James Martin health: Top TV chef ‘failed cookery at school’ because of dyslexia

James Martin gives a guide on how to cook halloumi

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“I failed cookery in school because I was dyslexic,” James Martin confessed, adding that the common learning difficulty still has an impact on his day-to-day life. Primed for live TV, James has been required to read an autocue – a device that projects an enlarged image of a script for the presenters to read. “I can’t read autocue,” James told Woman and Home. “If I read it I make a mistake.”

To get around this, James quickly glances at the autocue, memorises the words, and tells production to “switch it off”.

“As long as it’s there in your head, just let me go,” he said of the matter.

What is dyslexia?

The common learning difficulty, as described by the NHS, causes issues with reading, writing, and spelling.

A person’s level of intelligence isn’t affected by dyslexia, but it’s a “life-long problem that can present challenges on a daily basis”.

Signs of dyslexia:

  • Read and write very slowly
  • confuse the order of letters in words
  • Put letters the wrong way round (such as writing “b” instead of “d”)
  • Have poor or inconsistent spelling
  • Understand information when told verbally, but have difficulty with information that’s written down
  • Find it hard to carry out a sequence of directions
  • Struggle with planning and organisation.

People with dyslexia tend to have “good skills” in creative thinking and problem solving, exemplified by James.

When it came to writing his cook books, James got inventive and used a dictaphone to record his recipes.

The causes of dyslexia

The NHS explained: “People with dyslexia find it difficult to recognise the different sounds that make up words and relate these to letters.”

Thought to have a genetic component, current thinking is that inherited genes “may act together in a way that affects how some parts of the brain develop during early life”.

Early educational intervention can be effective, with schools typically focusing on phonological skills.

Phonological skills is the ability to identify and process word sounds.

Parents to children with dyslexia are encouraged to:

  • Read to your child
  • Share reading between you both, and to discuss what you’re reading
  • Enable the child to read alone
  • Make reading fun – use books that interest your child.

When it comes to technology, speech recognition software – where the computer reads the text as it appears on the screen – can be helpful.

Dyslexia in adulthood

By adulthood, employers are required by law to make reasonable adjustments to assist you if you have dyslexia.

This might involve providing you with assistance technology, giving instructions verbally (instead of in writing), and allowing you extra time to complete tasks.

Medical News Today pointed out the specific difficulties with reading a person with dyslexia might experience.

For example, a person with dyslexia may feel like the words on a page (or autocue) are moving or jumbled.

It’s commonplace to lose the place where they were reading from, and to find reading really stressful.

When expressing ideas in the written form, it can be difficult to detail a clear trail of though, as one would if talking.

Written work may appear unclear, full of spelling mistakes and inaccuracies.

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