Interview with Jan Halfpenny, Director of Halfpenny Development (dyslexia specialists)
Can you tell us a little about the work you do with your company Halfpenny Development?
We provide workplace services for dyslexic and neurodiverse adults and their employers. This consists of workplace needs assessments, tuition and training (face-to-face and online). We also write neurodiversity and dyslexia-friendly training in other subjects and provide consultancy services for employers who want to get it right from scratch.
What was your experience of growing up with dyslexia like?
No one knew I was dyslexic (until I was 40) and had other neurological differences, so I spent a lot of my time puzzled and trying to compensate for and hide mistakes I had made. I couldn’t understand why I found certain things hard to grasp when I was clearly an intelligent person. I found it hard (and still do) to make friends. If I find I am on the same wavelength as someone else, it is usually because they are neurodiverse as well. Some of my family still think they know better and that I am not dyslexic, so I have found it hard to find real acceptance and true understanding. It has created lots of barriers that are unnecessary. This has driven me to show much more understanding for my children (who are both dyslexic and neurodiverse) and to fight for them and others where necessary and put their point of view where they are unable to. It made me who I am and made me want to specialise in dyslexia and really get a handle on what it is.
What are your personal mind strengths?
I struggle to find these sometimes, but I think determination and empathy are the main ones. I am also good at problem solving and thinking unconventionally. I am growing in to who I am – I feel like I am still getting there and like many people in my situation, taking a long time to grow up and become mature.
Are attitudes to neurodiversity in the workplace changing? What more can business be doing to embrace dyslexic employees?
I think attitudes amongst employees are changing as we inform each other, more are ‘diagnosed’ (not a fan of that word) and more is spoken about. However I think industry has a long way to go. I think HR are slow to make real improvements and there is culture of box-ticking and paying lip service to real neurodiversity and proper effective support. I am concerned that Brexit will see our workplace and human rights diminish. I am buoyed however, by the recent ruling on funding for employment tribunals. It is sad that some employers need to be taken to tribunals, but it is the case.
Where do you see the future for assistive technology, both in schools and in the workplace?
I think it has a role, but it can be seen as a panacea when it isn’t. What we need is a general understanding and appreciation of difference. Technology can often be used well and gives independence so I am an advocate of it where it can be fitted in. I am wary though as it still puts the onus on the user to ‘fix’ themselves. I am ‘old school’ as I grew up without computers, so I have learned to have compensatory strategies in place and I am not reliant on technology. I still look to maps when I need to get somewhere and really do not like satnav and the interference with my ‘in-car’ thought process.
Can you tell us a little about the work you do with your company Halfpenny Development? We provide workplace services for dyslexic and neurodiverse adults and their employers. This consists...