Hello! I’m Ben and I am severily (that was semi-intentional) dyslexic, as some of you may know already. For disability awareness day, I’d like to share some information about the unique challenges I face when working in the Client Services Team (CS team) at Makara Health. My job is incredibly varied which I feel enables me to approach jobs in a variety of ways.
Definition: What is it and how does it affect me?
Dyslexia can affect people in a variety of ways, include reading, writing, spelling abilities and verbal memory to name a few. Some people who are dyslexic are stupendous readers/writers, but can have issues with comprehension, so it always defers depending on the person. I was always told that apparently people who are dyslexic are more creative… I must’ve missed the memo on that one. Still trying to work out what my strengths are, but we’ll get there I’m sure (I do tend to remember random/unnecessary things though!).
This could turn out to be a therapy session with Microsoft Word, but here goes! When I was younger, I always felt my brain worked a bit differently to others. When learning something I always had to visualise a mind map in my brain, and it contained the steps that led to the answer or conclusion. It made revising a bit more laborious as I had to read everything and create myself a mental image of how these all components created an answer. I really enjoyed reading but to properly take in information I had to concentrate hard on every word. I think I’d choose the ability of skim reading as a superpower, as my brain does not allow me to do it, which is a bit of a pain. Exams were stressful as I’d spend too much time reading the questions to make sure that it had registered properly. Upon reflection, this had a big impact on my confidence. One of my biggest fears is writing more than 300 words, yet here we are writing a blog entry. Wild.
I vividly remember the day when I finally booked a screening for dyslexia in 2013. I’d submitted an essay in my final year of university and I thought I’d absolutely smashed it … I wish. Despite all the hours I’d put into the assignment, when the results came out I found out I got a 34, which was a bit of a bummer. I was intrigued to find out what I’d done wrong, or why I’d marked so low. So, in slightly bemused spirits, I saw the lecturer who showed me a plethora of grammatical, spelling and lexical mistakes. The awkward part was, I couldn’t see why/how these were wrong, it read perfectly well to me. The lecturer must’ve thought I was joking, as he started looking at me like I was playing some sort of game. Eventually, I just admitted defeat , went home and spent a couple of hours playing FIFA before I started googling why/what this could be. I booked myself in for a dyslexia screening because my partner and couple of my housemates suggested it. I scored incredibly high in most elements, especially comprehension, where I was randomly making answers up completely unrelated to the passage of text that I’d just read. The examiner said ‘Wow, well you’re certainly dyslexic’. First time I’d come away from a test feeling like I’d absolutely smashed it. Finally I knew why I’d always felt my brain worked a bit differently to others.
One of the main issues I find is that if I read a passage of text and someone asks me to find a specific sentence, it’s as if words just disappear and I’m unable to locate it, like the paragraph is just moving words and sentences around. it takes me an age to read a paragraph and given I sometimes have the patience of a toddler it can get irritating, so to all of you skim readers out there, be uber grateful! Interestingly, I marked okay on reading, spelling and memory as a Benephant never forgets.
Interestingly, I don’t seem to struggle as much with the other languages I speak (Spanish, Portuguese and Italian). I think this could be because they are all romance ones, so everything is spelt how it sounds. Whereas in English this is not the case, so my brain gets very confused with words such as exaggerate, subtle, conscious, architecture and psychology to name a few.
At university I was very lucky to be given extra time during exams to ensure I had fully understood questions before answering. I was also able to use the added time to proofread my answers at a slower and relaxed pace.
As I result of this, writing long passages of text can take me a fair bit longer than the average person. So, I have a handy text to speech app that I use to help me make sense of longer paragraphs and its grammatical structures. I am a slave to Arial/Calibri fonts as they’re apparently very dyslexic friendly due to the clarity of each letter, and the letters feel less crowded to me, so I use those as much as possible. It’s a dream that the Makara Health Brand Template uses Calibri font, thank you!
When I’m reading texts, I sometimes use colour overlays that make the screen a bit nicer on my eyes, as black text on white background can sometimes confuse me and cause words and sentences to get a bit muddled. There’s a super handy overlay app on Chrome that I sometimes use that gives me the option to add colour to some websites, especially if it’s very text heavy. My favourite colours are lime green, yellow and blue, try them if you fancy changing it up!
With regards to written communication, Ctrl F is an absolute god send because words move around for me. I try to use spell-checking/proofreading applications as much as possible, too. I’ve got a checklist for writing tasks that help me to maintain consistency, reduce errors and ensure I’ve checked all the necessary points. I’ll get one of the other team members to give it a run through and let me know of any glaring errors, which they’re always happy to do.
Dyslexic individuals can sometimes also struggle with time management and organisation, which are obviously pretty crucial in the kind of work we do within the CS Team. To help myself out I use digital tools/reminders such as task management apps and calendar reminders on Outlook to keep on top of ongoing tasks and delegate accordingly depending on the urgency of a task/job. With bigger tasks/projects, I create mind maps and flow charts to fully understand the stages of a job and where I’m currently at. This enables me to break tasks into manageable steps and makes a bigger job less daunting for me.
I’m very much a visual learner so I work best when I’m watching someone do a task, as opposed to listening to a task being explained. But I’d like to think that I’ve been able to implement a variety of learning methods thanks to working with the CS Team, and therefore use step processes to help me do more jobs more efficiently and at times quicker depending on the deadline.
Before being diagnosed, I had no idea what dyslexia was. So, it’s been a bit of a journey working out how I can best manage my condition, make appropriate adjustments, and still do a good job. I think I’m getting there, and I feel very lucky that everyone at Makara Health is so accommodating to any additional support that I need. After all, it’s not easy being dyslexic and left-handed…