One in 10 people in the UK is dyslexic, myself included. I've experienced first-hand so many outdated attitudes towards dyslexia and other learning differences. Yet I feel proud of the innovation and creativity dyslexia allows.
Dyslexia is classed as a disability - which automatically generates preconceived notions of the person suffering from it – “you’re so thick”, as I was told many times at school. It took me a long time to realise that the perceived ‘barriers’ of dyslexia were ones that I put in my own way, and that the strength to overcome them came from me, from valuing myself and my own ideas.
I honestly believe that my success is because of, not despite, dyslexia. That’s why I’m passionate about celebrating and valuing differences, changing perceptions of ‘normal’ and encouraging schools and organisations to collaborate to embrace the ‘different’ skills of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEN).
Making a difference needs to start with an education process. I’d like to see business owners and entrepreneurs forge better links with boys and girls with dyslexia by going into schools and mentoring them – to show them what they can achieve. At Novacroft, we are working on a Dyslexia Talent Showcase to create an army of people who have overcome their own challenges in an attempt to capture the imaginations of young people.
At the moment people with dyslexia may be sitting at the front of the class thinking, like I did, ‘I wouldn’t be able to run a company…there’s no way I could spearhead ground-breaking innovations…people like me can’t be successful in business’. Except, we can and we can be great at it.
Schools need to nurture the different skill sets of these young people and adopt less traditional learning patterns to identify their special talents. We mustn’t pigeonhole pupils based on ‘traditional’ perceptions of their ability – there is always a hunger beneath that we need to help release.
So how can HR help showcase the positive differences of dyslexia and change the perceptions of ‘normal’ in the workplace?
Get creative with your office…
…and not just in the physical or technological sense. It’s also about being innovative in the way you operate.
Some people work more creatively - to embrace this try holding weekly brainstorming sessions, where team members can physically illustrate their ideas and be as visual as possible. I love to draw and my office walls are covered in diagrams and drawings- one of my impromptu drawings turned into our team mascots Stella and Derek!
Encourage and support people to work in a way that best suits them.
Encourage and support people to work in a way that best suits them. Make it clear to the whole team that everyone has different methods of reaching a solution and we should really harness this. Try experimenting with other working methods – sometimes the best ideas are born when you diverge away from the norm.
Create a culture of acceptance
It’s hard to understand challenges, such as dyslexia, if you don’t have it, so encourage everyone to talk to their fellow team members and share their struggles and ways they have learnt to overcome them.
By promoting open discussions and transparency in your organisation, you can develop a great company culture that’s always evolving. As your company grows and your team grows with it, you’ll discover new initiatives and learn other ways of celebrating differences in the workplace.
We’ve created a dyslexia roundtable to encourage an open discussion within the company
At Novacroft, we’ve created a dyslexia roundtable to encourage an open discussion within the company and the community as a whole to challenge the norm and celebrate the positive differences in dyslexia. It’s a great way for those who are dyslexic to share their stories of success and show how it hasn’t held them back.
Create a new work environment
Rethink how you share materials in your office. More often than not, you will find you are emailing company wide information without offering alternative formats.
At Novacroft, we like to have regular catch ups and talk through ideas in person. My office is a big glass walled room, which means that people can easily see if I’m free and pop in. I much prefer an interactive session then just sitting in front of slides.