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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 16:15 GMT
A plea for extraordinary children
Kate Griggs and son Tim
Kate Griggs was angry over the way her son was "labelled"
In a unique project charity Xtraordinary People got permission to send specialist teachers into Walworth School in south London, which is officially described as being in "challenging circumstances."

Their brief to challenge staff to improve teaching methods for children with learning difficulties - under the gaze of BBC One's Real Story.

Xtraordinary People's founder Kate Griggs tells why she is a "mum with a mission."

My husband thought up the name Xtraordinary People as we wanted to come up with something positive because there are such low expectations of children with dyslexia.

I have huge expectations; a lot of the friends I had who have dylsexia went to Oxford. And a lot of really well-known people, people who have succeeded like Richard Branson and Jamie Oliver, to name a few.

They are backers of the charity to try to show that dyslexia does not have to limit expectations.

Dyslexia can take many forms. With mine, I hate reading out loud. I do not know my times table. And I am very good at seeing the big picture but find detail totally confusing.

I also find my words are hopping around if I have to read through a large amount of stuff unlike other people who can break it down.

I am very positive about dyslexia and believe that these children really can succeed with the right help

While I was never diagnosed with dyslexia at school, I knew I had learning issues but I was lucky to get extra support which worked well for me.

When my eldest son Ted, now 13, was in primary school he started having problems learning. The school said he was being difficult and could not concentrate, and were suggesting he go to a special school.

I was shocked because I believed he had dyslexia and needed support. So I trained as a teaching assistant to help him but, realised he needed more help than that.

So we moved him to a school where there was good support and he started to do really well. But we were lucky because we could afford to pay for it.

Dyslexia at a glance
Dyslexia affects reading and spelling.
About 10% of the population are affected by dyslexia to some degree.
Dyslexia tends to run in families - several genes contribute to a genetic risk of dyslexia.
Many people with dyslexia people are strong at creative and visually-based thinking.
However they usually find it difficult to work with the sounds of spoken words.
Many have difficulties with short-term memory, sequencing and organisation.

Not all parents can do that and have to watch their children struggling at school with no proper help.

After watching Ted go from strength to strength, I hit on the idea of setting up Xtraordinary People to see if I could get his kind of teaching made available in every school.

I am very positive about dyslexia and believe that these children really can succeed with the right help.

I had trained at the Helen Arkell Centre - the oldest established dyslexia centre in Britain and I started to work with them.

Together we decided to approach the British Dyslexia Association rather than set up another campaign or another charity and three years ago Xtraordinary People was born, as a restricted fund, within the BDA.

'Publicity stunt'

We needed to build a high profile so I stood against the then Education Secretary Ruth Kelly in Bolton West at the 2005 general election. I concede it was a publicity stunt for this issue but it got a result.

I was invited to meet her and I found out we both went to the same prep school. I told her 'you will know at that school what being dyslexic is all about'.

Later I got a call to meet Lord Adonis, the Schools Minister to come into the Department for Education to have discussions with officials about moving things on.

And we are still talking and beginning to make some progress. It is amazing how a mum with a mission can get something done.

One day, I hope the campaigning will no longer be necessary.

It is a very difficult balancing my life with living in Somerset looking after my family and getting involved in the campaign planning, all of which requires me to be in London.

Richard Branson and Jamie Oliver
Richard Branson and Jamie Oliver have both overcome dyslexia

Filming for Real Story has been a real experience. The children made it, they were lovely; it is all too easy to label them because they go to a tough school in the inner city. They deserve the same chances as my son.

I had lived in the "less attractive" parts of Shepherd's Bush so I was not just some nutty woman from the Shires parachuting into the city.

And to see a child, the same age as Tim, who has struggled with a reading age of five or six being turned round, it has just been brilliant.

That could have been my son if we had not got the support for him.

And I know that many of the teachers at the school have made real changes to how they teach and how they view the children and that is a lasting legacy.

Real Story was broadcast on BBC One 1900GMT on Wednesday 13 December 2006.


SEE ALSO
Special needs training to improve
11 Oct 06 |  Education
Sir Jackie given honorary degree
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Dyslexic author wins book prize
15 Dec 05 |  Entertainment
Dyslexia does exist - minister
09 Dec 05 |  Education
Row erupts over dyslexia 'denial'
02 Sep 05 |  Education
Q & A: Dyslexia
02 Sep 05 |  Education

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