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Dyslexia Superpower: The System Entrepreneur (27/52)

The mission of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), of which I am a member (more on that in the next  blog), is to enrich society through ideas and action and their journal often includes suitably thought-provoking articles.

In 2017 Issue 1, Ian Burbidge argues for way to tackle the challenges faced by our public services is “to think like a system and act like an entrepreneur“. (Matthew Taylor (RSA Chief Executive) made a similar point in his 21st Century Enlightenment Revisited (2016) and System Thinking and Entrepreneurial Action (2017) articles). This is predicated on the sometimes unexpected consequences of shocks to society – or in system-talk, emergent properties. He gives the example of an increase in community spirit after a disaster and concludes that we need to recognise the inherent complexity of our world and develop an understanding of the bigger picture – of course, he really means big picture thinking (See – Time to see Dyslexia as a Superpower?) and seek flexible interactive responses which pinpoint and pursue opportunities –  of course, he really means entrepreneurial thinking. Hence the think like a system and act like an entrepreneur.

For me, this all points to the value of big picture thinking so evident in dyslexics and it is no surprise to me that entrepreneurial thinking should also be highlighted. Both, are matters close to my heart.

Firstly, we now know the brain of dyslexics are different (see – The Dyslexic Brain: Words, words, everywhere). This big picture thinking is a function of a cortex structure – more precisely long axons and loose minicolumns, which slows down processing.

Secondly, there are a disproportionately high number of entrepreneurs who are dyslexic – 35% of US and 19% of UK entrepreneurs are dyslexic (see – Julie Logan’s Dyslexic Entrepreneurs: The Incidence; Their Coping Strategies and Their Business Skills (2009) paper).

In Louise Tickle’s Guardian article (2015) she asks, “Dyslexic entrepreneurs – why they have a competitive edge?” and cites Lord Sugar, Anita Roddick, Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Ingvar Kamprad (Ikea founder). In relation to the RSA article, she highlights the importance a dyslexia-friendly working environment. More specifically, Sharon Hewitt and Hugh Robertson, who are both dyslexic, were determined to create these in their own companies – Chiltern Relocation and RPM respectively.

So, whilst agreeing that to solve big societal problems we need to think like a system and act like an entrepreneur, I can’t think of a better place to start than enabling dyslexics to develop their full ‘big picture thinking’ skills and additionally recognising there could be a direct link between dyslexia and entrepreneurial thinking. If true, let’s have schools, colleges and universities prioritising big picture thinking and workplaces fit for a dyslexic!

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Seismic Shift (26/52 or 50%)

To be honest, I never thought I would reach the half-way point. I think there are three main reasons (why always three?!) I have got this far:

  1. Readers’ engagement
  2. Guest bloggers
  3. A growing, and a rather worrying tendency, for self-actualisation!

Yes, readers’ engagement is definitely numero uno – No.1

I have been so surprised at the number of people prepare to ‘like’ and even ‘comment’ on the LinkedIn posts and contact me directly – particularly after the THE Disability on Campus: I have decided to go public as the Dyslexic Professor article. Thank you to one and all – and please keep commenting and sharing.

I secured two guest bloggers – Dr Vincent Walsh (one & two) and Anonymous Thick Lecturer (one & two). These have helped broaden the discussion, reaffirm the challenge and helped share the load. So, thank you both and please contact me if you want to write a guest blog.

I know it sounds a bit ridiculous that, why at the age of nearly 55, writing a blog exposing and explaining my deeply personal experiences of dyslexia and being a dyslexic academic (the Dyslexic Professor no less!) could be so empowering for me – self-actualisation. But, it has and I’m very glad to have ‘come out’ as a dyslexic.

So, what next?

Well it’s time for a seismic (try dropping that into a conversation!) shift in the editorial tone of the next 26 blogs. I’m going to entitle each future post – Dyslexia Superpower:

Why?

Because it’s time to move away from positioning dyslexia as a disability, or even a difference, and move to advantage or in my words superpower! I will be looking out for examples to support each blog – the next blog, Dyslexia Superpower: The System Entrepreneur 27/52, will be the first. Do share any stories of Dyslexia Superpower – I need the inspiration.

But, I am not alone:

  • 21st Century Superpower – amazing video


Also, their latest video with Jamie Oliver

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Tantalisingly close to The Dyslexic Professor half-way point … (25/52)

Yes, this is the penultimate blog to The Dyslexic Professor half-way point! Of course, I will reserve the 26/52 (or 50%) blog for some, no doubt, profound reflective insights …

So, I will restrict myself to the mundane.

Firstly, I have updated the, type in Google “[University name] support for dyslexic students” league table that is complimented by the 10/52 blog. For me the top 4 sites were:

Secondly, Strathclyde usefully link to some informative videos:
The True Gifts of a Dyslexic Mind (2015) by Dean Bragonier

What is dyslexia? (2013) by Kelli Sandman-Hurley

There are others:
What Is Dyslexia? (2017) by Margie Gillis

Dyslexia and the Brain (2016) by Guinevere Eden

4 Lessons in Creativity (2012)  by Julie Burstein with Richard Ford (05:58)

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Back on the [Dyslexic] road again … (24/52)

After a fabulous response to the THE Disability on Campus: ‘I have decided to go public as the Dyslexic Professor‘ article and a house move, I am now back to blogging on being the Dyslexic Professor or in the words of REO Speedwagon (3:10) …

Reflecting on the numerous responses from the THE article, I am conscious of a number of themes – some “I am also dyslexic” or more “I have a friend/child” who is dyslexic and, interestingly, I am now getting a few “I had no idea” and “thank you!”

From these, I conclude that academics know people with dyslexia or have children with dyslexia, that dyslexia can be hidden (I would argue that technology has helped considerably with this) and either there aren’t many academics with dyslexia or, if there are, they are not comfortable disclosing it – even to the Dyslexic Professor!

Regarding the latter or ‘Invisible Dyslexic’, I wonder if the exception that proves the rule is: a colleague who having had a public and painful reminder of their dyslexia when being required to read out in public, contacted me for support. They felt unsupported at the time and criticised. At no point in their career had they disclosed their ‘disablility’.

I’m really not sure where we go next. Technology is undoubtedly helping dyslexic academics enter the profession. However, this keeps their dyslexia hidden and leaves them anxious of exposure at any point. Having been in this position until the start of these The Dyslexic Professor blogs, I can fully understand this anxiety.

Of course, one answer is to disclose dyslexia. However, this may not be plain sailing – “I’ve finally admitted that I’m a dyslexic academic – and I’m terrified” (19 February 2016) from the Guardian’s  Academics Anonymous series.

At least for me, this brings it back to the real shift that is required …

Dyslexia is not a disability, or even a difference but rather an advantage or, in my words, a superpower!

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

There’s going public about dyslexia and there’s GOING PUBLIC! (23/52)

We all know that any post on social media is public – but how many people actually read our blogs? The answer is, that depends how many followers (and follower’s followers) you have and whether your blogs contain anything offensive, funny or illegal! Understandably, at least so far, my digital impact has been somewhat limited.

Perhaps this is all about to change. And, if it does, what are the implications for me?

This week, the Times Higher Education (THE) decided to publish a series of articles about Disability on Campus and ‘first up’ was: “I have decided to go public as the Dyslexic Professor“! Of course, THE has a far greater reach than I do. Proof of the pudding came pretty quickly …

My post on LinkedIn citing the article has already had over 1,500 views – compared to the normal less than 50. In addition, THE (@timeshigheredhas 234K followers on Twitter and posted a tweet on 14th May.

Perhaps more meaningfully, at least for me, is the number of direct emails from colleagues in universities. They broadly fall into two camps …

  1. I’m also a dyslexic academic but have not felt able to declare this to my university and even less so declare it publicly.
  2. I’m an academic or professional and don’t have dyslexia but one of my children or siblings does.

I was expecting the former and feel gratified for going public. However, I hadn’t expected the latter. In all cases the personal stories are both moving and shocking. We really have designed an educational system that rewards fine detail thinking and doesn’t just ignore big picture thinking but tries to crush it! The personal trauma is life-long and painful memories are just below the surface.

So, what next?

  • I will (increasingly with the help of my guest bloggers – please do feel free to join us) keep blogging with a target of reaching 52 post by 5th October – World dyslexia awareness day.
  • Look for groups to support: Dyslexia Champions, Made by Dyslexia
  • Consider bringing a small group together to arrange a gathering of academics and professionals in universities with dyslexia. Of course, this could provide a peer-support network but also agree some actions that could persuade the higher education sector that dyslexia is not a difficulty or even a difference but actually a superpower!

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

 

 

Guest Blog: “Reflections from Thick to Dyslexic Lecturer 2” (22/52)

Part 2 of the Guest Blog (Part 1) from a recently retired lecturer, considers the implications and adaptions required to survive in academia. What is immediately evident, at least to me, is the resilience which shines through and together with the personal support from family members demonstrates how a Lecturer with dyslexia can prosper.

Reflections on Thick to Dyslexic Lecturer Part 1:

When entering the world of employment being dyslexic and not being able to spell was always a problem and a point of contention, but when I became a lecturer in an Agricultural college the position changed and you were checking the English of the students.  This set-up a new challenge, how not to spell every thing wrong on the board!

The solutions were relatively simple:-

  1. I was lucky that overhead projectors were the in thing by then and in many ways better for teaching than the fancy electronic boards of today; but they gave the same advantage computers do today in that you presented preprepared notes to the students, but all these had to be hand written.  So in the first year of teaching every night was spent writing notes having the spelling checked by my wife and then copying them out by hand onto acetate sheets.  At times I even had my wife copying out notes onto OHP sheets for me. If I had not had my wife to check my spelling I do not know what I would have done!  The last thing you want as a new teacher is spelling mistakes every were on your work.
  2. Photocopying was not a common thing and hand outs were rare and very special so these were limited to diagrams and tables of information; so these had very little spelling/writing and the information was often taken from another source which meant the spelling had already been checked. (Bonus!)
  3. Student participation was seen as a good thing so getting students out to the front of the class to take turns in writing on the board was seen as a positive thing! (Double Bonus!)

As soon as I was confident in front of classes and this took a couple of years teaching, I found that being completely honest with the students was usually a good thing, they knew when it was not my hand writing on an OHP sheet.  The solution was to tell them that I was dyslexic this was always accepted without a problem and it even made some of the students more comfortable in my classes and for some it even gave them encouragement.

The staff on the other had were completely the opposite, firstly I could not be dyslexic as someone with dyslexia could not be bright enough to be a teacher and if I was it was morally wrong for someone like that to be a teacher.  I learnt to tell the students but to keep it from my colleagues! I even got to the point of telling parents and potential students at interview (when I was Head of Department) that we did our best for dyslexic students and gave what help we could and that in fact I understood, as I was dyslexic.  The relief in the potential student and particularly the parents was palpable.  The down side was I was told I was going over budget in student support and this was not fair or appropriate and I should reduce the demand for this from my department!

You would expect things to improve but some 15 years after starting teaching (in the 1990’s), in a senior staff meeting including the Principle and a few other not worthy individuals, my line manager accused me of being dyslexic as a put down “any one would think you were dyslexic”.  I informed him that indeed I was and that if he did his job properly and read his staff files he would in fact know this!  There was deadly silence, the principle restarted the meeting without comment and the matter was never alluded to again.  My line manager never spoke to me about it and acted as if nothing had happened.  He was not disciplined over the matter or given any pointers over the matter, I was an anomaly and this problem of a dyslexic teacher would never appear again!

Things improved with the use of computers and spell checks; such a fantastic improvement!  Soon we will be able to talk into a microphone and the computer will fill the screen with your words.  I have tried several times with current software but without success,  I know some people have found software that works for them, so it can’t be far away for all of us to have software that can read and write for us if we have the means to buy the new software;  the same applies to dictionaries that are not limited to words in common use.  Some of the time delay maybe down to management who do not see the importance of these steps forward in technology.; but the future is bright!

The down side that is that the less you use your English skill the worse they get, practice does help!!!

Being dyslexic has had a profound effect on me from the time I had to go to school and be judged (aged 4 & 3/4).  I am disabled and have been so since I was about 30 getting worse until I retired on the grounds of ill health; I was seen as disabled for only the last 5 years of my working life although my physical disability had stopped me from doing certain tasks at work for 20 years.  Being dyslexic was never seen as a disability.  Being dyslexic has had a much greater effect on me than the mobility problems which I encounter.

There are positive attributes to being dyslexic you learn to develop coping strategies and how to problem solve very early in life.  You learn how to stand up for yourself.  There are aspects where having a dyslexic brain helps; you can see the big picture and find away through the maize, but you need to be a master in diplomacy. Being in a meeting and finding the solution to a problem in 3 minutes which has taken your boss 3 weeks to find, does not go down very well.

Having to stand up for yourself and work hard to over come a difficulty can build up your resilience; this strength can be very useful in many aspects of life.

Dyslexics, with the use of new technology and better understanding by the public, should find it easier to rise to the level where their planning, problem solving and strategic competency skills can be brought to the fore.

What can we do to help? Tell our story, perhaps offer a long distance mentoring.  Real change will only happen when people understand disability and what it means.  You can have a disability and never be disabled by it because you never encounter situations where the disability comes into play.  You can have a disability that affects you all the time.  The more of the time a disability affects you the more impact it has on your life, it is not just a bout severity although the level is also very important.

A person who is permanently in a wheelchair faces many physical and mobility difficulties every day, many of these can be reduced or removed by planning and changes to the environment.  If they work at a desk perhaps at a call centre their disability can be negated while at work if sufficient care is given to the environment.  This level of attention is just beginning to appear for these people.

As language is critical at all times in our modern society and there are no longer thousands of factory jobs where those who find language difficult can work, it is critical that dyslexia is given the same standing as other disabilities and it is recognised very early on in life.  It is understood that language skills are established in children at a very early age, the first 2 or 3 years of life, we could think of teaching children more than one language and include a language which is basically phonetic. Strangely even English elocution lessons would be a massive help as then spell-checkers stand a chance.

There are many solutions out there and we are all individuals and we have to work out our own strategies but with modern technology the future is brighter than it has ever been!!!

A huge thank you too another dyslexic blogger!

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Guest Blog: “Reflections from Thick to Dyslexic Lecturer 1” (21/52)

A recently retired lecturer reflects on their journey from school, where they were labelled as ‘thick‘, to being a dyslexic lecturer, where they were not really labelled as anything. Both presented their own challenges. In part 1, we see the painful reality of the move from school through university.

Reflections on Thick to Dyslexic Lecturer Part 1:

I am now in my early sixties and have never been asked to review my experience of living with dyslexia; so I am thankful (I think) for Nigel giving me this opportunity to write about my experience.  At this point I have no idea what can of worms I am about to open!  I have spent much of my life in academia and have had to struggle with my dyslexia on a daily basis.

This is my personal reflections on the past and may well be different from other people’s view of events as mine is coloured by considerable emotion.  As you look back you see events from a different and perhaps a more informed position.

I was diagnosed as being dyslexic at the age of 11 in the first year of High School.  At that time the 11 plus was still in fashion and I had been coached by my father to make sure I got into High School as he was determined I was not going to the secondary modern school.  This was the only time my father coached me, or put me under this kind of direct pressure to achieve in school. At this time I was very unhappy and at times would not go to school.  Previously, I had enjoyed Primary School and had not objected to going to Junior School although the weekly spelling test had become a nightmare where I had to go over the spellings every night at home until I got most of them right, but was always in the bottom one or two and had been labelled as thick.  It was at Junior School where I was first told that I was officially different and classifiable; this was by the boy who sat next to me in class he told me I was word blind!  He had told his mother about me and how I was in class and she had told him I was word blind or dyslexic!  Fantastic how a 9 year old child who is your friend and in your class can see things that teachers can’t!  I would have only been 9 or 10 at this point.

Things came to a head in the High School as I would be sent to school and return shortly afterward complaining of stomach-ache and I achieved the remarkable score of 0% in the Latin exam, it was this remarkable score that made the school take notice as apparently this was a first for them! It was my mother who took up the challenge and made the school call in an educational psychologist.  I can still remember parts of that day and the tests that I undertook.  In one of the test I had completed the task and was looking around the room, the person who was running the test told me to get on with it and I said I had finished he was taken aback that I had finished so I guess we are all good at some things.

The school had to accept that I was different and they were going to make sure I knew it and so did every one else.  I had no longer to take Latin but had to sit at the back to the class and be quiet and behave. This was announced to the whole class and was quickly a hot topic of conversion amongst the boys; how to get out of the hated Latin classes. This was the only “help” the school would or did give.  The other idea given by the physiologist was that I was taught to “touch type”, luckily for me me parents were reasonably well off and paid for private lessons after school. The idea was that as you learnt to copy type you would use a different part of your brain. For me this was the start of a new era, my writing went from, ‘we can’t read it’ to ‘your spelling is terrible’. Luckily my father changed jobs and we moved from Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester.

My new school in Manchester was a Grammar School (not “the” Grammar School), This was much better and forward thinking where each subject was setted from 1 to 4 and I even got special help with my English. Still my most vivid memory is spellings in class where each person had to spell a random word given to them by the English teacher, I never got the word right and it became an amusement to the class the tittering started as soon as my name was called out, it felt like being asked to stand up to be laughed at.

At this point in time technology came to my rescue, this was the start of computers and we were allowed a calculator in class (if your parents would buy you one) and then spell-checkers came along.  There was even a version that took account of dyslexia, of course you had to know you didn’t know how to spell the word (in my case just about every word) and you had to know how the word started, in some cases a hopeless task, this is exactly the same problem with using a dictionary.   Despite this I managed to jump the academic hoops, with scrapped knees at times, getting a place at university.

University was much more accepting and little comment was made.  My dyslexia only came up on two occasions. The first time was when the university did some kind of survey on dyslexia and the university did not have a problem with dyslexia as out of its over 7000 + students there were only 2 students registered with dyslexia [1 in 10 people are dyslexic].  I know this as I and the other student were taken out for lunch in celebration! Nothing else was done.  In my third year one of my tutors took me aside to suggest to me that he thought that I might be dyslexic.

Later in life I completed two Teacher Training courses, one at a Further Educational establishment and one at another University no comment was made in either case.  This I am not surprised at as technology had moved on from spell checkers to computers that check your spelling and grammar and all work, by then, had to be completed on a computer i.e. type written.

I feel I was very lucky that I had my parents support and they had the money to do something when the schools wouldn’t. Despite that I know the traumatisation and the lack of self confidence created in school has stayed with me throughout my life.

By a strange quick of circumstance I found myself teaching. I never expected it to be a career move, but and after the initial shock many teachers go through, I found I enjoyed being on the other side of the desk.

Not much sign of a dyslexic advantage yet.

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

 

Guest Blog by Dr Vincent Walsh: “Batman, Clowns, Dark Days and Dyslexia 2” (20/52)

The second and final part of Dr Vincent Walsh’s guest blog needs little introduction from me. It charts the traumatic and painful journey to the seemingly unthinkable conclusion that … “Dyslexics are not just futurists, they are the future.”

Dr Vincent Walsh (Ecological Innovation Fellow, Academic & Practitioner) Part 2:

The Unknown Truth
The school system taught me I was an underachiever, not that I had an inability to learn, but they said I did not want to learn. This fuelled me with frustration, which in turn created a disruptive family situation, directing me to a very destructive period between the age of 15 to 19 years old. I believe this was due to the lack of empathy, a lack of understanding of dyslexia and an overall lack of professionalism within the school system.

Around the age of 20 years old, I began to reflect upon my time, frustration and unhappiness I felt due to my educational situation to date. Surprisingly this brought up an unfamiliar & overwhelming feeling to reassert my energy and focus into mainstream education, maybe this was the way I would gain confidence I needed to grow. I began investigating the path ways to get back on the educational ladder. Due to no qualifications, the BTEC Level 1 National Foundation Diploma, one year qualification, was my only option, but this gave me a pathway I needed. Even at this very early stage of my academic career, I already knew my aim was to go as far as possible through education, to the highest levels. Maybe if I had any idea of how difficult that journey would be, well, it wouldn’t have happened, but I didn’t, and that was in my favour.

Dyslexia was first brought to my attention following a basic screening I attended at Stockport College in the year 2000 while on the BTEC. In 2002 in my first year on the BA Moving Image Design course at Ravensbourne institute, the institute sent me to an independent Psychologist to perform a full assessment to evaluate my learning difficulties. It was a this point I was professionally diagnosed with moderate to severe Dyslexia and Irlen Syndrome. You would think being professionally assessed and being diagnosed with moderate to severe Dyslexia, would have been an empowering time in my life, and for a moment it was (knowing the reasons for my difficulties in the traditional educational system), unfortunately that empowerment was snatched away by the report that followed the assessment.

My own experience, being diagnosed with dyslexia did not help, in fact the report reduced me into a mere formula, “Vincent cannot do A, so he cannot do x”. I found it interesting that a psychologist spends no more than 3 hours with you, while doing a series of reductionary tests that highlight the severity of your learning inabilities (only). My report was 9 pages, and it had a range of statements in it like this,

“Even without the presence of dyslexia Vincent would find a degree course very challenging.  His Vocabulary and Similarities scores are average ones, and the language of both lectures and textbooks assumes an above average level of verbal ability.  It may therefore be that a HND course may be more appropriate and Vincent was asked to bear this in mind if he finds his current degree course, even with suitable support, too demanding.  Vincent’s levels of reading and spelling, allied with a very weak working memory, point toward failure on written assignments without appropriate support and teaching and assessment accommodations”

It is not that I disagree with the statement, it’s the point that the report made my tutors at Ravensbourne Institute question my ability to complete the moving Image design course. Consequently, a meeting was called with several staff and myself to discuss the report and my “options”. In short, directly due to the report, they had decided that I should no longer continue with the BA course, and I should now look for a HND course. Is that a helpful outcome for any young person with dyslexia?  What the reports fails to highlight or take into consideration is one’s imagination, creativity or sheer determination to go beyond what is needed or expected to succeed.

 What the psychologist, the tutors and the institute did not know, throughout my primary and secondary experiences, I was pushed pillow to post, and year after year I did not learn and become confident in any aspect of my life due to mainstream thinking in education. But, I was no longer a child, nor an unconfident young adult who could be pushed around. I told my tutors in no uncertain terms, that I was not leaving the course, and even if it meant me retaking my first year, to get to the standard “I” feel confident at, that is what will happen, and nothing less. True to my word, I retook the first year, on the BA course, at the dismay of my tutors. The BA course took me four years to complete. If there is one way to motivate young determined dyslexic student, tell them they cannot succeed.

Rethinking Myself
Is it enough just being diagnosed with dyslexia? Is it a comprehensive approach to just identifying the difficulties to dyslexics will encounter due to the “disability”, and even if you are diagnosed and told what the difficulties will be, is that still enough?

Going back into education was a difficult act, specially starting on a BTEC course which was for 16 year olds, and I was 20 years old. 10 years later after beginning the BTEC at 30 years old, I began a PhD programme of investigation.  After dealing with dyslexia for 26 years of my life, through primary, secondary, and a destructive time between 16 and 19 years old, to enrolling on a PhD, I still did not understand what and how dyslexia works. Therefore, I did not know who I was, but that was about to change.

I had an Epiphany when I met Dr David Haley (artist and academic), he was the appointed Director of Study for my PhD programme of investigation, and now good friend, and someone I own so much too, I will forever be in his debt. I will always remember the day and moment I met David. We met to discuss the PhD programme. I have always been very open about my “learning difficulties” so I had a book prepared, so I could read out loud to David, with the aim to illustrate to him, my lack of reading ability.

I started to read to him, well, tried, 3 or 4 sentences in, David lent over, pushed his hand down on the book, then sat back, and gently said, do you realise that you’re a “system thinker”? The conversation we engaged in after his statement changed everything. David for the first time in my life, did not see the person in front of him as someone with a disability, but someone who see’s and interacts with the world in a diverse & holistic way, he called me a; whole system practitioner. The first hour I spent with David changed the rest of my life.

Dyslexics are not just futurist, they are the future.
What did David see in me that no one did before, and what did his knowledge and perspective give me. His insight and imagination gave a positive way of understanding my so-called disability, he gave me a platform to grow from. David provided a theory of knowledge, especially regarding the methods I intrinsically use to interact with the world.

I began to read about how the dyslexic brain works, how whole system thinkers think, how generalist see subjects. Dyslexics, system thinkers and generalists are all right brain thinkers. They all see, think and process information in wholes, images, therefore, they do not use a step-by-step method to reach a conclusion. Understanding the way, my brain thought about the world, knowing that you know, knowing that you think in a holistic, joining up method is a very exciting place to be.

Questioning how one thinks and why is a powerful tool, it supports the distinction between you and others (non-dyslexics), and the important of my own perception in the world. This gave me a huge sense of new confidence, maybe like the kind of confidence that Batman has, it brought a smile to my face, I was laughing, laughing like a clown. I now understand, as an academic, I’m not just dyslexic, but a generalist, that has developed a system thinking approach to my practice.

“Generalists, are those very rare individuals who have the capacity to bring together many aspects and branches of the intelligence problem and organization, and wish to do so” (CIA).

The Inevitable
I would suggest that dyslexics are professionals in hyper-connectivity, making new connection and insights that most don’t, we make new perspectives by bring new parts, that create new wholes. We understand that innovation in universities tend to happen in the gaps between disciplines, we can make long-connections between research and industry activities. We understand that density and diversity, diversity of minds, density of people is a formula to drive new ideas across sectors and markets, but more importantly, we know wholes and more many parts, the hive is more than the sum of bees, the biosphere is more than the sum of living organisms, technology more than the 15 billion devices. This perspective, that whole system practitioners, generalists, i.e., Dyslexics, have a unique skill set to make long-connection across, between and beyond disciplines, sectors, markets, is also hinted at in the new report by Made by Dyslexia by founder Kate Griggs – [mention in “Dyslexia is in the air“]. After twenty years of wishing I was not dyslexic, now I am so proud of the fact.

In the future, everything will be one, very large complex thing. This is the time when biological and technology infrastructure linked together on a planetary scale. We have 15 billion devices wired up to one giant circuit that already exceeds our brains in complexity (www/Internet of things), and it’s doubling every few years. Therefore, whole system practitioners, generalists, dyslexics will be major actors in the future, connecting the dots & bots across and beyond planetary scale activities. Dyslexics are not just futurists, they are the future.

A huge thank you to Vincent!

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Multi-sensory learning: Not all in the dyslexic mind (19/52)

Given a busier than normal schedule over the next couple of weeks, I decided to tackle weeks 3 and 4 of “Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching” MOOC in one go. To be honest, the course is also getting more specifically for teachers and harder for me to engage with – a criticism of me not the course!

The two weeks focused on learning spelling, grammar and reading with the common theme of using multi-sensory teaching techniques. In a moment, I will explore this in a little more detail but before doing so I wanted to share my feelings on getting to the end of the course. I was overwhelmed by the application of research in practice and how little must have been known by teachers when I started learning English some 50 years ago! So, perhaps I need to learn to forgive Mrs W and all that followed her. I do hope that teacher training and CPD fully utilises the good work that has been done on supporting dyslexic learners.

In week 4, Professor Joanna Nijakowska discussed how phonological and orthographic awareness learning can be multi-sensory. But, interestingly for me, she also explains why English is a difficult language for dyslexics to learn (5:27).

Multi-sensory teaching provides opportunities for learners to hear, see, say and write and includes structured small steps, practice and revision. Ultimately, learners need to develop techniques they can use in different environments to help extract meaning. These techniques can include discussing meaning (active construction), asking questions (reciprocal teaching) and visualising meaning (mental images).

Interviews with adult dyslexic learners and English language teachers highlighted several specific supporting techniques, including: i) informal interactive sessions, ii) small group learning, iii) flash cards (in CAPITALS) , iv) reading introduction and conclusions before skimming the middle of articles, v) using diagrams and images, vi) knowing the lesson plan, vii) avoiding rote learning and viii) using mind maps.

I will come back to using mind maps in a future blog (more specifically, the use of rich picture) but the session usefully provided links to software packages to support mind mapping:

In summary, the last three weekends engaging with the “Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching” course have been very informative. I’ve gone from Dr Judit Kormos‘ insightful metaphor of a hurdles race with invisible hurdles (Nuts, bolts and hurdles of Dyslexia) through Building the dyslexic classroom to appreciating that multi-sensory teaching (and other techniques) can support dsylexics in learning languages.

A heartfelt thank you to Dr Kormos and colleagues. There are now simply no excuses for not supporting dyslexic learners in moving through understanding the difficulties, differences and then advantages of dyslexia.

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia is in the air (18/52)

Not only is spring in the air this week, but so to is dyslexia. It seems that several things are coming together which make me feel more optimistic about recasting dyslexia not just as a difference, as opposed to a difficulty, but as an advantage.

Firstly, I now have four guest bloggers crafting their pieces. Hopefully, part 2 of Vincent’s “Batman, Clowns, Dark Days and Dyslexia” blog will be published later this week. The others will be from a senior dyslexic academic, a dyslexic Head of Department at an FE college and a PR professional who has mentored dyslexic senior executives. Watch this space …

Secondly, I’ve just signed off the copy of an article for a national Higher Education sector publication and had my photograph taken today! Less of a smiling portrait and more of a concerned academic look! Again, watch this space …

And finally, and this is the big one, a new charity was launched this week by Kate Griggs called Made By Dyslexia whose goals are:

  • That dyslexia is properly understood as a different way of thinking.
  • Work with governments, charities, schools and parents to ensure all dyslexic children are identified early and given the support they need. [Of course, I would add work with universities to ensure student and staff are supported.]

The launch, supported by Sir Richard Branson, coincided with the publication of “Connecting the Dots” a highly informative report. It includes and an explanation of  dyslexia thinking skills and the advantages it can bring (or Dyslexic Superpower):

  • Visualising: Moving, Making & Inventing
  • Imagining: Creating & Interpreting
  • Communicating: Explaining & Storytelling
  • Reasoning: Simplifying, Analysing, Deciding, & Visioning
  • Connecting: Understanding-self, Understanding-Others, Influencing & Empathising
  • Exploring: Learning, Digging, Energising & Doing.

Also, I can’t help admiring their sense of humour … the Dyslexic Sperm Bank

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support