Dsylexia is about what you can do, not what you can’t

Let’s shift the perception from negative to positive

Reading that Pip Jameson of The Dots describing herself as “delightfully Dyslexic” made think about how I feel about my own dyslexia. For many many years I saw only what skills I didn’t have to study or do a certain job. Now I see Dyslexia as a strength just as much as my education or experience, but it’s still a work in progress.

My own experience is this. I the early days of my career, you weren’t asked about any disabilities or even know you are covered under the Disabilities Act. You didn’t dare mention it if you made it through to interview for fear of judgement and deselection.  An HR professional that can’t spell, surely not. I needed to decipher my own understanding of what Dyslexia meant for me especially with a late diagnosis in my mid-30’s.  Even today in some of my peer groups I am discovering that late diagnosis is not uncommon not just for Dyslexia but for other neurodiverse individuals.

So what has worked for me?

What I recognise now is very much quality over quantity. I use a range of tools so that I don’t become overloaded. From information to data, ways of working, reading about my industry, to networking. My brain just can’t process it so why make it, and even if it did I wouldn’t remember it anyway. I am learning to keep in check my consuming of things such as social media, have fewer apps but use them more(fab apps like Feedly are my friend). I have embraced different ways outside of reading to get my fill such as Podcasts. Google Maps gets me from A to B without the historical panic that I used to set in when travelling somewhere. However, sometimes ol’ skool is just the ticket, my trusty Moleskin notepad is never far away for my prolific list making.

What part does my dyslexia play in my work today?

It informs my point of view that the candidate/individual/cleint is at the heart of all that I do. My clients deserve quality of service, through my strength to think creatively I deliver simple but effective solutions. I listen intently to my clients and note take conscientiously because I can’t rely on my short term memory. This means I often pick up on the smallest of details, that others wouldn’t. My ability to find different solutions to the norm means my clients often get something they weren’t expecting. I am learning to harness is the strengths I have.

This months’ Dyslexia Awareness campaign quite rightly gave focus to Education getting to the core of the matter. But what about those already finished their education who are in the workforce facing challenges and want to be perceived differently?

Made by Dyslexia have just published their #valueofdyslexia report in conjunction with EY highlighting the positive.  They found that there is a match between what the World Economic Forum is saying are required future skills and the strengths such as vision, creativity and big problem solving skills that dyslexics have. This goes along way to challenge the perceptions of what you can rather than what you CAN’T do.  More importantly in an age where many skills are being automated this is shining a light on those not able to be recreated by AI. This gives real currency to dyslexic abilities in the future.

Reports such as this being widely read and acted up on we will start to see some of the balance being redressed.  But for the moment I will continue to shine a light on Dyslexia and how it shapes me in my work.

Give the report a read http://madebydyslexia.org/ see how you could perceive your colleagues in a different light. However, if you can’t I would love to leave you with these thoughts:

  • Give space and time – Dyslexia means that information can only be processed so fast for dyslexics, so in our age of information overload this is ever more apparent
  • Please realise how hard a dyslexic person is always working, what you find quick and easy may not be the case for a dyslexic
  • Be sensitive to a dyslexic’s resources – Long sequences of the same instructions can be overwhelming. Break it up a little, give a visual cue, focus on one thing at a time
  • I have head Dyslexia called the “thief of time”, everything text driven takes twice as long so try bullet points instead of long sentenced emails where you can
  • Socialising in large groups can be intimidating with too many conversations to process, so help that person engage in smaller groups to avoid reaching a tipping point of info
  • Learning can be challenging so, engage other senses such as being visual or physical
  • Appreciate a dyslexic person’s strengths – why focus on admin detail when there’s ideas and creative solutions
  • Be open and talk about – at home, at work or out