Jamie Oliver health: TV chef opens up about his condition – ‘I see problems differently’

Jamie Oliver, 44, has built a business empire over the years, which extends across a hugely successful restaurant chain, a best-selling collection of cookery books and a number of popular TV programmes. His passion for cookery also crossed over into the political arena in 2005, when he launched a campaign called “Feed Me Better” to move British schoolchildren towards eating healthy foods and cutting out junk food. His push to institute changes in nutrition earned him the plaudit of “Most Inspiring Political Figure of 2005”, according to a Channel 4 News annual viewer poll.

Jamie’s career achievements over the years have been well publicised, but what people may not know is that the chef has dyslexia.

As the NHS explains, dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling.

It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing.

Dyslexia is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis, but in an interview with the Radio Times, the TV chef was keen to express the positive impact it has had on his life.

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He said: “If I’m in a meeting, I just see the problems differently and I obsess about things differently.

“Sometimes, when it requires a load of stuff to be done, I just do it. It’s like I’m a massive, 10-tonne boulder rolling down the hill.”

The TV chef suggested that living with dyslexia helped lay the foundations for what would become his business empire, and that he is grateful for the opportunities that have arisen as a result.

The chef said: “I genuinely think that when someone says to you, ‘Johnny’s got dyslexia’, you should get down on your knees, shake the child’s hand and say: ‘Well done, you lucky, lucky boy’.”

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What are the signs of dyslexia?

Signs of dyslexia usually become apparent when a child starts school and begins to focus more on learning how to read and write, according to the NHS.

The signs and symptoms of dyslexia differ from person to person, and each individual with the condition will have a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses, explains the health body.

A person with dyslexia may:

  • 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

But, as Jamie is keen to promote, people with dyslexia often have good skills in other areas, such as creative thinking and problem solving.

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

As the NHS explains, the earlier a child with dyslexia is diagnosed, the more effective educational interventions are likely to be.

Identifying dyslexia in young children can be difficult for both parents and teachers, however, because the signs and symptoms are not always obvious.

There are a number of steps that can be taken to establish whether your child has dyslexia.

If you’re concerned about your child’s progress with reading and writing, for example, first talk to their teacher. You may also want to meet with other staff in the school, advises the NHS.

If there’s an ongoing concern, take your child to see a GP – it may be that your child has health problems that are affecting their ability to read or write, explains the health site.

If your child does not have any obvious underlying health problems to explain their learning difficulties, it may be that they’re not responding very well to the teaching method and a different approach may be needed, says the NHS.

If the learning difficulties persist in spite of revising teaching methods and additional support, it may be a good idea to have a more in-depth assessment.

“This can be carried out by an educational psychologist or an appropriately qualified specialist dyslexia teacher,” explained the NHS.

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