Guest Feature: Here's How I'd Do It (Dyslexia) Differently by Michael Sheldon
In May of 2006, I received a letter from disability services at the University of Dundee. I had 4 weeks left of 4 years at University which had followed 1 year at College after leaving school. It had taken this time to finally find the underlying issue. That “issue” is that I am dyslexic.
For many, the discovery that you are dyslexic can be liberating. Finally things make sense. Your tendency to be “wrong”, “not paying attention” or a “bit slow”, you know those phrases that are delivered in the most patronising of manners, was in fact your tendency to think sideways. As it happened your brain was not the out the box model that a one dimensional and overly politicised education system tends to thrive on. Alas it was a completely unique model with a great capacity for creativity and adaptability. Sadly no one gave you the instructions.
For me, and I think lots of dyslexics, it can be a struggle to really get to grips with it. Especially when you leave education and go off to work. In truth, I took 10 years to properly figure it out. But alas, with the benefit of hindsight and maturity, if I was to go through the process again, or if you’re experiencing this now, here is how I would do it differently.
First off, educating yourself on dyslexia is key. A lot of people think they know what it is based on assumption. Low and behold they are often wrong! And whilst diagnosis is great for giving you the breakdown of how you operate, it is really just the beginning. It’s therefore imperative you educate yourself on dyslexia as much as possible. There are a wealth of quality books out there along with videos, podcasts and blogs. Here in Scotland, Dyslexia Scotland run a great system of adult network groups, giving you the chance to meet other dyslexic adults, exchange experiences and get information on help and support. You can’t underestimate how important it is to become your own expert. I took about 9 years to start properly building knowledge on it. Opting instead to fall for the “conventional wisdom” of thinking it meant I was stupid or incapable. But over the last few years I’ve learned so much and its been central to discovering and accepting the strengths it can give. Knowledge really is power!
Following knowledge comes method and strategy. Engage with as much software, technology and strategy as you can to start working with it. Depending on how dyslexia effects you, you may benefit from text to speech software, speech to text, mind-mapping, using dictaphones, colour coding, the list goes on! This is central to complimenting how your brain works. Building knowledge as discussed before is central to this. But you have to make sure it becomes practical too. Education and even work places can have a tendency to see such things as “not the proper way of doing things”. But that’s rubbish and completely counter intuitive to creativity and technology. Let’s face it, everyone types now and computing and IT skills greatly out do handwriting and punctuation in so many aspects of modern employment. Tablets and iPads are also a great help as are a multitude of phone apps. In the work place it is also a legal requirement to give you a workplace needs assessment. This can be gained through ‘Access to Work’ and will provide funding for technology as well as planning and implementing strategies.
For many who find out later in life about their dyslexia, the issues with reading, writing, spelling, memory and organisation may have been evident for a while. But the reason behind this wasn’t. And in my view and experience, that is only half the issue. An undetected experience of dyslexia can result in a lot of lost aspiration, ill feeling, self-depreciation and shattered confidence. The teachers broken records playing the same old “slow, stupid, not listening, not trying hard enough” can be hard to stop, especially if they are perpetuated at home or in the work place. Something dyslexics can do well is self doubt. And it sucks. It really sucks! Furthermore, when you make the discovery, there is every chance memories of such experience will flood back and cause a lot of frustration. In my own case it took a long time to realise and accept the magnitude of this. The result being I stared seeing a counsellor a couple of years a go to try and unravel it all. I’m pleased to say it worked and I was able to let the ghosts rest. But it pains me when I see others in a similar position as I once was. It can be very difficult to understand when a lot of those around you simply can’t!
Which leads me to my final point. Accept it, own it and embrace it. This may sound like motivational claptrap, and it may well be! Only you can decide that. But for me its true. I ran from it for a long time, even though I’d made the discovery and convinced my self somehow that it somehow didn’t count. And that was hugely to my detriment, as I got nowhere. As I have worked to change that, massively, I realised denying it or carrying it like a burden is pointless and unnecessary. In fact, its completely counter productive as it’s neither of them. It’s just a different way of working that has no instruction manual. But in turn, that makes you unique and can give you many strengths and talents.
In May of 2006, I received a letter from disability services at the University of Dundee. I had 4 weeks left of 4 years at University which had followed 1 year at College after leaving school. It...