Ross Duncan interviews Cerrie Burnell

Cerrie Burnell was a familiar face to children under 6 who loved CBeebies.  At the start of her TV career it was reported that parents were unhappy about how she appeared on TV, but she feels that there are not enough disabled people represented on TV.

Although Cerrie was born without part of her upper right arm as a child, this didn’t stop her and she went on to do a number of sports and joined the army cadets.  She hasn’t worn a prosthetic arm since childhood; an early indication of her determination to not let this get in the way of her progress.

Cerrie’s disability is visible, but this has never dampened her spirits.  Outside TV she is very much involved with a number of organisations and projects. This includes a touring children’s play that she wrote and in the areas which highlighted disabilities.  Not slow in showing her support and championing the diversity cause, she has also been a presenter for the National Diversity Awards.

Less obvious is that she also has a hidden disability. Cerrie is an

acclaimed author of children’s books and she is dyslexic.  With the help of additional support she managed to start reading at the age of 8.  She didn’t start to write until the age of 10, admitting that this impacted on her standard of education, even though it didn’t impact on her confidence.

She bases much of her writing success on her own experiences as a child trying to read, “I was instead listening and dreaming”.   This is normal for someone who is dyslexic to experience this. To further enhance her writing, she has authored picture books. This helps dyslexic people to create imaginary materials and further pictures develops understanding.  When reading to a child, it can also help an adult, particularly if they are dyslexic.

With regards to which disability has the greatest bearing, Cerrie says it’s her physical disability, but is indifferent classifying dyslexia as a disability “it’s more a difference”. According to Cerrie,

 being dyslexic gives you the opportunity to push the boundaries of your imagination and to think outside the box.  So, it doesn’t have a negative impact on her.

Ross Duncan

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