I’m Jackie Hewitt-Main OBE and I was diagnosed as severely dyslexic in my 40s – it took a while!
Growing up, I was always a happy child that was until I went to school. With a thirst for learning, I was definitely and enthusiastic pupil but I was soon branded as ‘thick’ and a failure but I had no idea why. I was simply unable to learn to read and write like the other children and was, sent to the remedial class where I spent most of my days colouring in and playing with beads.
Despite my avid curiosity about the wider world, I became increasingly frustrated that none of her teachers seemed to know how to teach me. At secondary school things only got worse; I began to self-harm, developed eating disorders and seriously considered suicide.
Leaving school with no qualifications, I had a succession of jobs, and finally started a sandwich round, which grew into a flourishing catering business. I then opened a health food shop, which grew into another successful business. And then my whole world turned upside down when one of my teenage sons suffered major head injuries in a car accident.
Written off by the NHS, he was sent home and I had to abandon everything to look after him. As a result of his injuries, he had to learn to read and write again. I visited academics and researched different ways of learning, which I then combined into a unique approach to help my son. Despite my own poor literacy skills, I taught my son to speak, read and write all over again.
Once he was well enough, I took him to college each day to do the exams he had missed at school. It was there that I met a brilliant teacher, Sue Blackburn, who immediately recognised my own learning difficulties and arranged an assessment for me. This led to a statement of special educational needs (SEN), which diagnosed severe dyslexia, along with dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD and slight Asperger’s syndrome. So, I wasn’t thick after all!
This was the springboard I needed and I went on to study for a degree in SEN (special educational needs) and a PGCE teaching qualification. For my dissertation, I chose to research a sadly neglected area – dyslexia in prisons. From this was born the idea for my prison projects and the seed was sown that grew into this amazing charity – The Cascade Foundation.
Make a donation
If you’d like to support Jackie’s work, you can make a donation to The Cascade Foundation via the Paypal link below using your credit or debit card. Many thanks in advance!