Dyslexia is a learning difficulty, right? Why would I employ someone with it?
Sure dyslexia is commonly referred to a learning difficulty or disability but let’s be honest, most of the people who call it that, haven't really got a clue about dyslexia and what it really is. So let me start by talking about myself - Hi, I'm Simon, a director of Synermetric and a Dyslexic. This is the part where you’re thinking ‘Why has this company got a dyslexic writing its blog?' Well let me tell you.
First of all, I'm what’s known as ‘twice exceptional’ which means someone who is intellectually gifted who has some form of disability. In my early schooling I went to an expensive private school where I was put in the middle classes for everything but maths and science where I was in the top classes – well until I was tested for dyslexia, when I suddenly found myself in the bottom sets for most subjects. Now imagine for a second you’re 11 years old and for some reason all of your teacher have just started assuming you’re too slow to stay in the class and you have to be moved to a lower class. It was one of the most confusing times of my life – I couldn't comprehend why i was being treated differently now I had this label. So about this time I started misbehaving, messing around in class - you get the idea; I was bored; they weren't challenging me or even teaching me anything new. The extent of the effort the school put in was one half hour 'Learning support sessions a week' where they took me out of my worst subject, English, and I basically played games for the whole period because the school had no idea how to deal with dyslexia – and got further behind in English. Anyway fortunately I didn't have to stay for much longer as the school finished at 13.
So at the end of all that here’s me a 13 year old kid with an IQ on the 98th percentile who thinks he is stupid. Well my dad found a school called St David’s College in North Wales and this was a turning point. The school is based on a holistic approach to dealing with learning difficulties and it worked. I left three years later with an entirely different view of myself and really good GCSE grades. The most important thing I learnt there had nothing to do with lessons or exams it was the fact that Dyslexia is an advantage so doesn't hinder it helps!
Now a lot of you are probably thinking how does not being able to read/write well help? Well first thing to know is that no two people with dyslexia are affected in the same way. For example, my brother really struggles with reading to this day, but I was able to come top all of the reading tests scales aged 15. For me it’s writing that’s hard and it’s not obvious – my written vocabulary is good and I manage with grammar, it’s only when I compare my spoken vocabulary to my written that I notice a big discrepancy. None of this stops me though - I feel that the fact I'm writing about my hatred of writing should be proof enough of that.
Anyway I'm done talking about the difficulties that come with dyslexia because they are such a small part of it, I want to talk about the benefits and there’s a lot of them to talk about.
Ever been told to think outside the box? Well for a dyslexic, this is second nature we are always thinking outside the box; the way a dyslexic’s brain is wired is literally different to a non-dyslexic’s! Why would we think in the same way? This has led to dyslexics being some of the most innovative people in human history "Branson, Jobs, Gates, Dyson, Spielberg, Einstein, Ford, Bell, Da Vinci, Picasso" to name a few and if you still don't believe me check out this list of dyslexic billionaires: http://dyslexia.com.au/dyslexic-billionaires/ . So what skills make dyslexics 's so innovative? Well I could go on for a while on this but I will condense it into a short list of key skills:
- Persistence and resilience
- The ability to grasp new concepts
- Pattern recognition
- The ability to think holistically 'seeing the bigger picture'
- Strong reasoning skills and problem solving through lateral thinking
- The ability to understand abstract ideas and push the boundaries of what is conceived as possible.
Now this is in no way complete but gives you an insight into the skills that make dyslexics stand out. Sure if you employ someone with dyslexia they might make a typo on an email or misread a document but these are easy fixes. What’s hard is finding someone that will give you an edge over the competition or be able to see what’s going wrong before anyone else - now these are this skill that are hard to quantify but are invaluable to an organisation. These are the people that change the way business operates for the better, the leaders, the thinkers, the innovators and that’s why you should hire a dyslexic.
This week is dyslexia awareness week, if you want to be involved take a look here.
If you want to know more about Dyslexia, Twice Exceptionality or the ways that you can help your employees that have dyslexia, don't hesitate to get in touch. There are also some great books on the topic:
The Dyslexic Advantage by Dr Brocke L Eide and Dr Fernette R Eide which talks about ‘MIND’ strengths – Material, Interconnected, Narrative and Dynamic reasoning.
Positive Dyslexia by Prof Roderick Nicolson with his strengths ‘Decathlon’ with 3 mental, social and work strengths topped with unconventional thinking.
Margaret Rooke’s Creative, Successful Dyslexic which is an inspirational book of life stories of a surprising range of dyslexics – most of whom had a pretty dreadful time at school but thrived once they got out!