Dyslexia Superpower: A new dawn (49/52)

Yes, a new dawn! But, why am I so positive on this rather damp morning when sunshine is but a distant memory?

I was in London yesterday evening to join the board of the new charity focused on flipping dyslexia from disability to ability, through learning difference to superpower – NUWord – registered charity number 1174809. I was further delighted to be appointed to Chair the Board of Trustees.

And, now the hard work begins …

In the next year we have to invent the business model that will fund the core NUWord team who will work with our strategic partners to deliver transformative opportunities to people with the gift of dyslexia to help them develop their superpower. We need to be in every school, every university, every prison and every workplace.

We want to:

  1. Develop a free NUWord positive dyslexia assessment and learning programme for children in some of our most challenging schools
  2. Develop a free online NUWord ability test to help anyone identify their superpower
  3. Develop free NUWord learning programmes to take this superpower to the next level
  4. And finally, launch our first NUWord campaign to highlight the organisational advantages of recruiting people with a superpower!

Of course, diversity, or more specifically neurological diversity, is at the core of this vision. Put simply, the best organisations celebrate diversity.

And now to recruit the NUWord community of Dyslexia Activists …

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Amazing People (48/52)

With just four blogs to go until the ‘Year in the Life of The Dyslexic Professor‘ is complete, I thought I would highlight someone else’s work. More specifically, that of Kate Power and Kathy Iwanczak Forsyth, who both have children with dyslexia.

Kate and Kathy (amazingdyslexic) have just produced a delightful, at least in my opinion, book called: The Illustrated Guide to Dyslexia and Its Amazing People.

It is written, or rather illustrated, with children with dyslexia in mind. I will discuss the content in a moment but what struck me was the cover (below left). If I were to publish a book entitled  Year in the Life of The Dyslexic Professor, its cover might look a little similar (below right)!

The book takes the young reader, or more correctly, the young picture thinker! From explaining what dyslexia is right through to the amazing people with dyslexia, their charateristics and to the jobs they do – including:

All are fine examples and a message of hope for younger (and older!) dyslexics. I am privileged to be increasingly meeting more amazing people with dyslexia. It really is a wonderful experience to meet other dyslexics – I hadn’t realised how isolated, from other dyslexics, I have become – probably part of a protective mechanism.

The book also responds to the need of non-dyslexic parents to explain the dyslexia to their children with dyslexia. I had been struck by the number of colleagues in academia who have thanked me for my blogs because they have been so worried for their dyslexic children and are very happy to share the idea of the dyslexia superpower with them.

I’ve already shared my thoughts on the collective noun for people with dyslexia – perhaps a flock or even a gathering. But,

How many dyslexics does it take to change a light bulb?

10, one to replace it with a low-watt LED lamp and 9 to imagine a brighter future!

Sorry :0)

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support


Dyslexia Superpower: Conferences and the success of the iPod (47/52)

Following on from last week’s Dyslexia Superpower: Reflection, projection and the success of the iPad blog, I wanted to consider complexity and how we can access information in a world overflowing with information.

So, let’s start with the iPod. More specifically, what became known as the iPod Classic (2001-14). I am part of a generation that expected to be able to access music on the move. It was the Sony Walkman cassette player (1979-2010), which achieved this for the masses and remained in production for 3 decades! It was simply a small cassette player with batteries and headphones – but it was also so much more! However, for this blog it was merely a stepping stone to the iPod – a truly mass music mobile device. But, what enabled the iPod to emerge and replace the Walkman in its entirety?

The storage capacity for digital hard drives and rechargeable battery life were both increasing rapidly and together these laid the foundations but did not provide the solution. It was the scroll wheel, and then the click wheel, which made accessing “1,000 songs in your pocket” a reality. A simple interface to masses of content – literally access to 1,000s of songs at the spin of a wheel. In other words, simplicity in a world of complexity. Interestingly, Steve Jobs, the driving force behind Apple during this period, is thought to have been dyslexic – although this hasn’t been conclusively confirmed.

It seems that accessing new information in the digital age couldn’t be easier – just type your query into Google! But one very ‘old school’ way of doing this still seems to survive – if not prosper … conferences!

I attended two conferences this week:

  1. Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) Annual Conference in Birmingham at which I delivered a ‘Using digital technologies to support business engagement’ workshop – the output of which I expressed as a blog, ‘Eight steps to digital heaven for Business Schools?‘ The conference had a professional focus with keynote speakers informing delegates on best practice and current events relevant to the Higher Education sector – such as ‘The role of business schools in enhancing the UK’s productivity, innovation and competitiveness‘.
  2. Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) Annual Conference in Belfast at which I was a panel member on the 40th Anniversary Plenary Session. The conference had an academic focus with researchers and practitioners presenting their research, which was selected through a peer-review process of conference papers.
ISBE 2017 40th Anniversary Plenary Session

What struck me about the conferences was not the quality of the content, in both cases this was high, but rather the social interaction – what we could call social networking. The discussions between the presentations, often over refreshments, enable new and old members to interact, quality to be mediated, friendships to be renewed and, of course, job opportunities to be exchanged in whispers!

The ISBE conference also provided a platform to launch a new textbook! Exploring Entrepreneurship 2nd Edition co-authered with Prof Richard Blundel and Prof Catherine Wang and published by SAGE Publications.

Exploring Entrepreneurship Book Launch

All this serves to highlight the need to blend the digital with the physical. Perhaps it has never been more important to understand complexity. Fortunately, the repositioning of dyslexia from a learning difficulty, through a learning difference to a learning advantage or superpower is very timely and will help to unlock the full potential of 1/10th of the population.

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Reflection, projection and the success of the iPad (46/52)

It’s been another varied week for me in academia. One that served to highlight the superpower of reflection, projection (picture thinking, visual thinking or just envisioning) and resulted in a flashback to the launch of the iPad in 2010! [See Steve Jobs at 08:40]

Monday – was all about reflecting on someone else’s research. I was the external examiner for a rigorous PhD thesis which was robustly defended at the viva examination. The subject was small businesses’ capabilities to manage alliances that develop international opportunities and the candidate’s ‘defence’ was excellent. Like all good viva examinations, it left me with a profound feeling that, at that moment in time, the candidate knew more about their subject than anyone else. Difficult to explain but you know it when you see it!

Tuesday – saw the successful start of our Executives in Residence initiative, which brought together a dozen senior executives from a wide range of industries and sectors – including Brian Gregory,  Jackie Daniel [STOP PRESS Jackie is Chief Executive at Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust cited in this week’s Economist], Leasil Burrow and Sean McIlveen to name but four. A great opportunity for us to learn from others’ experience and help us develop our executive education and professional development programmes and think through the potential impact of our research. I’m really looking forward to working with this committed group of ambassadors for Lancaster University Management School.

Thursday – was a chance for a little more personal reflection with long-arranged leave which happened to coincide with a beautiful day of autumnal sunshine in the Lake District.

Friday – saw the recognition of months of academic and industry endeavour with a campus visit by Sir Charlie Mayfield (Chair of John Lewis Partnership and Productivity Leadership Group – bethebusiness). Lancaster University Management School has worked hard with Industry to co-develop the Productivity through People programme to help address the productivity dilemma. This programme serves to highlight the ‘anchor institution’ role proposed by Sir Andrew Witty  in Encouraging a British Invention Revolution (2013).

The PhD thesis, Executives in Residence and Productivity through People are all about the ability to think big – and that’s the link to the launch of the iPad in 2010. After a decade of Microsoft promoting the concept of a Tablet PC, it was Apple that launched the game changing iPad. But, why was the iPad so successful?

I remember delivering, with a practitioner, a two-day innovation course, in early 2011, to executives of a global electronics company and asking the question, “Will the iPad be successful?” The participants were fairly evenly split. I argued that the two key differences were, iTunes and the App Store. The former provided a popular platform for accessing digital content (music and video) and the latter provided an open platform that supported the innovation and creativity of programmers. And critically both offered a revenue model which rewarded the providers of content and apps. Of course, there might be other explanations.

More interestingly, my thoughts on the iPad in 2011 demonstrate the ability, so prevalent in dyslexics, to swivel between reflecting on the past and projecting into the future. Not a bad ability to have in any organisation!

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Sally Gardner (45/52)

I did wonder whether I should just post this rich picture as a blog and give no explanation. But, the blogger in me couldn’t resist adding a few words!

Sally Gardner, is an award-winning author for children and older readers and a dyslexia activist. Sally says, “At eleven I was told I was word-blind. This was before anyone mentioned the un-sayable, un-teachable, un-spellable word dyslexia, which, hey-ho, even to this day I can’t spell!”

Sally is the founder of NUword a new charity committed to flipping dyslexia from being perceived as a disability to being an advantage.

The rich picture was drawn after listening to an inspirational and moving workshop delivered by Sally at University of the Arts London. Sally explained how our education system failed her by focusing on what she couldn’t do rather than her amazing ability (superpowers!) to think in pictures – what she called cinema thinking or picture thinking.

You just need to read some of her books, and having met Sally recently I’ve done just that, to see the creative power of cinema thinking or picture thinking in writing truly engaging books for all ages.

I won’t attempt to explain my rich picture of Sally further. Just look carefully and see what you can see!

Inspired by Sally’s commitment to change the perception of dyslexia, I’ve just agreed to be a trustee of the NUword Charity. Of course, I don’t know what I have let myself in for … or do I?!

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Envisioning a better future (44/52)

After last week’s call to test for the positive characteristics of dyslexia (Dyslexia Superpower: Testing times), I have been struggling to find a single word that could capture all these positive skills – and therefore the title of a programme, course or module that could help develop them. I felt that dyslexia superpower (apart from being two words!) carried with it the negative connotations of dyslexia and seemed a bit lightweight for serious study.

The word needs to recognise i) problem solving, creativity, innovation skills; ii) big picture, visual, spatial thinking; iii) communicating ideas; iv) empathy, teamworking; v) systems thinking; vi) using assistive technologies; vii) selling the superpowered you! And, I’m sure much more …

Professor Rod Nicolson would call most of these unconventional thinking. However, this doesn’t really work for me – it’s not positive enough.

Then, whilst planning for a workshop I delivered to entrepreneurs considering the opportunities for their businesses from the low carbon economy (there was even a UK Government strategy published this week – The Clean Growth Strategy), I realised the word was … envisioning!

Let me explain.

Envision is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as, “imagine as a future possibility” or by Cambridge as, “to imagine or expect that something is a likely or desirable possibility in the future”. Possible origin in 1827, “endowed with vision.” I noticed Microsoft even have an Envisioning Center!

So, does envisioning capture all the positive characteristics so often found in people with dyslexia and also sound like a desirable skill non-dyslexics would like to acquire?

Could you imagine taking a course on envisioning and, at the end, being able to communicate your vision of a solution to a problem or plan to address a challenge?  What if the essential criteria for your next job included – ability to envision a better future!

I wonder how you could assess the course or demonstrate your ability to envision a better future?

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support


Dyslexia Superpower: Testing times (43/52)

There is much to be said for a professionally supported dyslexia diagnosis. In the UK, it’s actually a requirement that a Dyslexia Assessment is performed by a specialist teacher (with an APC or HCPC) or Educational Psychologist. Once diagnosed as having dyslexia schools, universities and employers need to respond with appropriate support that meets the Equality Act (2010). No wonder so much store is placed on an official dyslexia assessment.

However, this comes at a price – the British Dyslexia Association offers diagnostic assessments for £450 (+VAT) with a specialist teacher and £600 (+ VAT) with an Educational Psychologist. This automatically prevents much of the population from accessing an assessment and reinforces the ‘middle class‘ label associated with dyslexia assessment. Is there an alternative?

If you are not looking for an official dyslexia assessment, you could consider screening at a fraction of the cost. Nessy provide a range of screening tools including a free online dyslexia questionnaire for 5 to 7 year olds and a more detailed assessment from £10 per pupil. The latter covers: i) Visual Word Memory, ii) Auditory Sequential Memory, iii) Visual Sequential Memory, iv) Processing Speed, v) Phonological Awareness and vi) Working Memory and takes 20 minutes to administer. Do-IT Solutions provides Dyslexia+ Student Profiler for HE/HE students and adults, which takes about an hour in a one-to-one assessment and costs £25 per person. CognAssist provides a digital assessment tool for older learners, which covers: i) Verbal Memory, ii) Non Verbal Memory, iii) Literacy, iv) Numeracy, v) Visual Information Processing Speed, vi) Executive Function, vii) Verbal Reasoning and viii) Non Verbal Reasoning and takes 30 minutes to complete. These are essentially rules based assessments.

But, let’s start from a different perspective …

If dyslexia is a superpower (learning advantage), then it could be useful to test for characteristics that positively indicate for this superpower – such as: big picture thinking, visual thinking and spacial thinking in order to further develop these abilities. But, why is this important?

By screening for the positive attributes associated with dyslexia and developing these further, an individual immediately gets recognition for there abilities and chance to excel at these. Remember our society needs these skills – Dyslexia Awareness Week: Survival of the Species. This week saw the Nobel Prize for Chemistry awarded to Professor Jacques Dubochet who describes himself as dyslexic and was in the team that invented cryo-electron microscopy, which images the molecules of life.

Just, imagine if our society was able to identify everyone with this superpower and focused resources to help develop it to the full.

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Guest blog by Ross Duncan: It takes one to know one! (42/52)

This really is a triple layered blog, which demonstrates the power of networks – in this case a dyslexia network.

Ross Duncan writes regularly for Dyslexia Scotland interviewing high profile dyslexics – most recently with Judge Dhir (see below). Ross kindly shares his early experiences of dyslexia that have resulted in a passion to write. His treatment is all too common – his reaction less so.

Guest blog by Ross Duncan: It takes one to know one!

“I vaguely remember reading something about Judge Dhir talking about glass ceilings and how this can act as barrier either for yourself or by others who don’t think you have what it takes to be successful.  But Judge Dhir is a good example of someone who as a child was only thought suitable to be a hairdresser, but has crossed many barriers other than being dyslexic to carve a success out of being an established judge.

In my own way, as someone who was subjected to unspeakable ridicule at home and at school, there wasn’t even an exit or open door where I could leave.  But forty years on from a statement that was made on parent’s night that I was a ‘dreamer’, my mother would still, up until recently, perpetuate this.  But on a home visit, I spoke to an elderly lady, a couple of doors down, where I wistfully said, that I was dyslexic.  That elderly lady happened to be the same school teacher who described me as a ‘dreamer’!

But of course, “dyslexia wasn’t heard of at that time”.  Everything the teachers says is correct and you didn’t question it.  This was the reaction my parents would have most likely have deemed as appropriate at the time.

In my early 40s I discovered that I was indeed dyslexic – I didn’t think I was.  My wife in her favour stuck by me and my difficulties and took on extra roles that I couldn’t handle myself. I couldn’t find any support or understanding to help me. It’s OK being a child with dyslexia because there is now a level of support and understanding that wasn’t available when I was growing up. But how do you support someone in their 40s?

My GP prescribed CBT, to my horror my counsellor was herself dyslexic!

So, for nearly ten years I have thrown myself into writing and contributing articles to magazines interviewing famous people with dyslexia to raise awareness and quall the myths about dyslexia. Would you believe it my latest published article is about Judge Dhir!

I may not have been good enough to get to university, but I’m smart enough to know how to talk to people and to engage with people regardless who they are and where they are from.  This is something I didn’t a qualification in when I left school, in fact I didn’t get any qualifications when I left school.”

Interview with Judge Dhir by Duncan Ross – first published in Dyslexia Scotland, September 2017.

Ross’ story highlights the damage so often inflicted on dyslexic children which continues well into childhood. All the more reason to celebrate the work of Rod Nicolson’s Positive DyslexiaDyslexia Superpower: Building the ultimate dyslexia library.

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Awareness Week: Survival of the Species (41/52)

It is Dyslexia Awareness Week – #positivedyslexia2017 and World Dyslexia Day on Thursday 5th October.

Why might this be of interest to non-dyslexics and what has this got to do with survival of the species?

The publication of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin on 24th November 1859 caused consternation. Nearly 158 years on, there is still debate in many parts of the world on whether evolution or creation theories should be taught in schools.

In popular culture, the notion of survival of the fittest (actually first used by Herbert Spencer in 1864 on reading Darwin’s work) has gain a strong foothold – not least in business (Survival of the fittest).

Just imagine if the survival, up until this point, of the human species was dependent on neural-diversity – that it is the collective abilities within communities (from tribes to nations).

This may seem a little far fetched – but bare with me a little longer.

Before the first great civilisations (in Africa, Andes, China, Europe, Egypt and Indus Valley), small communities were dependant on their combined abilities, including fine detail thinking and big picture thinking. I imagine it would be difficult to identify any reason why one might be favoured more than the other.

With the advent if languages systems this was all set to change. Initially pictographic (i.e. Aztec) and logorahpic  (i.e. Egyptian and Chinese) based systems probably had no or little impact on big picture thinkers. However, about 3,000 years ago alphabet-based languages emerged and with the aid of printing technologies, in wide use in Western Europe by 1500, came to dominate the sharing of knowledge (and power).

So, perhaps not surprisingly, over just 500 years we have managed to design education systems which favour the learning of alphabet-based languages and in in so doing have selected for negative attention our big picture thinkers.

If only I had realised this in my English class aged just 8! I could have stood up to Mrs W and said, “Could I remind you that big picture thinkers have insured the survival of the species to this moment in time and perhaps a little more respect of my superpower is called for at this very moment“.

Alas, with corporal punishment still widely in use, at that ‘moment’,  in the English boarding schools system, I may have been ‘rewarded’ for my insight in a less constructive way!

So, as we contemplate Dyslexia Awareness Week we should think how our society might be better served by embracing neural-diversity. That might mean reinventing the education system to celebrate neural-diversity.

On a practical note, this could mean introducing free (positive) testing for every child to identify the big picture thinkers and then support them in the development of their superpowers – remember our very survival might depend on it!

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Guest blog by Rosa Weber: We’re all in this together (40/52)

The actual title of Rosa Weber’s, Co-Founder of the NUword charity, guest blog is ‘Why I became a Dyslexia Activist‘ but I couldn’t help highlighting the power of people with dyslexia and people effected by dyslexia working together or in the words of High School Musical, “We’re all in this together …” Sorry – you won’t be able to get that tune out of tier head all day!

Perhaps this image will help …

Guest blog by Rosa Weber: Why I became a Dyslexia Activist

“Many of my friends from school and beyond are dyslexic, so I’ve always known about it generally. They’re now a multi-talented bunch of film makers, painters, designers, social workers, leather workers, graffiti artists, lawyers, music makers… to name a few. They have succeeded despite all the difficulties on their journey through the school system. Yet it’s vital to remember that this is not everyone’s story: many dyslexic children, teenagers and adults are still being left behind, isolated, sidelined and woefully misunderstood.

It wasn’t until working closely with author Sally Gardner, as her assistant, that I began to truly understand what dyslexia is. Sally is severely dyslexic and what I’ve learnt from her is that it’s not about extra time, free computers, problems with spelling, reading, organisation. No, no, no. This is only what we are conditioned to associate with the word dyslexia. What this obscure word really means is huge imagination, holistic problem solving, visual thinking, 3D processing, divergent thinking… all skills that are now highly sought after by the creative and corporate sectors. Valuable, measurable skills that are usually repressed by Primary and Secondary schools – they go unnoticed, unnourished, unmarked.

It is the education system and the curriculum that marginalise dyslexic thinkers. It is not the fault of our teachers, for they’re being forced to work in an increasingly underfunded and unimaginative framework. The issues lie with the heavily text-based, out-dated, mind-boggling, memory-centric load of questionable questions that are perpetually asked to thinkers with dyslexia – who do not decode in text, but in images. What, then, if we were all required to draw our exam answers instead of write them? All of us strong spellers, readers, text thinkers  – well, we’d probably be pretty screwed. We’d be the disenfranchised group with the ‘disability’ label.

The bottom line is this: we are still wasting generations of brilliant minds. And it’s not the 1950s anymore. Through working with Sally – who’s experience of education was, as for many dyslexic thinkers, horror-filled – I have learnt how to develop my visual thinking, hone my imagination, solve problems from all angles – not just the angle that ticks the establishment box. What more, then, can dyslexic thinkers teach non-dyslexics? So much about resilience, grit. Hard work. Emotional intelligence. The beautiful languages of the image.

Collectively we must bring a halt to years of disenfranchisement and discrimination. We must call on schools to diversify measurements of academic attainment. Allow visual essays, spoken exams. The working world must stop binning CVs with spelling mistakes. And non-dyslexics must demonstrate more solidarity with the dyslexic people in their lives by getting to know their many strengths, not just accepting the generalising weaknesses that are associated with that misrepresentative word.

This is why I became a Dyslexia Activist. This is why, after six years of research, and with some initial core funding from the brilliant George Koukis of Temenos, Sally and I have recently set up NUword Charity. Learning and talking about the strengths of dyslexia will open up your mind. As a non-dyslexic, understanding and developing your own typical dyslexic skills will diversify, and therefore improve, the ways in which you engage with the world. It also might help us bring a halt to all these cruel years of educational and social injustice: it’s time to imagine a world beyond the word dyslexia.”

So, having read Rosa Weber’s powerful blog, what do you think the right answer to the following question, from Rosa and Sally Gardner, should be?

Nigel, would you like to be the first Chair of the Board of Trustees for the new NUWord Charity?

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

For more information about NUwords’ upcoming projects, please email, see (site in beta), or follow @nuword_dyslexia