The first signs of me having dyslexia came in primary school.
I found remembering numbers very difficult, especially while learning my times tables. I also regularly forgot the dates of my friends and family’s birthdays. It didn’t matter what I did to try and remember them, I just couldn’t retain the information.
I was hopeless at spelling too, even though I spent almost my entire childhood with my head in a book. I can remember it being commented on by others who would say things like, ‘how can you see the words over and over again and not learn how to spell them!’.
I am also an incredibly slow writer.
I will write a sentence, then quickly forget what I’ve just written, so will need to re-read the sentence to remind myself. This process goes on and on, with me having to continually re-read every line I write. Because of this, even drafting out a few paragraphs of text is a time-consuming process.
The Memory Of An Elephant (Puzzle)
It wasn’t until I was in college in my early twenties that I decided to get a formal diagnosis.
I was struggling with my coursework, so I went to see a professor of dyslexia. I can remember one of the tests he gave me was a jigsaw puzzle where pieces of an object were laid out on the table in front of me.
I took one look and could tell straightaway that the pieces would come together to form a little figure of an elephant. The professor said that in all his years nobody had ever been able to look at the puzzle and identify what it was straight away.
After scoring incredibly high on some tests, and incredibly low on others (especially those involving memory recall), he told me that I had dyslexia, and that it impacted my long-term and short-term memory in particular.
Day To Day Difficulties
Dyslexia impacts my everyday life.
I constantly forget things, and need to write everything down in order to remember it – but even then, there is no guarantee that I will remember I’ve written something down, or where I’ve put my notes.
I also find that when talking to someone, I very quickly forget what we’ve just spoken about, and quite often I won’t even remember their name or their business, which can be quite a challenge.
Learning new things can also be a bit of a nightmare, as I will need to go over and over something several times before it sinks in, which means I often avoid changing my routines, and instead like to stick to things I know well.
One of the biggest irritations is that I sometimes forget how to spell a word which I know well, and have been spelling correctly for a long time. I will know that the word doesn’t look right, but I just can’t for the life of me remember how it should be spelt.
Coping Strategies And Number Troubles
I heavily rely on sight-reading, and I find that associating things with a visual cue which I’m already familiar with, will help me to remember them.
I also have quite a large vocabulary, as I’ll often forget the word I want to use (even though I’ve used it many times before), so will need to come up with similar words very quickly.
Quite often, I also dictate into my phone if I need to write something, and I’m very reliant on predictive text, autocorrect, Google, and Grammarly.
When it comes to numbers, I just try to avoid them at all cost – which isn’t ideal. Sometimes, I’ll get someone else to do figures for me.
Support, Sympathy, And Space
To better support dyslexic employees, employers can really concentrate on what an individual’s strengths are, and be sympathetic and understanding to the pace of their reading and writing – which can be slow. Someone with dyslexia needs to feel confident and secure in their abilities, and showing them understanding can really help with this.
Coming up with alternative ways to communicate can really benefit dyslexic people too, so using visual or audio methods to convey information can be massively helpful.
Also, dyslexics will often need to concentrate in a space without any distractions, so offering a more enclosed office space, instead of an open-plan layout, will be better for them.
Seeing The Benefits
Dyslexia means that my brain works in a different way, which is why I am a creative. I can quickly form pictures in my head, and am what you would call a ‘visual thinker’.
I am also a great problem solver, and can generally come up with a solution to most dilemmas – a skill which has come in handy many times.
Plus, I am great at organising, which I put down to having such a bad memory. I can also think outside of the box, which, as a designer, has great benefits.
I heard a statistic once that nearly 60% of people on creative courses at college or university will be dyslexic to some degree. From my experience, this figure rings true.