DYSLEXIC STORIES FROM THE WORK PLACE THROUGHOUT DYSLEXIA AWARENESS WEEK
For Dyslexia Awareness Week 2014, as well as attending all of our local events, we commissioned a series of blogs dealing with a subject close to my heart, Dyslexia in the workplace. We reached out to bloggers across the globe, to share their stories of how dealing with Dyslexia in a work environment had effected their workplace experience. We ended up with a set of fantastically diverse pieces of work, which we released daily throughout Dyslexia Awareness Week.
We have compiled all of the posts into one, so if you missed them or just particularly liked a piece and would to like read it again, you can now easily find it right here.
DAY 1: ROB’S STORY
I worked in Information Technology (IT) for many years. In terms of the problems I faced, I could write a very long story about that, but I will spare you. In short, lack of understanding from managers and colleagues was an issue. Concentrating in open plan offices was a big problem for me, noise reduction headphones were of limited effect. Personal organisation was a problem. As were working memory issues, in terms of remembering instructions, keeping up in conversations and in meetings. Proof reading and accurate interpretation of data on spread sheets were problems at times as well. Also, the constant hit to my confidence was crippling at times.
I worked for nearly 12 years in a large company, the first five years were good. I worked in IT applications support were my problem solving and people skills were heavily utilised. But after that in the natural progression of a career, I was moved on to supposedly bigger and better things, but the jobs prayed on my weaknesses more. I ended up working in the Project Office and this job did not suit me at all. After over a decade with the company I was put on Capability Process. Fortunately for me, I was able to dodge a potential capability dismissal by taking voluntary redundancy.That was in 2011 and unfortunately I have not worked since. Despite the challenges presented by my dyslexia in the work environment, a former manager did comment that, although I needed to work on my organisation, I did establish good working relationships, had innovative ideas and good communication skills.
Words by Rob Hood
Rob Hood is based in Worcester and is a qualified systems analyst with 12 years of experience in the field. He is currently looking for both permanent and temporary employment in Project Management or IT Business Analysis.
You can find more about Rob here.
DAY 2:JENNI’S STORY
‘Dyslexia doesn’t affect your brain. It effects your abilities. It has nothing to do with your memory.’ This was said to me whilst I sat in a Job centre, recently redundant. It was said to me because I couldn’t remember my address properly. The woman who was taking my information accused me of trying to give in a false address, because I had to correct myself twice whilst giving it to her. I said I was really sorry, I struggle with all the numbers and spelling of it because I have dyslexia. She rolled her eyes and basically began to tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about. I couldn’t miss the patronising tone. She said ‘Dyslexia shouldn’t affect you here, you should know your real address’
I’d been diagnosed three months before this. 21, in my 3rd year of Uni. I’d always struggled and found things harder than people were supposed to but I kept my head down and pretended I knew or avoided things that would make it obvious I didn’t. I didn’t realise how people would respond to that word. I especially didn’t know how difficult it’s make the job application process. I was already a fish out of water. I hadn’t needed to look for a job in three years, now, I needed to find one as soon as possible.
My dyslexia support tutor told me not to mention it, that I could be discriminated against. Other people said I should be honest. At the encounter with this woman I had a moment where I decided never to mention it again. Then as she went on about people (i.e me) being lazy and dishonest, making up excuses for it, I decided I wouldn’t take it. I gave her my definition of dyslexia, difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, perhaps problems with short term memory or comprehension but, it doesn’t affect my intelligence. She couldn’t sit there and tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about. I think it’s me who can’t organise her words or numbers correctly, I think it’s me who gets frustrated with myself all the time for it. I think I know what dyslexia is. I left the Job Centre shortly after that, I didn’t need people like that making things harder for me. So I went without, found small jobs helping out the elderly or freelance writing until I landed on my feet. Now I’m about to start a great job.
Words and artwork by Jennifer Delaney
Jennifer is a 21 year old graduate in creative writing and film. She’s an aspiring fantasy novelist
and writer with a passion for creativity and art, find more of Jenni’s writing here.
DAY 3:EMILE’S STORY
I was identified early on as dyslexic, which means I was enrolled in special education classes throughout elementary and middle school. By the time I hit high school, I had progressed enough to study with the rest of the kids. When my last year rolled around, most of my accommodations had been taken away, and my grades began to falter.
Was I prepared for the “real world” by the time I graduated? Absolutely not. In fact, I was downright terrified.
I was never taught how to advocate for myself, and I knew embarrassingly little about how my own mind worked. I didn’t know why background noise obliterated focus, or just how much my letter and number reversals would damage my working life.
I didn’t know about the protections granted to me under federal law, either. I hadn’t realized the workplace bullying I’d faced when I disclosed my dyslexia gave me grounds for legal action. It didn’t occur to me that the applications I’d made a note of dyslexia on had probably been thrown out.
So I’m dyslexic. So what?
Apparently, it’s a bigger deal than I had realized at the time.
Over the years, I figured out some strengths directly related to my wiring. I solved complicated problems creatively, I put effective displays together in eye catching ways, and I was often praised about how well I handled customers. That creativity, big picture thinking and unique problem solving ability are all qualities closely tied into my dyslexia.
Since then, I’ve learned to concentrate on the gifts dyslexia gives me. Maybe working a register isn’t for me, but selling merchandise on the floor is just as valuable. I may not be great at data entry, but I can still write entertaining and informative articles.
There’s a place for everyone, even those of us with dyslexia. The world still has towers of ignorance all over the place, but when we demonstrate our strengths without shying away from what we are, we transform them into monuments of change.
Can we prevent this from happening to future generations? Absolutely. Here are a few places to start:
Spread awareness of what dyslexia is and the gifts associated with it
Teach children to advocate for themselves as early as possible
Make the rights available to dyslexics widely accessible
Standing up for ourselves and spreading awareness are the first steps towards a happier world.
Words by Emilie Peck
Emilie is a freelance writer who lives in the United States with her husband and a small herd of cats. When she’s not spreading awareness about dyslexia and related issues on her blog, Alternative Wiring, she dabbles in textile based crafts, jewelry making, upcycling and creating fictional worlds.
DAY 4:LIAM’S STORY
Liam is on the higher end of the dyslexia spectrum, but still managed to get through school and college. He eventually graduated Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in BA Product Design. After graduating Liam set about finding the elusive dream job. Hear what happened next in Laim’s better/sweet experience with Dyslexia in the workplace.
Interviewee Liam de la Bedoyer
DAY 5:JOES STORY
A dyslexic walks into a bra. Why dyslexics makes great comedians.
I’ve heard a lot of people call dyslexia a “gift”. If feeling inferior in school, struggling to get respect and feeling overwhelmed with the fear of looking stupid in the work place was a gift, then if guess it’s a pretty big gift. That’s what I used to think.
However it wasn’t until I started to learn a little bit more about life that I discovered that the kids in school who got A grades had grown up into adults who liked me because I am funny.
If you like the lime light, and most of us do, you will quickly discover that dyslexia has been a friend you’ve taken for granted over the years. Most people have a filter between the brain and the mouth that manages to keep weird thoughts in and turn normal logical thoughts into conversation topics. But dyslexics are not very good at this. And that’s why they are just so bloody fun to have around.
A comedian’s job is to take a normal part of every day life and twist it into a bizarre story. If this is done right, you can do it with the most terrible of things. Suddenly the Ebola virus does not seem as bad when the comedian has bitten into it, turned it into something funny,and spat out comedy gold in front of an audience.
Often, dyslexics are not trying to be funny and it certainly isn’t right to laugh when somebody is trying to put together a constructive thought. However, if you make people laugh then use it to your advantage. what can be better than making people happy? I’m not trying to sound like George Bailey from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ here but seriously, if you can make someone smile then do it. Dyslexia really does help with that.
I remember the day when dyslexia worked in my favour. It was March 1st 2002. I was 12 years old. It was St David’s day (oh, by the way I’m Welsh and grew up in Wales) There was a talent contest in school andI was in a junk band. For those of you who don’t know, a junk band is where you make musical instruments out of bits of junk you find. My role was the drummer. I played the drums made out of a cardboard box and some chair legs that I found on a skip behind the school. After the performance there was some feedback off the music teacher. About 300 12 year olds sat in the assembly hall and waited to hear what the music teacher had to say. My band’s review was as follows:
Music teacher: “Great energy in the band boys. Really liked the solo. Where did you get the chair legs from?”
Me: “um, we got them off a chair”
The assembly hall erupted in laughter.
Music Teacher. “Well, ask a silly question!”
That was a great day for me and it probably started my lifelong addiction to making people laugh. But (and this is my point) I wasn’t TRYING to be rude or funny. I wasn’t that type of kid. I knew she had asked that question because she thought that we had broken one of the school chairs. And I answered it in the attempt of defending myself. A non dyslexic answer would’ve been “we got it from a broken chair that we found In a skip” but because the dyslexic brain cannot process a coherent answer under pressure, the answer came as very blunt, cheeky and therefore funny.
And dyslexia doesn’t just help with comedy. Walk into any artistic district I’m your city and I guarantee you will see a lot of dyslexic people. A lot of artists, inventors, actors, writers and even scientists have dyslexia to thank for their outlook on life.
So the next time you feel down about having dyslexia, remember that you see the world differently to most people. That is a fantastic gift. Use it wisely!
Words by Josef Konderla
You can read more of Josef’s word at http://josefkonderla.wordpress.com
DAY 6:HENA’S STORY
Growing up with dyslexia, I knew that I did things differently than my peers at school – I was unable to sound out words like my sister or read an entire book in one sitting like my friends. Despite those “shortcomings”, I taught myself how to navigate through school. It wasn’t always easy, but I knew I had the support of teachers and family if my struggles ever felt overwhelming. The most important thing for me in overcoming and living with my dyslexia was a supportive and open network of people around me. When it came time to move on from a school setting to the workplace, I knew I needed to find an environment where I felt supported even though I did things differently than most people. For me, this place was Google. I spent two summers interning at Google, and during that time I developed a group of mentors and friends whom I felt comfortable working with and going to for advice.
After a year at Google, I have learned that work is much different than school and that some of the work I’m expected to do is not easy for a dyslexic. Even though the days of test taking or never ending reading assignments are behind me, I still encounter challenges like writing a social post or editing a blog post for work. Not only has Google given me the tools I need to do my job, but it has also provided a work environment where everyone has been very understanding of my challenges and has always tried to help me find a place within Google that would highlight my strengths while supporting me as I continue to learn. Not only is Google very innovative with respect to the products it produces, but it is also very open minded and supportive of differing ways workers might think or accomplish their jobs. Being at ease knowing that Google accepts and even encourages people who think in different ways, I do not obsess as much about my weaknesses like I did at school. As a result I feel comfortable expressing myself in meetings and in written communications. A year back I would never feel comfortable writing a blog post about my dyslexia, but I have learned not to be afraid writing. This in turn has made me a better writer and communicator.
Words by Hena Haines
Hena is currently an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Google working on the Google Maps for Work team. Previously, Hena was working on Google Search and Google Wallet. Hena received a degree from Harvard in Economics in 2013, graduating Magna cum laude with high honors as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Here is the video that Rob sent me in his original email.
Skip to 01:10, 19.10 and 50.25 for Hena’s bits:
DAY 7:SEAN’S STORY
I was recently ask to be the guest of honor at the Moat School in West London as part of their founders day celebrations. The Moat school is an independent school founded to nurture Dyslexic children that have struggled in main stream education. As well as sitting at the front of the event with the Head Mistress and giving out prizes, part of my duties involved given a speech! Up until that point I’d never given a speech in my life and this truly was a baptism of fire as there was almost 300 in the audience. The speech was recorded and although I cringe every time I watch the video I’m told that the speech went down pretty well.
Words by Sean Douglas