exercises to help James overcome his difficulty and soon realised that his progress could be replicated for other children suffering with the same condition using the same interventions. She joined forces with Di Mahoney, a colleague from Lankhills and together, in 1969, they ran the Low Hill Farm Cross-Laterality Clinic in Fishers Pond. Here the children practiced their reading using coloured lenses, practiced motor movements such as crawling along the floor, eye exercises to improve eye control and a number of other innovative activities. Word soon spread about the success of the clinic, local TV crews filmed Jo and Di in action supporting the children, local schools began to send pupils to the clinic for treatment. Children started to come from further afield, one family sent their child from Barbados to stay for six weeks' intensive interventions.

Articles about the work being done at the clinic began to appear in national and international newspapers. A centre page spread about Jo and her work appeared in Women’s Own Magazine. The clinic closed in the mid 1970s as the condition was beginning to be better understood in most schools and Dyslexia was being used more frequently when describing a child’s specific learning difficulties. Due in no small part to Jo and her work.

Jo went back to work for the Education Department and was quickly snapped up by Hampshire in 1976 to be headteacher at Baycroft, a brand-new Special School built in Stubbington. She remained there until 1988 when she retired.

She continued to support children with SEN, both as a supply teacher and often as a volunteer. She worked at both Cedars School and Osborne School well into her 80s.

She was a remarkable woman and a real leading light in Special Educational Needs in Hampshire. She was passionate about children with additional needs and cared deeply about their futures and how she could be a positive influence in their lives. Jo Hewlett died at Brendoncare Park Road Care home in Winchester on September 4 after a short illness.