As a mother of a dyslexic ten-year-old, I must confess that I have not always thought of dyslexia as being a positive thing. I have been focussing on the barriers to my son’s learning, instead of thinking of the positives.
Recently, when I saw that entrepreneur Richard Branson had launched a charity ‘Made by Dyslexia’ at http://madebydyslexia.org/ , to raise the profile of those who are dyslexic, I realised how negative my thinking had been. The charity’s aim is to change people’s perceptions about dyslexia amongst other things. In a public survey this year, commissioned by the charity through YouGov, findings showed that ‘only 3% of respondents believed dyslexia is a positive trait’ (madebydyslexia.com, 2017). Public perception of dyslexia causing difficulty in reading and spelling were the only two areas that concurred with the responses of dyslexic people. Positive traits such as being good at problem solving, lateral thinking, creativity and artistic talent scored under 20% in terms of how the public view dyslexics, contrasting sharply with the results of dyslexic respondents, which were between 77 to 84%.
Instead of seeing the disadvantages by gauging how he performs at school, compared to his peers, I started to think about my son’s talents. For example, he loves playing games on his computer and has in the past said he wants to design games. I discovered an online project called ‘An hour of code’ at https://hourofcode.com/uk/learn . My son has recently been enjoying learning how to create themed games such as Minecraft and Star Wars using code blocks. I know those with dyslexic brains are often creative and able to think in 3D and therefore can be excellent computer software designers. He is also good at presenting information and public speaking. Next year, he will be a house captain at school because he spoke to, and presented himself well, to the school.
Before, I felt despondent about what career or future my son might have. Now I feel positive, that his dyslexia can be used to his advantage. He may not be rich and famous like Richard Branson, but he can be happy in his working life and find a rewarding career with the right support and encouragement.
Lorna Murray – guest blogger
At a recent meeting of the Adult Network (Edinburgh), Allan Wilson from CALL Scotland told us about CALL Scotland, and demonstrated some assistive technology to us. This blog post:
- Shares some of the information Allan gave;
- Signposts you to further information;
- Tells you about my personal experience of assistive technology; and
- Asks you some questions. I will be telling you about specific pieces of technology that dyslexic adults may find helpful. This does not equate to Dyslexia Scotland endorsing these.
- ‘CALL’ stands for Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning.
- CALL Scotland supports people with disabilities, including dyslexic adults, to use assistive technology. For example, CALL provides:
The Scottish Voice
- The Scottish Voice is a computer voice which CALL Scotland and software company Cereproc developed together.
- It comes in 3 forms: a female version called Heather, a male version called Stuart, and a Gaelic version called Ceitidh.
- You can install the Scottish Voice on your computer or mobile device. It is compatible with most text readers.
- All dyslexic adults in Scotland can obtain the Scottish Voice.
- Just fill in the form at http://www.thescottishvoice.org.uk/download and CALL will send you a link to download the voice.
Scanning pens and Apps
- Scanning pens and Apps let you scan text and then listen to it.
- Allan demonstrated 2 scanning Apps to us: ‘Claro ScanPen Reader’ and ‘TextGrabber’.
- Allan’s written a comprehensive blog post on scanning pens and apps: http://www.callscotland.org.uk/blog/scanning-pens-or-scanning-apps/
‘I have an iPad – which apps should I obtain to help me with dyslexia?’
- Allan is often asked this question. He answers it by asking: ‘Do you know about Speech Selection?’
- Speech Selection is built into the iPad. It does the same job as a text reader: converts text to speech.
My personal experience of assistive technology
- I use the Scottish Voice and text readers to proof read my writing, and to listen to a piece of text that is too long for me to read in print. The Scottish Voice helps me because I, and most of the people I speak to, have a Scottish accent. This makes the computer voice sound as normal as possible to my ears, which means I can focus on the content.
- My Workplace Needs Assessment acted as a useful starting point for me because it recommended specific software, and which purposes to use it for.
- For more information on assistive technology, see Dyslexia Scotland’s leaflet ‘Dyslexia and ICT’, available in pdf and audio at https://www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/our-leaflets
What is your experience of assistive technology?
- What assistive technology do you use?
- What purposes do you use it for?
- What would be your top tip(s) on assistive technology?
- If you’d like to share your answers, please post a comment.
By a member of Dyslexia Scotland
 Assistive technology is technology that helps disabled people.
 An app, or application, is a piece of software you can download and use on your mobile device.
 Text readers read electronic text aloud. For a self-help guide on text readers, see Making written web content accessible using text readers
 A computer voice is a synthesized voice which you can install on your computer or device. It works with a text reader to read electronic text out loud.
I crafted the above banner in response to Helen Fleming’s request. Helen (Dyslexia Scotland’s Volunteer Manager) is part of the Scottish Volunteering Forum and the Volunteering Cross Party Group in the Scottish Parliament. Helen asked me to create a piece of work for this year’s Volunteers’ Week Scotland, which is this week (1st – 7th June). The theme is ‘The Golden Thread’ and it reflects the observations of Angela Constance MSP at the CPG on Volunteering meeting in November 2016.
It is my belief that voluntary organisations are the KEYSTONE in the heart of Scotland’s communities. They provide a setting and hub around which volunteers can concentrate their efforts and which we (volunteers) can find a voice. Golden threads require an anchor from which to maintain their strength and focus.
Dyslexia Scotland has a member’s only magazine, which is written by members for members. I would recommend both membership of Dyslexia Scotland and volunteering. A pdf of a front cover of Dyslexia Voice (from March 2014) about Volunteering is attached to the end of this blog, for your inspiration and information.
The following are quotes from the above mentioned magazine. I wanted to use other volunteers’ words within this blog, as volunteering is a team effort and we all rely on each other (and therefore stand on the shoulders of giants) :-
- “[The opportunity also allowed me to gain] knowledge of dyslexia which could help me better understand the condition. (Ann, pp 16 -18)
- [I have been involved with various] events like the education conference and helping man stalls at other conferences. I have also helped out with stuffing envelopes, organising information packs for conferences (Sam, page 21)
- [If] you want something done, ask a busy person. That’s what they say and that would be me! … Driving towards Stirling at 6am on a Saturday. … “What am I doing?” … already had a really difficult week at work, … As the day comes to an end, my solemn, unappreciated mood has changed to one of satisfaction and elation… (Dawn, Dyslexia Scotland Fife, pp 36 + 37)
- [I joined Dyslexia Scotland as a volunteer to] support other parents, and help raise awareness of the support available. I wanted to give something back for the help I had received. (Janette, West Lothian Branch, pp 10 + 11)
- [I] thoroughly enjoy being a volunteer at the branch where we meet monthly and look for things to do and how to get our message out. (Jock, Perth & Kinross Branch, pp 8 + 9)
- One of my particular highlights was meeting Sir Jackie Stewart and the other wonderful ambassadors at the Edinburgh Castle event in 2013. (Hazel, page 30)
- [Meeting] new people and the feeling that I’m making a difference with the advice that I can offer has given me the confidence I was missing (Angela, page 33)
- [I am responsible for] ensuring that the organisation is adequately funded, that proper financial records are kept, and that the Board is fully informed at all times of our financial position. As a volunteer I do of course give freely of my time and am very happy to do so. … many volunteers who give of their time and skills. … without you the worth of Dyslexia Scotland would be much diminished. (Jim, pp 12 + 13)”
I would advise people to try volunteering because I believe volunteering could be the cornerstone of everyone’s wellbeing. And the best bit is that as well as helping yourself: you could be someone’s (or a community’s) “stitch in time that saves nine”.
Doreen Kelly, DS Volunteer and Member