STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK YOUR BONES. BUT CAN WORDS REALLY HURT YOU?
“Your daughter should find a less academic school.” – Primary school teacher to my mother
“You can’t possibly be… You would never have been let in.” – My university tutor
“For f*!?s sake.” – Everyone I have ever spilled a drink over
I’m dyslexic. And dyspraxic – the spatial awareness one – hence the above problem with spilling drinks; I often hold on to a drink only long enough to spill it. It took me five attempts to pass my driving test (I choose not to drive now, just in case you’re worried about road safety in the SW area). I was held back a year at school, aged 7. And I still loathe reading from blackboards, glossy or bright surfaces.
Dyslexia is not something I talk about much. And it’s something I never spoke about at all for more than 20 years. Why not? Because there’s still so much stigma and misunderstanding associated with it. Because I was scared people would think I wasn’t capable. Even with a degree from Oxford and a successful career, I still hid a fundamental part of who I am – of how I think and see the world – for fear of how the world would see me.
So, I felt ashamed last week when Made By Dyslexia launched their new campaign. And Richard Branson urged people to “…understand dyslexia properly as a different thinking skill-set, not a disadvantage.” I realised that unless people like me spoke about it, then the world would continue to only see the disadvantages, not the surprising advantages.
So, here are my top reasons to celebrate being dyslexic:
WE ARE ENTREPRENEURS
“Self-made millionaires are four times more likely to suffer from dyslexia.” (2003, BBC Research, Tulip Consulting)
I’m really hoping this one is true.
WE ARE SHAKEN NOT STIRRED
In 2014 GCHQ announced it was employing more than 100 dyslexic (and dyspraxic) spies to harness their analytical skills – while many struggle with reading and writing, they are often extremely skilled at deciphering facts from patterns or events.
I wonder if Idris Elba is dyslexic? 1 in 10 of us are.
WE TALK THE TALK
“Dyslexics are more likely than non-dyslexics […] to excel in oral communication and problem solving.” (2007, Prof. Julie Logan, Cass Business School)
WE CAN FIND ALIENS*
Research from the Smithsonian Institution and National Science Foundation in 2011 found evidence of a link between dyslexia and the visual processing skills useful in science – particularly astronomy.
*Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you never know…
Ironically, we can make excellent proofers. If you grow up assuming that everything you write will need to be corrected, you learn to double-check, and check again. And by always checking, rather than assuming you are right, you are more likely to actually be right in the end.
And, you’re less likely to be an arrogant wan*!er because you are open to being wrong in the first place.
WE ARE CREATIVE
Writing, reading, spelling, mental maths and a whole lot more can be a struggle, but we over index on lots of highly creative skills, such as:
Beats winning the Spelling Bee any day.
Words can hurt you, but only if you keep them in. I hope my words have the power to change the way the world sees dyslexia – even if they are sometimes in the wrong order.
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Written by Laura Chamberlain, Managing Director at Now