Success with dyslexia

Sir Peter Leitch said his olearning disability helped him to succeed. Photo / NZ Herald
Sir Peter Leitch said his olearning disability helped him to succeed. Photo / NZ Herald

Dyslexia has helped Sir Peter Leitch become the multi-millionaire businessman he is today, he says.

Growing up, always being relegated to the bottom class in school, he believed what teachers told him: "I thought I was a dumb bastard."

But his classroom difficulties forced him to take on challenges elsewhere: he left school early to become a butcher's apprentice and, later, the Mad Butcher.

Heavyweight boxing champ Mohammed Ali, actor Anthony Hopkins and Weta Workshop founder Sir Richard Taylor also feature in a long list of celebrities with dyslexia.

Lyn Davis, treasurer of Speld NZ, says at least three children in an average class of 30 will have some degree of dyslexia. The Auckland-based volunteer organisation works to raise awareness, encourage early diagnosis and provide support for people with learning disabilities.

"They're not stupid or lazy, they just learn differently," Davis said. "The sooner we catch it, the sooner you have intervention."

Signs of a learning disability can include seeing letters or numbers backwards, problems with balance, difficulty concentrating or following instructions and becoming easily frustrated.

Sir Peter, 66, still has difficulty spelling and looking up numbers in the phone book but has learned a few tricks: "I ring 018 - it's a lot easier."

As a winner of the Cathay Pacific High-Flyer Award in association with the Herald on Sunday, Speld will send one of its testers to a workshop in Manchester, Britain, in June. The information gathered will be used to help support people with learning disabilities in New Zealand.

A goal of the organisation is to test Maori and Pacific Island children who have the highest rate of learning disabilities in the country.

- Herald on Sunday

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