Dyslexia made me, society tried to stop me

DKbag

“You were born an original, don’t die a copy” John Mason

I recently decorated the above canvas bag. I was inspired to do this because I created something similar at Women Making It (in Glasgow Women’s Library) and also by Richard Branson’s ‘Made by Dyslexia’ campaign.

I think it is time to list some clichés used to give advice:-

          “Just be yourself

          “Think outside the box

          “We need innovative thinkers”

The thing is society and the education system “needs” or believes it needs everyone to think and learn in the same way in order to succeed. Obviously there is a need for orderly behaviour so that everyone can learn and get things done.

I think it is extremely important that every individual learns about their learning style and how their brain works (preferably as early in childhood as possible).

Let’s face it, the education system is already based on teaching the foundations first (like the alphabet and counting) before teaching reading and maths. However are these the correct foundations? If someone is unlucky enough not to learn these basics when they are “supposed to” they are disadvantaged, as all other subjects are taught through learners reading textbooks.

I only began to enjoy learning when I got to high school, when a whole array of much more complex subjects opened up to me. Although it may have helped that my parent’s persistence had finally got me “The Reading Centre” specialist help I really needed in the last few years of primary school.

Back to my bag message “Dyslexia Made Me, Society Tried To Stop Me” those first 4 to 5 years of primary school when I just couldn’t learn no matter how hard I tried definitely took their toll.

I have  achieved a BSc Honours degree. Some people may think I have had success and they may wonder why I have not carried it through to my career.

The thing is a child’s confidence and self-esteem can only take so much. Similar to some other people with dyslexia I seem to have a bit of imposter syndrome. That is, I am always concerned I will be discovered not to be “worthy” or “good enough”. I went off to primary school those first few days with no worries about learning, it was being there that gave me issues.

If society could be more open to difference (and if we could stop teaching our children that there is only one way to learn) perhaps we could ALL SHINE.

Possibly by starting from each person’s learning style we could tackle complex issues like: bullying, youth knife/gang crime, drug/alcohol misuse, prison overcrowding and homelessness.

Respect and freedom from fear could work miracles if they were only given a chance.

Doreen Kelly, Dyslexia Scotland Volunteer and Member

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Arts Award Champions!

Trinity

Dyslexia Scotland is thrilled to announce that Trinity College London has selected us to be one of their Arts Award Champion Centres for 2019-20.

Arts Award is a set of unique qualifications that support young people up to age 25 to take part in arts activities, learn about the arts and artists, express themselves through the arts and become young arts leaders in their communities. And by ‘art’, we mean any form of making a creative thing happen, from drawing to dancing, singing to sculpture, music to mosaic…

Dyslexia and the Arts

We know that art and dyslexia have a much talked about relationship.

Dyslexia seems to be over-represented in creative industries, with visual artists and architects in particular excelling in their fields, and high proportions of dyslexic students in art colleges across the UK.

This is thought to be the case because dyslexic people often have visual-spatial strengths, think in picture form and can imagine and rotate images in their minds, all which lend themselves to drawing and making. Or because they prefer non-verbal ways of managing information, so become adept at creating images and sculptures, or playing with words in unusual ways.

Benefits of an Arts Education

Art is a portal to wider learning; it can help young people form strategies to develop literacy, cultural awareness, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, history, problem solving, STEM subjects and much more.

We offer Arts Award as part of our Career Development Service because it’s a very dyslexia-friendly qualification, it plays to dyslexic young people’s strengths, and gives them a formal recognition of their learning, in the form of a formal certificate issued by Trinity College London. Research by London South Bank University demonstrated that Arts Award helps young people to become more independent learners and has a positive effect on their early career development too.

Being a Trinity Arts Award Champion

One of our responsibilities of being an Arts Award Champion for a year is to promote the benefits of the qualification to other organisations and share our dyslexia-friendly practice. Our drive is to ensure that as many dyslexic young people as possible have access to the opportunity to gain an Arts Award qualification and make the most of their dyslexic strengths in a way that works for them.

Take Part

Are you a dyslexic young person (under the age of 25) taking part in arts activities? Find out more about our Arts Award offer here.

We offered Arts Award Discover to everyone who took part in our Youth Day in March. Watch our video case study here.

We’re always looking for art work, photos, stories, videos and animations for our magazine and website. Get in touch if there’s something creative you want to share!

References:

Brunswick, N. (2009) Dyslexia.

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach, Dyslexia Scotland

 

How to speak with your dyslexic child about their career prospects

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Parents can get anxious about what their dyslexic child might be able to do for a living when they grow up, especially if school is a struggle. So, how can you help nurture your child’s career interests without over-raising ambitions or creating self-limiting beliefs?

Adam Grant, professor of management and psychology, said in his recent essay that trying to identify the ideal job is actually counter-productive because you’re highly unlikely to ever find it, and if you do, the reality of it will be underwhelming as it’s not what you’ve built up in your mind.

As a result, Grant says the main question you should avoid asking your child is ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’

There are four main problems with this question.

  1. Their responses will be limited to the few jobs they’ve been exposed to
  2. As their parent, you might inadvertently project your own unrealistic expectations or limiting beliefs and pessimism on to their ideas
  3. We have no idea what jobs of the future are – or aren’t – anyway, so we can’t begin to imagine whether jobs of today will still be around, or what other new occupations today’s children can expect to fulfill as adults
  4. They’re not likely to have just one job, but a suite of jobs, and roles that change throughout their career

Your child’s career prospects are being shaped every day by global issues beyond anyone’s control. Think back just 15 years ago. Did you ever dream that jobs like Social Media Manager, Data Miner, 3D Print Technician or Driverless Car Engineers would exist, let alone be the norm? Fast forward 15 years from now, can you begin to imagine what industries and roles might exist that your child and their differing abilities will excel in? The good news is that, according to Ernst & Young’s report on the Value of Dyslexia, the jobs of the future will need dyslexic thinking skills, and the young dyslexic people of today represent the talent solution of the future, providing their natural skills in problem solving and collaboration, and character strengths and values are well nurtured.

Farai Chideya, author of The Episodic Career, predicts that the next generation are unlikely to have the same job for life, as their parents and grandparents expected; so adaptation to change, full understanding of themselves and awareness of the changing job market are key to putting their talents to best use.

So, instead of the dreaded ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ question, the best way you can have the career conversation with your dyslexic child is to ask them ‘what type of person do you want to be?’, ‘what problems do you want to solve?’, ‘what difference to you want to  make?’ and ‘what talents will you use to do that?’ They might just surprise you. You’ll be helping them prepare for life, as well as work.

What responses do you get? Let us know.

Check out this John Oliver clip highlighting the downside of children deciding now what job they want to do.

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach

 

Dyslexia and Recruitment: Square Pegs and a Round Circle

SquarePegRoundCircleDyslexiaWay back in the 13th Century a selection of artists were asked to demonstrate their competence for a job as a painter for Pope Benedict XI. Each provided an elaborate, detailed sketch to prove their abilities. Except for Giotto, who simply drew a single perfect circle.

Guess what? He got the job.

Dyslexia and Job Applications

This might be the earliest example of successfully taking a creative, unconventional approach to applying for a job. Since then, employers have set all kinds of different tasks, and applicants have considered the best way to respond to make them stand out. The evolution of the CV and application form through history has had challenging consequences for dyslexic applicants, and these, combined with interview struggles, are the things people approaching Dyslexia Scotland’s Career Development Service ask for help with most.

The recent report The Value of Dyslexia by Ernst and Young says “Standardised hiring processes can inhibit dyslexic individuals. Job descriptions and application processes can … play against dyslexic abilities.” Last year, the WAC report Opening Doors to Employment also highlighted how traditional recruitment processes are “significant barriers” to dyslexic people. These findings are no surprise to Dyslexia Scotland, but what hope and inspiration is there for the dyslexic job seeker who feels applications forms are more of a square peg to their Giotto-like circle?
In response to the challenges of recruitment processes, employers signed up to the UK Government’s Disability Confident scheme at level 2 are committed to accept job applications in a variety of formats”.

The open-ness of this commitment spells hope for applicants who find the traditional application form isn’t their style, particularly those gifted with dyslexic-thinking strengths of creativity and problem solving, who take daring and dynamic approaches to a challenge. But how open are employers to receiving truly alternative formats of applications?

Alternative Applications

Some of my favourite examples of out-there approaches to applying for jobs have resulted in great success for the applicants because they’ve approached things so very differently. Cole Warner, a young person in America showed he had all the right tools for an Internship job at American DIY chain store Home Depot with this ‘out of the box’ CV.

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In his blog, employer Phillip Newman said “When I took apart the toolbox, I was reminded by how much more there is to people beyond what a [CV] tells of them. [CVs] are ripe for disruption. So are job descriptions.”

Some creative approaches to getting a job are born of frustration at following the beaten track. Adam Pacitti from England turned the tables on employers, calling on them to approach him with a job in a stand-out way.

Dyslexia and Recruitment

And others have a more playful take on things, like Andy Morris, a designer from Wales whose Lego figure application is helping build his career.

Dyslexic Thinking Skills

Whilst dyslexic applicants can have difficulty with traditional recruitment processes, they can also be among the most creative thinkers, and like the examples above, able to see a different way to stand out to employers. With so much promotion around a need for dyslexic thinking skills in the world of business, employers could do well to apply the same principle to the way they recruit.

How alternative an approach would you be prepared to take to apply for a job?   If you thought a creative approach might catch an employer’s attention, how would you go about applying? Do you think employers should be more open to truly alternative applications?

Think differently about approaching recruitment; you might stand out for all the right reasons.  Men in Black – The Test Scene.

Katie Carmichael, Career Coach

‘Think Differently’

Dyslexia isn’t the obvious inspiration point for a collection of interior fabrics, yet for our final degree project we were encouraged to choose a subject close to our hearts, and learning how to support our daughter through school with dyslexia remains exactly that.

‘Think Differently’ was my title, reflecting both how a dyslexic mind operates and to encourage a wider viewpoint regarding dyslexia in general.  I wanted my collection to stand alone aesthetically, yet dig a bit deeper and the designs tell a story.

Dyslexia Scotland was an obvious starting point for my research, as well as many other inspirational organisations all working to promote a similar message.  Visual research and developments naturally started with imagery such as the brain and brain cells, yet 6 weeks into a 16 week project I was going nowhere, until, I too started ‘thinking differently’ about my approach.  Revisiting my research I started to develop abstract visuals representing the 1:10 known to be dyslexic and thankfully the creativity began.  The next ‘eureka’ moment came in week 8 after watching ‘The Big Picture – Rethinking Dyslexia’, screened by Creative Stirling and Dyslexia Scotland. One comment, ‘crack the code’, immediately conjured up one of my 1:10 designs featuring dots and dashes and I couldn’t wait to get home and write ‘dyslexia’ in Morse Code.

After experimenting with various Morse Code ‘messages’ regarding dyslexia I chose to have a design which told both sides of the story.  The negative design read ‘dyslexia – a learning disability’ and the positive design read ‘dyslexia – a gift in life’, and so it grew from there.

Colour is all important and having researched the psychology of colour I adopted strong lime greens, and oranges which represent energy, enthusiasm and excitement; emotions I felt strongly that anyone with dyslexia who can crack their own code can enjoy. The choice of grey was a ‘happy accident’ – discovered when I quickly printed off some design ideas in black and white in the absence of a colour printer and it was decided that soft grey provided a good contrast. Unusual colours for anyone’s home I agree, although a final degree project is thankfully a chance to choose ‘concept’ over ‘commercial’.

I continued to develop designs that featured the Morse Code and 1:10 concepts and after many developments and samples I eventually settled on 4 designs I was ready to get digitally printed, leaving me to work on the designs I wanted to hand screen print.  At the same time I was learning how to screen print, navigate Photoshop and also sourcing furniture, fabrics, paints, dyes to create the final collection and equally thinking how I was going present my designs in the context of the interiors market.

The final deadline loomed and it was done, a curtain panel featuring a hand screen printed design embellished with hand embroidery accenting the morse code message, 2 digitally printed upholstered chairs, a hand printed side table and 4 cushion designs featuring both digital and hand printed designs with various stitch embellishments.  I was delighted with how the collection developed and how well it was received, and even more delighted to get a pass with distinction.

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All images and designs : © Caron Ironside 2013 All rights reserved

Dyslexia and parenthood

A wonderful Insight in to dyslexia and parenthood from Julie McNeil, wife of Paul McNeil  one of our fantastic ambassadors

Books, reading, developing your child’s imagination and sense of creativity were about as fundamental to my approach in parenting as things come.

Paul, my husband who is Dyslexic, embraced this and we both read to our son Shea from a very young age – weeks old.

It is no surprise then that some of his first words were lines from his favourite stories and his language skills were pretty advanced for his age.

Unsurprisingly, for as long as I can remember he has loved books.

As he got older Paul would build dens (Dad’s dens were always better than Mum’s apparently) and the two of them would read together inside.
Shea loved the way his dad told stories as he was so animated and always added a sense of excitement or drama to the story.

I loved seeing his eyes light up and his imagination growing day by day. He loved to act out things he had heard about in books.

As Shea got older and was trying to understand his world he would often ask adults to “tell (him) a story about” this was Shea’s way of asking adults to explain something he didn’t understand.

Shea is all about the questions.

Laterally, Shea started pre school. The stories have moved on. The words are harder.

The other night when I was reading to him before bed he said “no mummy it’s Mr Kark not Krank, you always read it wrong. Daddy knows his name” now, I know it’s “Krank” but I am caught between wanting to read the right words to my young impressionable son and a real sense of loyalty and protectiveness towards my husband. For some reason I don’t want Shea to know his dad struggles with words…. I am not sure why. I know that day will come very soon where Shea will understand that adults struggle too. We don’t know everything, we are not always right and we all have our own difficulties/ disabilities or just things we struggle with in life. But to Shea at 3 we still have all the answers.

Paul is our hero. He never shies away from the difficulties he faces. I hear him spelling out words and learning about phonics because he knows it is important to Shea and he knows it’s important to me. I also appreciate how exhausting it must be for him.

Reading will always be something I value and something I will encourage in both my children but what Paul has shown me first hand is that passion, imagination and time are what lights the fire in children.

Shea begs his dad to take him to bed when he is home early enough from work because Paul tells him “a story in my mouth” instead of a book. You see Paul’s imagination is second to none (in fact second only to Shea’s) and is a very hard act for a Mum with a pile of Julia Donaldson stories to follow.

It’s funny how I thought it would be my role to encourage reading, imagination and creativity in my children when Paul and his amazing, wonderful, creative, Dyslexic brain surprises and amazes me once again.

I know things will get harder for Paul as the children grow and, who knows, maybe the children will be dyslexic too. What I do know is that the skills that Paul has had to develop to cope with his Dyslexia (creativity/ adaptability/ thinking on your feet) mean that Paul was much better prepared for the challenges of parenthood and it is a joy to see Shea lapping it up!!

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At what point do children become aware that mummy/ daddy are dyslexic and how should you to talk to them about it? And are there any useful books/resources to help them understand?