SEAN Carthy says he never imagined he would end up doing what he’s doing now — helping children with dyslexia and learning difficulties improve their literacy and computer skills.
However, a desire to escape his stressful career as an IT professional and work in training has led him down this perhaps unusual, but by his own admission highly rewarding, path. “I worked for 10 years in various IT companies but always eventually wanted to own my own business,” he explains. “In all my jobs there was a training element and I always liked that; when I eventually decided to switch careers, that was the area I wanted to focus on.”
Last year, after undertaking a JEB course — qualifying him to teach IT in schools, colleges and training centres — Carthy came across the UK-based Touch-type, Read and Spell (TTRS) programme and his interest was whetted.
“TTRS is widely known and highly regarded in the UK, where there are 300 learning centres, but is only beginning to come on stream here. It’s aimed at children and adults with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. The whole idea of it really appealed to me, particularly since it’s so new to Ireland,” Carthy explains.
Once he had gained his qualification as a trainer, Carthy set about opening three TTRS centres across Dublin: in Mulhuddart, Killester and Ballinteer. He now teaches six classes a week with up to 10 students per class, ranging in age from seven to 18.
Although he had no experience of working with children or people with learning difficulties, Carthy says this did not prove a barrier to effectively teaching the programme. “You really don’t have to be an expert in dyslexia to be a good TTRS teacher — the whole programme is so well laid out that it really facilitates both the trainer and the students.”
The programme is multi-sensory in that the students hear, see, say and type the 4,000 words they are exposed to over its duration, Carthy explains. Comprising 24 levels, with up to 30 modules per level, the programme generally takes about five to six school terms to complete. “The students work through the modules and are graded on them. For children who may never have done well in tests or exams, succeeding in this can really build up their confidence and motivation.”
The programme has only been operating since January of this year, but Carthy says people hear about it from resource teachers at schools, ads in newspapers, and, of course, word of mouth. He believes that, mainly due to the latter, all three centres have been doing extremely well.
“The feedback has been very positive,” he explains. “The children like it because they are learning to touch-type and using computers, while the parents like it because they can see their kids improving their literacy skills. It’s great to observe students gaining in confidence as they move through the programme.”
Apart from the obvious benefits to the participants, Carthy says the progamme has changed his life too, allowing him to fulfil his ambition of becoming his own boss as well as working in a job where he feels he is making a difference.
On this note, Carthy says his new career is a lot more rewarding than his old one. “Working in big companies, as I did, can involve a lot of pressure. There’s the commute and, of course, you’re constantly expected to work long hours. If you have a family and children, like I do, the two tend not to mix.”
Nowadays, he can work around his own timetable and says his job satisfaction is sky high. “It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I meet so many people and get such positive feedback from both parents and students.”
Although the fear for most people starting a new business venture or switching career is that they will suffer financially, he says this has not been the case for him. He earns a similar amount to the old days, just with fewer hours and more personal satisfaction. In fact, so enthused is Carthy by the TTRS programme that he now runs courses to train others to teach it.
“It’s a great programme to teach if you want to change jobs and start out on your own. You don’t need to be very technical; you just have to be able to focus on the students and deliver praise at the right time.”
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