Those with dyslexia don’t just think outside the box, they build a new one
Dyslexia has certainly shaped my life in one way or another, whether intentionally or not. It’s always been there, but what started out as undiagnosed and being labelled as the ‘thick ’ or ‘lazy’ one in class, is something that I have turned to my advantage. When people ask whether I wish I didn’t have dyslexia, I think…I haven’t done that badly with it! I can safely say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I weren’t dyslexic, as it has made me create a whole new world for myself in learning, reading and finding another way for me to process information, particularly in business. I know I’m not alone here.
Around 6 million people in the UK are estimated to have dyslexia, about 10%, and that’s just those have been diagnosed. Taking myself back to the classroom is a dark place for me, as before I discovered sport, the process of learning and not understanding was like hitting a brick wall. I knew I wasn’t stupid, but I couldn’t understand why I found it so hard. Arriving from Cyprus and not speaking any English at the age of six didn’t help, and I was so much slower to pick up the language than the rest of my family. However, I persevered and got there in the end but it wasn’t easy.
I wasn’t even diagnosed until one of my own kids was, and recognised the same hurdles that I’d had to throw myself over just to try and keep up. By that time there were ways to manage dyslexia and methods to help you keep up, and make day to day things easier, which was a game-changer in how schools in particular managed dyslexia.
People used to write off dyslexic people, thinking they couldn’t succeed. Well, tell that to the likes of Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Steven Speilberg who all struggle with dyslexia but most importantly have found their own ways to overcome it. My start in business was as a filing clerk at Lloyds…yes, really. It was never going to end well and they’re probably still finding some of those bits of paper! So, I looked at my strengths, pulled my socks up and launched my own business at the age of 23 and I wouldn’t have done that without the path and challenges that led me there.
Dyslexia in the workplace is a challenge, but you make your own luck and it’s all about making life easier for yourself. Reading documents is arduous at the best of times, and I have to work twice as hard to make sense of it all, but I had a breakthrough years ago when reading words off a computer screen on a yellow background, and that made a huge difference to me. Technology has made life easier for many, and is a stellar opportunity to work with dyslexia and not against it.
I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur, but it almost certainly happened because I was dyslexic. I didn’t just have to think outside the box, I had to build my own! It wasn’t fool proof, nothing is, but I pushed and pushed and ensured I had options, and that’s what it’s all about. Don’t say I can’t. People do extraordinary things all the time with nothing, and working positively with dyslexia can be an opportunity. You might not get there the same way as everyone else, but what’s wrong with that? Pick up that box and run with it, you won’t regret it.
Dyslexia Awareness Week 2017