Scrolling through Instagram a few weeks ago I came across Holly Tucker’s post recalling her experience as well as celebrating Dyslexia Awareness Month in her Conversations of Inspiration (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/conversations-of-inspiration/id1434529830?mt=2). Take a listen they are fantastic, empathetic and heartwarming. What struck me was 2 things; one, I should have been aware of this initiative. And two, Holly’s earlier working life having her writing so brutally corrected was so akin to my own. And more to the point I thought this was normal for me! So yes I am dyslexic, and there I have said it, in a very public forum. This is the first time if I am correct that I have written this professionally, so I wished to share how my discovery came about.
my diagnosis at the tender age of 34
I was struggling at work, and despite my previous capability and work ethic I was making simple mistakes time and time again with my then line manager having to raise the conversation of something else being the cause that no end of late night working could support. I still have the educational psychologist’s report a decade or so later, that gave me my official diagnosis – Dyslexic. As described by Sir Jim Rose in his 2009 report, it is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. With characteristic features of being difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
I had thought that my character rather than the chemistry of my brain was responsible for affecting my behaviour, as well as my response to stress and how fast I responded to things. It was in fact a weight lifted and gave me a “label” to attach to it. What was more powerful was his endorsement that I had put in place quite “remarkable coping strategies” (his words). These unbeknown to me had got me through primary, secondary and right through my degree education and beyond into the first 10 years of my career.
I had thought I wasn’t as intelligent as others, one of those people who had to work harder just to achieve the same as others, not thick just couldn’t quite grasp things. My parents had instilled in me their work ethic, so I applied myself to all parts of my growing up, why was school any different.
I was fortunate, I made it through school, achieved decent grades, had begun a successful career in Fashion Retail with some amazing brands that I love. My family were supportive but didn’t really understand. No one else I knew were dyslexic or had a learning difficulty. For my other support networks, partner and friends it just made sense. The incessant note taking, freakish tidiness, hater of clutter, forgetting where to meet (pre mobile days) were prime behaviours and the penny dropped.
Work and dyslexia – not the comfiest of bedfellows
At the time of my diagnosis, I was already committed to my HR career with my employer supporting my choice, where words and accuracy were the currency no longer clothing. My confidence had plummeted and I just didn’t cope. Times of heavy workload, deadlines and limitless documents meant there will be trouble ahead. Not because I was bad at my job or ill suited to it but I just couldn’t process and think in the same way others did.
Nobody talked to me about my dyslexia and come to think of it neither did I, I wasn’t encouraged to. I didn’t know anyone else who was dyslexic, certainly not at work and certainly not in HR. I attended a course or two, was given a tech package to help check my own work and that was that. I was grateful at the time no big deal was made of it, however in light of current movements to support diversity I wonder if my early career would have been vastly different.
What are your experiences of dyslexia, or any other learning difficulty? As an individual or do you work with someone, or have a close friend or relative that is.
I will share more about my dyslexic discovery and how it has shaped and is shaping my current work world and workstyle. In the meantime, excuse the typo’s and let me know what your experiences are!