I was brought up in Ireland. I didn’t do very well in school. In those days, if you were finding something a bit difficult they didn’t bother with you very much, so you just sat at the back and let things go over your head.
In 1974 I came over to London. I helped someone out with his newspaper kiosk and eventually took it over myself and ran it successfully for about 10 years. During this time I taught myself to read pretty well. (I had a lot of material on hand!) But I was still no good at writing or spelling.
My problems with writing and spelling got me into trouble quite a few times because you’re not proud of being illiterate. You don’t go about telling everyone, and you don’t even think of asking anyone to help you. I’d get important letters – from the tax man, say – and wouldn’t be able to reply to them.
My coach was encouraging, not critical or sarcastic, and we laughed a lot. She suggested I should have a sight test and – after a bit of resistance – I went to the optician and found out I needed glasses for reading and writing. I learned the alphabet properly. It was the first time in my life that I found out that every letter makes a particular sound. Soon I could start building up sequences of letters for words I couldn’t spell. I learned how to use a dictionary and how to trust my instinct about when a spelling was right or wrong. She helped me to get confident about filling in forms, too.
In August 2016 I went for an interview for a job as a picker in a warehouse. The usual paperwork came out but this time I didn’t walk away. I worked through it all very slowly and carefully. Most of the tasks they tested me on involved things I had already done over and over again with Steph, like spotting mistakes or putting things in their correct alphabetical order. There was a lot of writing to do but I just stuck with it until I’d finished. At the end, I was told straight away that I’d got the job! I’ve been working for 3 months now and am really happy. I’ve made several new friends and as well as earning money, I feel I’m doing something useful. Why not give FRED a try yourself? I don’t think you’ll regret it!
I couldn’t have done it without FRED. I’m so glad I took the plunge and went to them for help. It taught me that you’re never too late to learn something new.