Dyslexia Awareness Week kicked off on Monday 3rd October and, as Chair of SEED, Fujitsu’s Disability Employee Network in the UK and Ireland, it’s something close to my heart.
I caught up with a few people around Fujitsu who’ve spent their lives and careers dealing with and overcoming challenges with dyslexia. Some of them were diagnosed at a young age while others had only recently been diagnosed.
What struck me most wasn’t the negative impact the disorder has had on their lives, but the incredible things they’ve achieved, in many ways, because of dyslexia.
Here are three of the most powerful points they made…
1. Dyslexia is not a reflection on your intelligence
A common thread among the people I spoke to was that before they were diagnosed with dyslexia they felt like they were in some way unintelligent or inferior. Or worse: they were made to feel that way by others.
For Paul Bryan, the diagnosis didn’t come until he was 43:
“I wish it had happened earlier,” he said. “I thought it was me being stupid or disobedient. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I feared criticism and I wouldn’t read or write in front of people.”
Rob Loseby echoed a similar sentiment:
“I spent many an unhappy year sat on the ‘Dumb and Stupid Table’ as it was called by the teacher,” he said “… But eventually, I was assessed and diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. Funny thing is, I also turned out to have an IQ that put me in the top 1% of the UK.”
Denise O’Toole described how “everything fell into place” when she was diagnosed with dyslexia in her late thirties. “Words don’t always come out right,” she said.“I think this can sometimes come across as not knowing what I am talking about. But I find telling people I have dyslexia helps them understand me better. Denise added “It took me a long time to recognise I’m not stupid….When you’re dyslexic your brain is just wired slightly differently to other people.”
2. You can do things others can’t
When speaking to colleagues I’m inspired by their attitude, a focus on what they can do that others perhaps can’t because of their dyslexia.
Society often talks about disabilities in light of how they hold people back, but it’s encouraging to see a group of people who’ve found a much more positive angle.
“I can’t say it’s plain sailing being told you’re dyslexic at 42,” said Jacqui Mohr. “But that’s where I am. That’s me.
“You don’t have to think like a non-dyslexic and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, you can be better than them at some things – dyslexic people often think outside the box. Just be true to who you are.”
Graham Welsh certainly agrees that people with dyslexia bring their own set of wonderful qualities to the workplace. He says: “Being right-brained I see the world in a very different way to those that are not. I can look at the bigger picture and predict outcomes before others have seen them.”
This idea of being able to take a holistic look at situations was a common theme among those I spoke to, with Fujitsu apprentice Billy Slade saying his condition has given him the ability to see through complexity: “I can see patterns where others don’t.”
3. There’s more support than you think
One thing that might hold people back when it comes to disabilities in the workplace is the fear that vocalising it will in some way impact their career.
Thankfully there is plenty of support out there for people with dyslexia, whether it’s through an internal community like Fujitsu’s SEED or one of the many external support organisations available.
“Don’t be afraid to step up and ask for (or offer) support,” Paul Bryan said. “Once you’ve taken that step you’ll feel like a weight has been taken off your shoulders. People are much more understanding than you think.”
Billy Slade was hesitant to talk about his dyslexia at first, but he later found he needn’t have worried.
“At my initial interview I didn’t share that I was dyslexic – I was concerned that disclosure might go against me.
“But I’ve had fantastic support from my line manager. I feel I can be totally open and honest about any challenges or issues I’m facing.”
For Rob Loseby it was that substitute teacher who gave him the boost he needed all those years ago.
“She turned my life around,” he said. “I was able to fulfil my ambition and join the army, attaining the rank of Warrant Officer Class One in a technical post before gaining a degree and then joining Fujitsu as a customer solutions architect.”
Support can come in the form of tools, too, particularly today when there are so many different pieces of software available to us.
Graham Welsh said Dragon speech recognition has made “a significant improvement” to his working life, while Billy Slade uses a piece of software called Read&Write to make reading web pages and documents much easier.
“You have to play to your strengths when you have dyslexia and find other ways to cope with the reading,” said Stephen Burgess. “I use text to speech applications to read emails or any other text documents.”
Check out the video below to hear Fujitsu Project Manager Ann-Marie Gosling – recently recognised as a Values Champion by Fujitsu – talking about her own experiences with dyslexia at work:
Inspiring stuff I’m sure you’ll agree! And proof that having dyslexia, or any other disability, impairment, health condition or long-term injury, doesn’t mean you have to accept any less than anyone else, be that in work or in your day to day life. I’m continually amazed by the people that I have the pleasure to meet and their passion and commitment in embracing their true authentic selves, encouraging others to do so and being brave enough to share their personal stories.
I’d be really interested to hear about your personal stories, your own experiences with dyslexia in the workplace and how you too are flourishing.
#BeCompletelyYou #PurpleTalk #dyslexia2016
#Trust #Include #Inspire
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