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John S's story

John sitting in a comfortable chair smiling

John Spence, from Pentwyn was bullied at school because he couldn’t read. 

Only in his late 30s after re-joining education was it discovered that he had severe dyslexia, ADHD, and Meares-Irlen syndrome, which leaves the brain struggling to process visual information and affects reading ability.

He won the Overall Learner of the Year award at Inspire! Awards 2018 saying adult learning transformed his life. John has changed his story and gone on to work with body confident celeb, Katie Piper and has set-up his own training company.

Overcoming obstacles

Without the support of a family, John’s learning difficulties went untreated and he left school to join the army without any qualifications. It was only when he left the Army in 2000 and was working as an ocean paramedic, that his secret was discovered when he failed a written exam.

John signed up to the Open University alongside his job at sea and had to overcome his extreme fear of education based on his experiences at school.

A second chance at education

After years of hard work, effective software and resources, John completed a certificate of education, then a diploma, and eight years after returning to education, he completed a BSC honours degree.

Now he’s a senior medical officer, travelling the world and responsible for the health of a crew of 150 and owes his success to adult learning. 

John said: “My focus now, is to try to do everything I can to help those who have barriers to learning, whether it’s a physical or mental disability. When I was in denial about my ability to read, I used to hide away. Now I want to get in front of people and show them that they are capable. I still get scared, but each time I present, I get more and more confident and knowing that I may be helping even one person motivates me to do it again and again.”


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