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Sufferers learn to achieve.

Byline: By Julie Cush

It was the most courageous thing Karen Groom had ever done in her life.

After years of being labelled a dunce, and enduring mind-numbingly boring, dead-end jobs, she had had enough.

Karen had always known she had learning difficulties.

She recalls her school years stuck at the back of the class; taunted for her slowness and even having her long hair cut off by bullies during one particularly miserable incident.

But now at the age of 40 she had finally found the strength to do something about her unfulfilling life.

She just walked into the nearest Jobcentre, marched up to the first available member of staff and said: "I want a job, I don't know what I'm capable of doing, but I want a good job."

It took guts for Karen, of Benton, Newcastle, to open herself to scrutiny and assessment, but this first step led to her life being changed for the better.

She recalls: "I don't know where I got the courage from. I was terrified, but after years of doing factory jobs I wanted more out of my life.

"I had always had difficulty with spelling or would write words backwards, although my reading is fine - I read lots of books.

"At school the teachers just presumed I didn't want to learn. I'd always wanted to work with children, but I just didn't know what I was capable of."

Staff suggested to Karen, now 41, with a daughter, Ashleigh Lee, 15, that she might be dyslexic and they put her in touch with charity The Shaw Trust for tests.

Dyslexia was diagnosed and she was referred to the Dyslexia Institute in Lambton Road, Jesmond, Newcastle, for specialist help.

There, Karen completed a 10-week course with tutor Joyce Bee and, for the first time in her life, is writing essays and short stories on the computer.

In the meantime, she also landed a job as a classroom assistant at Percy Hedley Special School in Newcastle.

She said: "The transformation has been amazing and a whole new world has opened up to me.

"I have been taught to learn spelling in a different way and I cannot thank Joyce enough. My self-confidence has also grown.

"The job at the school helping the children was only temporary, but I loved it and am hoping to get a similar job."

Next week is Dyslexia Awareness Week and the theme this year is helping sufferers to improve their prospects for the careers they want and promotion.

Ms Bee is the senior teacher at the Newcastle Dyslexic Institute.

The Institute offers one-to-one tuition for children and adults, teaching them different ways to improve their literacy and other skills.

Over the last few years, staff have been able to expand their service, thanks to a pounds 57,000 grant from the Northern Rock Foundation.

She said: "Many dyslexics do very well in a wide range of careers and the message we want to get across to employers is that they have potential which should not be overlooked.

"We're very proud of all of the adults we've helped over the years. Dyslexia does not affect intelligence.

"It is not the result of poor motivation, emotional disturbance, sensory impairment or lack of opportunities.

"The effects of dyslexia can be largely overcome by skilled specialist teaching."

There are two million dyslexics in the UK, including 375,000 children.

It is an inherited neurological condition which causes difficulties in learning to read, write and spell. Short-term memory, mathematics, concentration and organisational skills may also be affected.

Dyslexia usually arises from a weakness in the processing of language-based information.

And, according to Ms Bee, it can also have serious social implications and severely affect the individual's self-esteem.

She added: "Early recognition and intervention are the keys to coping successfully with dyslexia, but it is never too late to learn."

Dyslexic people tend to be very creative and artistic and often good lateral thinkers and have good problem-solving skills.

Getting a job was no problem for Paul Grounsell, 39, of Wallsend, who is the frontline manager at Newcastle's Discovery Museum.

But the fact that his reading was not up to scratch niggled him and he always went to great lengths to hide it.

He recalls: "I remember taking a girlfriend on a trip years ago. We were supposed to be going to Wetherby and I was driving.

"But I thought a sign for Whitby said Wetherby and went the wrong way. The girl was puzzled and in the end we went to York because I could read that one."

Paul has also done the 10-week course at the institute and come on in leaps and bounds.

He said: "The help I've received has opened up a whole new life for me. I feel like a sponge wanting to soak up as much information as possible after years of being held back."

Range of influences

The development of dyslexia is influenced by other factors, such as parenting, schooling, the individual's intelligence and personality, as well as social and economic factors.

Several genes have been identified as possible triggers. If one parent is dyslexic, there is a 50 per cent chance his or her children will inherit dyslexia.

Brain-imaging has shown differences in specific areas of the dyslexic brain compared with non-dyslexic brains.

Many dyslexics have low self-esteem and confidence which is frustrating and can result in disruptive behaviour.

A full formal assessment with a chartered educational psychologist will establish whether or not an individual is dyslexic or not.

Help with teaching

The Dyslexic Institute is an educational charity, founded in 1972.

It has grown to become the only national dyslexia-teaching organisation in the world.

The DI carries out assessments for children and adults who may have dyslexia, provides specialist tuition for dyslexic people of all ages, trains specialist teachers, develops teaching materials and conducts research.

The DI employs more than 220 specialist teachers and has its own chartered psychologists, speech and language therapists and support staff.

The Newcastle DI will be holding the following events during awareness week:

On Monday, September 29, there will be a social evening for parents and teachers at 8.30pm and on Tuesday, September 30, there will be drop-in sessions from 9.30am to 1.30pm.

Call (0191) 281 8381 for details.
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Title Annotation:Life Health
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 22, 2003
Words:1050
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