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Dyslexia: One Man's Story

Recently an acquaintance commented on the mind map that I was using while taking part in a group workshop.

"You dyslexics like those don’t you?" she said in a voice that carried around the room. Then, fearing she had blundered, she whispered, "Oh I’m sorry, they don’t know, do they?"

But they did know because I had told them.

Dyslexia is not a problem for me. On the contrary – unlike many potential employers and people with Dyslexia - I consider it a powerful asset, which has given me a unique insight and a set of capabilities and skills with which I have achieved success.

Invariably, when initially diagnosed as having Dyslexia, people react by being:

  • Relieved
  • Angry
  • Fearful
  • Evangelistic
  • Inadequate
  • Frustrated
  • Overloaded
  • Stupid
  • Ashamed

The perception of Dyslexia, which they and the population in general have, is frequently negative. This is continually reinforced by their failure to conform to traditional standards of reading and writing.

For some people with Dyslexia, these ‘hang-ups’ prevent them from developing their true potential – we all know what they are, don’t we?

  • Difficulty with reading
  • Difficulty when reading large amounts
  • Difficulty with organising
  • Difficulty remembering instructions
  • Difficulty with hidden meanings in conversation
  • Difficulty coping with interruptions
  • Difficulty with hand - writing and spelling
  • Difficulty with grammar
  • Difficulty with directions
  • Difficulty with concentration

In short, DIFFICULTY with everything!

Many employers also perceive Dyslexia as a barrier, which excludes or condemns individuals from a window of opportunity. While we should not try to underestimate the problems, to see Dyslexia purely in these terms is to deny its positive attributes. The many successful Dyslexics, who work in industry, commerce, academia and entertainment, exploit such attributes.

So amongst both groups - people with Dyslexia and employers - attitudes need to be changed, if Dyslexia is ever to be recognised as a positive and creative force which can enhance both social and professional lives.

Take a look at this picture. It is a good example of how we perceive. What do you see, a young lady or an old one? The answer lies in the way you look at it.

(If you look at the left of the picture you can see the young girl’s eye, look towards the middle of the bottom you can see the old lady’s chin)

The way we are perceived can mean the difference between obtaining employment and gaining promotion or not.

In industry the perception by the public, of a company or product, is vital to its marketing success. So to, is that of individuals in the employment market.

So who is responsible? Principally, it has to be ourselves. People’s perception of us is based upon how we communicate. In other words how we market ourselves.

Successful marketing is about getting the right product, to the right place, at the right time and at the right price. Substitute ‘person’ for ‘product’ and we have a strategy for gaining employment and achieving promotion.

In selling ourselves we must first – as with any good product – recognise our USP (unique selling point). People with Dyslexia are lucky. They have a whole host of unique skills and abilities waiting to be tapped.

  • Thinks in a natural organic way
  • Good team player
  • Loyal and Passionate
  • Problem solver
  • Excellent overview capabilities
  • Excellent intuitive skills
  • Excellent visualisation skills
  • Fast thinking
  • Can be visionary
  • Imaginative
  • Innovative and original
  • Can be very articulate
  • Very creative

Understanding your OWN pattern of Dyslexia is vital to the way forward. It means answering several questions:

  • What is my pattern of Dyslexia?
  • What are my strengths?
  • Am I a visual, auditory or kinesthetic person?
  • What are my communication skills like?

The answers will both help in discovering your USP and in releasing the self-limiting beliefs which inhibit your real potential.

‘Knowledge Dispels Fear’

  • A simple ‘mission statement’ encompassing your key patterns, strengths and aspirations will help you focus yourself and lift the barriers and inhibitions implanted by our traditional educational system and society.
  • For those who have followed this path the rewards have been tremendous:
  • Peter is a marketing manager in a major international engineering company, using his spatial and visual way of thinking on a daily basis. His Dyslexia empowers him to think through complex strategies and systems quickly, work which would have taken a team weeks to complete.
  • John is now being recognised for his overview capabilities and different way of seeing things on a major assembly line, which makes him a valuable team player.
  • Dave’s intuitive and communication skills are giving him a distinct advantage when dealing with his Government Agency’s most difficult and complex clients.
  • Jean, working for a large multi national, can now implement her visual way of thinking when designing and planning for her company. It works because the organisation has a clear understanding of her Dyslexia and now uses auditory methods of communication that meet her identified needs.

All of these people work in an environment where the individual is accepted for their strengths, self worth and pride. Of equal importance to the Dyslexic, is to be aware of their weaknesses, and not let these inhibit the confidence their strengths provide.

By developing a clear understanding of their own patterns, strengths and learning senses, they have changed attitudes and perception, offering employers a bonus, that unique ‘cutting edge’ so many organisations are looking for today, found in the creative thinking of people with Dyslexia.

Nike- "Share of mind equals share of market"

Tom Peters- "The only asset a company now has is Imagination"

Charles Handy- "We need new perspectives on everything"

Today the really successful companies are those with a competitive edge. People with Dyslexia are largely an untapped and hidden resource. For companies and dyslexics to benefit from that resource they need to address the following key points:

  • Examine - ways in which their organisation deals with people with Dyslexia
  • Harness - the creativity and innovation of people with Dyslexia
  • Help - people with Dyslexia to release their potential and contribute their unique skills
  • Empower - people with Dyslexia to become team players.
  • Extend - their awareness of issues from a dyslexic’s point of view.
  • Train - people with Dyslexia more effectively.
  • Increase - their competitive edge.
  • Expand - access to learning opportunities within the organisation.
  • Channel - the passion of people with Dyslexia.
  • Untap - this powerful resource.
  • Explore imaginative ways of learning and thinking.

For many Dyslexics and non-Dyslexics this will be a new perspective.

Asking the right questions and looking for the right answers, and discovering your USP will give others the right perception of you and possibly give you that ’competitive edge’ you have always wanted.

Remember that we are born with Dyslexia and we will die with Dyslexia - something of which many of us are becoming increasingly proud.

Good Luck!

Alan McDowell


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