Changing perceptions of dyslexia in the UK "one letter at a time"
In 2010, at the age of 44 I discovered I was dyslexic and this sent me on a path I never expected. My discovery, like a lot of dyslexics out there, was seeing the level of stigma and misunderstanding around the subject. So I set out to research it at university and understand the pros and cons of being dyslexic.
It saddens me when I read or hear parents when they find out their child is dyslexic. They almost always blame themselves and feel their amazing child is defective, is going to fail in life, will struggle to get a job to make ends meet and basically it's like the world has ended.
See, the problem is this: dyslexia as well as ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), dyspraxia and autism are all classified as learning difficulties and also fall into the Sisability at Work Act 2010. I want to challenge this - why? If you tell someone they are disabled or have learning difficulties, guess what - they don’t really expect much from themselves. It smashes confidence and leaves the individual feeling less worthy. Parents are confused, upset and focus energy in trying to force spelling and reading into the young person's head. Teachers feel well he/she is going to struggle as they have difficulties.
The result is that everything & everyone are further pushing that individual to expect a lot less from life and their potential abilities.
Somewhere along the way the ability to read and write has become the benchmark of ability - the ability to learn, with great emphasis placed on passing tests that have been deemed to be the demonstration of a particular field. Now I am not saying don’t educate people and don’t complete exams, but I AM laying down a stake in the ground: “STOP THINKING THIS IS THE ONLY BAROMETER”.
Let's put it another way - there are athletes out there, people who are good at sport and excel at it. We don’t test students on their ability to run 100 metres in a specific time and if they don’t achieve that say, “Oh, he’s got a disability, he’s got training difficulties.” How crazy would that be. Yet today in 2016 we still classify a very intelligent group of people, about 10-15% of the population (23 million people across Europe) as having a disability.
This classification of dyslexia as a disability was set up to help but is in fact very damaging. It's time to look through new lenses and take on new thinking.
The facts are that over 30% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. These are people that in all their time in education and employment were made to feel they are not a 100% human being. Can you see the madness in that - I know a large number of successful business owners who are dyslexic and they have the ability to create amazing companies. To develop new products and services or solve problems is simply magical.
Why are they entrepreneurs? Their minds may not have the same flare for academic studies as other students, but their abilities are far greater than that and they are capable of almost another dimension of thinking.
It's time in the UK that we stop classifying the dyslexic as not able, disabled or having difficulties. This needs to change to a situation where the dyslexic are seen as having the foundations of greatness and the potential to help put the UK in the forefront of business. We need to establish a new educational blueprint that the rest of the world will envy.