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July 15, 2016

Dyslexia: Strength Not Shame

Lucy Bishop

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If you don't have dyslexia yourself, chances are that you know someone at work or in your personal life who does. But do you really understand what it's like to live with the condition?

Imagine that, every time you looked at a page, the words started blurring or even began jumping across the page. Imagine having to read things several times over before you could even begin to understand them. What would you do? And, more importantly, how would it make you feel?

Disorientated... scared... worried? These are just some of the issues that a person with dyslexia has to deal with every day.

Having Dyslexia is No Bar to Success

You'd be forgiven for thinking, then, that the condition could hold you back. But research by Julie Logan, professor of entrepreneurship at Cass Business School in the U.K., revealed that 19 percent of the country's business self-starters are thought to have dyslexia - compared to just 10 percent of the general population. In the U.S., this proportion is even higher at 35 percent, compared to just 15 percent.

The research also revealed that people with dyslexia are often very good at playing to their strengths. They compensate for the things that they can't do so well by developing excellence in other areas, for example oral communication, problem solving, people management, and delegation.

I still remember one of my old school friends, yet to be diagnosed with dyslexia at that point and feeling increasingly disheartened with her school work, and the incredible difficulties she encountered with her reading and writing compared to the rest of the class. She often fell behind with her assignments, and was put into lower-tier classes as a result. She also had to deal with accusations of laziness or inability, and she would get frustrated about being unable to keep up with her peers.

In the end, however, after finally being diagnosed as dyslexic and getting the right help, she persevered in her learning and is now a successful medical professional at a leading hospital. She overcame the obstacles that dyslexia threw up, and represents just one of the many people in the world who have proved that the condition doesn't need to stop you achieving success.

Dyslexia Can Give You a Unique Perspective

In fact, many dyslexics will tell you that their condition has actually helped them to be successful by giving them a unique perspective on new concepts or problems. In addition, playing to their strengths often helps them to perform well in careers within architecture, science, business, and the creative arts.

Many leading figures have overcome the difficulties caused by dyslexia, and have gone on to achieve global success. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, for example, dropped out of college after just one semester. But he became one of the greatest technology innovators of his time. Actress Keira Knightley was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was six. She has said that her condition, far from being an obstacle in her career, has actually helped to drive her success.

The success stories of these and other famous people have served to increase people's awareness of dyslexia in recent years, as has improved knowledge of other neuro-diverse conditions such as dyspraxia and autism. As a result, organizations have begun to offer a wider range of solutions and tools to help team members with dyslexia. This includes assistive technology and software, such as word prediction applications, voice recognition software, and spell checkers. Visual aids, such as Mind Maps, flow charts, and diagrams, can also be useful to those with dyslexia.

My own awareness of the condition began at school with my friend, and has increased as I've gotten to know others with dyslexia. I have seen, firsthand, how they have overcome the obstacles that they face everyday by getting the help they deserve, increasing their self-esteem and confidence in the process.

If you want to learn more about the support available for people with dyslexia in the workplace, check out our article, How to Manage a Person With Dyslexia.

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