'Local Legend' passionate about the kids

NARACOORTE local Carol Lawrie sees potential in every student she meets.

No matter what learning difficulty or background they might have, the Kip McGrath Education Centre director and consultant knows they can achieve great things.

"For me it's not about the money, although I am trying to run a business," she said.

"It's not all easy. There are hard times - sometimes I have to play the role of counsellor or tough cop...but it is very rewarding to help change a life for the better."

Naracoorte Kip McGrath Education Centre director and consultant Carol Lawrie is this month's "Local Legend".

Naracoorte Kip McGrath Education Centre director and consultant Carol Lawrie is this month's "Local Legend".

Mrs Lawrie has been a teacher for over 40 years and is trained as a clinician and diagnostician for special needs including dyslexia.

Over her long career she has taught Indigenous Studies, Home Economics, Health, Music and Special Education.

In the mid-80s she was assigned to Lucindale Area School to help bring open access education to the SE which was achieved thanks to her efforts alongside three other teachers.

After retiring from the profession in the 90s due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome she worked as an accredited podiatry assistant for her daughter.

In 2000 she and her husband Peter moved into the Naracoorte township from their farm in Lochaber, and two years later she started tutoring at Kip McGrath.

When the owner Paul Nikkerud retired in 2008 she and Peter seized the opportunity to buy the business.

Kip McGrath essentially offers a tutoring service - to assist gifted and talented children as well as those who might be struggling at school. There are also some adult clients.

Three years ago a new remediation arm to the tutoring was introduced - KL3 which stands for Keys to Listening, Learning and Literacy.

It includes programs such as Cellfield or neuroscientific reading, Irlen which uses coloured overlays to eliminate perception difficulties and brain plasticity.

The first 68 students to use Cellfield in Naracoorte saw huge improvements (with gains of up to 79 months in reading age over a 12-week period) in topic areas such as word ID, passage comprehension and reading accuracy.

In fact, the Cellfield program in Naracoorte is leading the way for all others in the country, ranked at number one.

Mrs Lawrie recalled using it on a 14-year-old boy who was in juvenile prison.

His mother heard of the programs offered at Kip McGrath and asked for him to be released so he could participate.

When Mrs Lawrie asked the teen why he had done the things he had, he replied: "Everyone thinks I'm dumb."

"He came up at the end of the year and said he had passed his Year 11 SACE and that he had got parole and everything was going well," Mrs Lawrie said.

"That for me is where my rewards are. To see a kid with potential...and watch them rise like an eagle... and to break a cycle."

Mrs Lawrie first became interested in dyslexia when her son was diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome in 1985.

"I've done a lot of national conferences on it," she said.

"Actually I find it really tragic because a lot of the teachers, occupational therapists and nurses have little understanding about it when they're the ones who need to be able to identify the signs.

"People have been blown away by what we show them. It's about changing the paradigm of what dyslexia is."

Mrs Lawrie's Kip McGrath centre is one of only three other places in SA to offer remediation programs, through her KL3 initiative, and 80 per cent of her clients come from word of mouth.

She said a major issue was that there was no Government, or other, funding to support it despite the proven results.

Two community groups in Naracoorte sponsor some of the students who go through but that is all the monetary help it receives, despite the programs being quite expensive for the average family.

"I guess you could say I'm pretty passionate about it," she said.

"I think it is important because dyslexia and visual processing affects about a quarter to a third of the population.

"Kids (and adults) with these problems struggle with employment, self esteem and day to day skills.

"They are often very bright but might struggle in school because their needs are not accommodated."

When she isn't working, Mrs Lawrie has enjoyed being a volunteer at Longridge Aged Care, getting involved with the Naracoorte Uniting Church and helping out as a junior netball coach.

"If I see a need I generally get in there and do it," she said.

"The things I do often have a focus on children. I'm always keen to support the kids."