7 October 2018


Richard Branson plays chess with Lawrence Jones great leadership - talking business, dylsexia and life.
What do da Vinci, Edison, Tesla and Einstein have in common? Yes, they’re some of the greatest innovators the world has ever seen. Between them they’re responsible for the modern world as we know it!

They’re also reported to have been dyslexic.

Mohammad Ali, Steven Spielberg, Erin Brockovich, David Rockefeller and Richard Branson are all on this list too. All incredible in their field, all reportedly having dyslexia.

So why is it that dyslexia is still associated with being less intelligent?

I often talk about my experience as a dyslexic child. I’ve written about how, because I wasn’t the best at reading or spelling, I was the kid who ‘wouldn’t amount to much’. I became increasingly frustrated in the classroom and was quickly written off as a naughty kid.

In fact, my talents were on the rugby pitch. Put me in a team of 15 players and you’re onto a winner. Whilst I wasn’t the captain, I would be the one shouting across the pitch, motivating and encouraging those around me when the play didn’t go our way. For the first time at school, I felt real success. Sport, music and art was where I thrived, and that’s where I built my confidence. Would I have been the person I am today had I not experienced that success, instead only hearing the voices telling me that I wasn’t good enough academically? I don’t know.

So, why is so much weight put onto exams and coursework? No matter what you do with blue filters or extra time, I don’t believe that I would have done any better with traditional exams simply because my brain isn’t wired that way.

Communication is key

Everyone is different, it’s that simple. And for people with dyslexia, myself included, the part of the brain that focusses on reading and writing isn’t the strongest area. Today, I still struggle to read. Yet, when it comes to thinking differently, finding solutions to problems, discovering workarounds and new ideas, I am your man.

Thomas Edison Quote

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

I would also argue that to have dyslexia, you are likely to be a better communicator. Nature creates a balance where when you are weak in one area, you have strengths elsewhere.

It’s known that dyslexic people tend to latch on to images and feelings rather than words.

This definitely means dyslexia can be a head start when you have left school and you’re out in the real world.
When your whole communication system relies on feelings, people with dyslexia instinctively focus on creating emotion. They have an innate empathy. This sensitivity   is incredibly powerful and a brilliant communication tool.

National Dyslexia Awareness Week

Today marks the end of National Dyslexia Awareness Week. A week to raise awareness and understanding of dyslexia to bring about positive change. It’s astonishing really that dyslexia is still seen as a disadvantage. It speaks volumes that one of the characteristics to look for when identifying dyslexia in children, is low self-esteem. Yet children with dyslexia are known to cover up things they’re not good at with ingenious workarounds – taking thinking ‘outside the box’ to a new level.

Even today, I am able to cover up my dyslexia when writing on the white board, distracting others with discussion and comments whilst I fill in the missing letters and words.

Imagine how well-rounded and confident young people entering the workplace could be if children are celebrated for their own unique gifts, rather than for how they answer to a very limited set of questions.

Unfortunately we have OFSTED to thank for the curriculum and prioritisation of examinations.

Its ridiculous that these same academics tried to ban winning and competing in sports days. What a ludicrous situation. One of the few potential areas where kids with learning difficulties across the normal curriculum can excel, and they want to dumb it down and neutralise it.

Yet they forget that they have league tables in all their academic subjects.

Luckily that initiative didn’t work, yet sadly sport is not considered as high a priority as it was 30 years ago.

Innovators

Look at the long list of extraordinary innovators who clearly think different to the rest of the population. The world needs all types of people but these innovators are crucial.

It is argued in science that for the area of the brain impacted by the so-called ‘learning difficulty’, another area compensates, meaning that dyslexic people think differently. It seems to stimulate creativity and innovation.

Either way, we ultimately all have challenges in life. It’s how we use our strengths to our advantage that matters. The long list of incredible achievers shows that dyslexia isn’t something to hold you back. Most of my successful entrepreneur friends are all dyslexic.

If you have a child that is struggling at school. Don’t despair. I am wheeled out most A-Level and GCE exam days on the BBC or some of the radio stations to give people hope.

The presenters always joke to the kids who are stressed because they feel they have let their parents down, or they have let themselves down. They feel that there is no hope. Schools apply an inordinate amount of pressure on them and its soul destroying.

Dyslexia In My Early Years

I was that kid once. I was so dejected I left home at 16 so I didn’t embarrass my parents further. They were hugely proud of my academic sister, who did her GCE’s at 15, a year early. I stayed back a year and whilst they said “well done” at my 4 O-levels I passed, I was the family disgrace.

The irony though, is the extra effort I used to have to put in, to do the basics in school set me up for life. In the outside world, I was already used to working longer hours. This has always stood me in good stead.

If you are dyslexic I’d love to hear from you and find out how you have coped. If you are young and still struggling and you don’t feel you are getting the support, drop me a line.

Dyslexia is a gift. It just takes a little longer to open, but when you do, everyday is Christmas.

To my fellow dyslexics out there, have fun and keep trying.

LJ

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