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James Martin health: BBC producer helped Saturday Kitchen star cope with his dyslexia

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It was when James Martin tried to read the autocue at 30 years-old at his first television job that he realised he struggled more than most. Talking on BBC Radio 1 he said: “For me it’s an absolute nightmare, to read that.” However the chef was struggling with his disability long before he got to TV, it even made him fail cookery school for not being able to write details of recipes down.

In an interview with woman&home he said: “I failed cookery in school because I was dyslexic, still am. Severely dyslexic. I’ve never read a book in my life.”

After perseverance and graduating from one of the top culinary schools based in France, Martin landed himself a spot on the BBC.

In order to overcome his difficulties with reading the autocue, the BBC deputy head of daytime sent him on a course to learn coping mechanisms.

Martin commented: “Without her, Saturday Kitchen wouldn’t have been what it was, because the teacher of the course taught me how to walk and talk.

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“The teacher said, ‘Don’t stand there reading like a presenter, because you can’t do it. And not many people can walk and talk, but I can’t stand and talk!”

Once aware of this, Martin’s presenting style adds to his on screen charisma, making it unique to him.

Alongside walking and talking, the chef can also remarkably memorise passages of script in a matter of seconds.

He added: “I basically look at the autocue for a second and then say, right, switch it off. As long as it’s there in your head, just let me go.”

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Adapting skills that he would usually struggle with such as reading and writing has worked wonders for Martin.

Despite the stigmas attached to the disability, he has proven these can be dealt with.

Dr Cruger from The Child Mind Institute provides a list of tips that can help anyone with dyslexia, especially children when diagnosis is most common.

The list includes:

  • Listening to audiobooks as an alternative to reading
  • Typing on a computer or tablet instead of writing
  • Apps that can make learning fun by turning decoding into a game
  • Using a ruler to help kids read in a straight line, which can help keep them focused

However, despite these challenges individuals with dyslexia are often highly intelligent and more creative.

Martin has developed a way to still publish over 15 cookery books, adopting one of the methods suggested by Dr Cruger.

In an interview with The Sun, the chef revealed that he uses a dictaphone to write books instead of the traditional pen and paper method.

His latest book James Martin’s Islands to Highlands follows his successful television series on ITV.



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