I have always liked the number 7. This time of the year always makes me reflective as it was the first time students flooded into The Homework Club in Blanchardstown in 2009. Many of these first cases turned out to be hugely influential in my own journey.
The first parent to ever ring me seeking help had a teenager who had not attended school for months, having dropped out of the system. He took classes with us for 6 weeks and did so well in his State Exams the school rang his mother with the results wanting to know what had changed. We worked with him for the next 3 years and hence I found myself taking on a huge number of cases with Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m now known internationally as an expert in an area I never expected or set out to be.
By the following September, even though I set the school up for second level students, I found myself taking on the transition age before you start big school. By the following January, a year after my craziness to set up my own school with my own teaching methods, the youngest students were now 4.
Within this time, I had been encouraged by people to go for a number of awards. These were important to me personally as the first outside validations of my work.
I guess all along the only judge of my work, research and methods had been the results my students have received. From there I have become a top referral for many organisations. I find it sad that in many cases I am the person who people are sent to when no one else has been able to help them.
Two years after starting the school, I realised I needed to convert all my work, experiences and methods into a formal system. This meant the birth of The Purple Learning Project. I have always felt there is a balance between supporting people currently in the system and making real change for the future.
I remember this odd moment of describing the basic Purple Learning method to someone and they asked, “Who’s work is this” and saying, “It’s mine.” What book could they read it in? The answer was none – my head. It’s always been a bit bizarre to be so outside the box. To work in a way that has not existed before. The Homework Club was, for me, about proving all the wacky ideas in my own head.
Along the way in those years, I developed all these ways of working with people with a whole spectrum of conditions including: ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Audio Processing Disorders, Hearing Impairments, Home Schooling, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Confidence, Bullying, Self Harm, Sexuality, Learning Disabilities, Gifted Children, Exam Fears, Child Development, People Development, Team Development, Business Success, Bereavement and so on.
When I started the school I had one main question in my head. Why do no two dyslexics learn the same way? Through working with so many people and conducting interviews, which allowed me to create unique profiles for everyone, I now have the answer to that question 7 years later.
I now have the recorded patterns of how personality and learning styles go together.
I reached the next major crossroads in the school 4 years into the project. The students knew what we did. I collected many of their comments and feedback. It was a magic sense of achievement having created an environment they all loved so much. Hence, the tagline became, “Develop Your Love of Learning.” But the parents had no idea in many cases what the project was about. I felt I was missing part of the puzzle. I also felt that many parents had lost involvement in their own children’s education.
Confidence Club was born.
I was also itching to take the projects nationally and internationally. Every time I did a radio interview I would be contacted by all these people rurally in Ireland with no support. Confidence Club has been about supporting students in their own homes, with the support and understanding of their parents.
Along the way, the methods have continued to develop in the background. It feels like a back room factory sometimes. The most significant one being in 2013, Periodic Table of the Development of Results. Nicknamed Purple Success. It brought my science and creative brain together. It is the table of the elements each personality needs to succeed in life. Whether it is a 3-year-old I am helping to talk or a 5-year-old to read or a business to grow. It is always just about people and their personalities.
With all the work I have done to date, my key focus in life still remains to take literacy and intelligence out of the same sentence. Because even after all these years, I still remember what the teacher said to me in school at the age of 7.
Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly