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It’s time to eradicate the negative stigma of dyslexia in the comms industry

I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was about 13 and my sister Alice got the diagnosis at around 11 years of age. It wasn't the school that picked it up, but our mother. Both of us always struggled at school, particularly with reading and writing, however our mum knew we were bright, so she researched and took us to a local dyslexia institute for testing.

I remember school being tough and as a young child I hated it. I would run round the car and have to be forcibly dragged in to get me there. I believe this was because I simply didn't feel confident in a classroom environment and what was expected of me. Elocution lessons and public speaking really helped me and gave me the confidence I needed to cope with my dyslexia. Schools (at least back then) were guilty of pigeon-holing children because they have dyslexia and not giving them the support they needed to excel.

During careers counselling, when I said I wanted to do three A levels and go to university, I was told this was beyond me (I actually went on to achieve three good A Levels and a 2.1 from Edinburgh University!).

Having once viewed dyslexia as a disability, I now see it as a gift because of the strengths and abilities that dyslexics have. Technology is offering solutions to areas dyslexics are weak in, such as spelling and grammar, with the skills that dyslexics excel in – creativity, innovation, collaboration and communication being in demand in the changing world of work.

Drawing upon my own personal experience, I’ve had some thoughts about what agencies can do to be able to benefit from the skills that dyslexic employees bring, rather than miss out on this untapped talent pool.

Ensure the interview process is inclusive of dyslexics
Many dyslexics aren't upfront about their dyslexia, as a hidden condition it’s something most people try to hide. But, the Made by Dyslexia (a brilliant charity led by successful dyslexics) campaign is really helping to change this and educate employers about the benefits, like creativity, problem solving and communication skills, that people with dyslexia will bring to an organisation.

Therefore, agencies should ensure they don’t make false assumptions about a candidate's ability based on their exam grades alone. How people communicate, problem solve and articulate themselves is so much more important today. These are skills many dyslexics will bring to the table, but their exam results or writing tests might suggest otherwise.

Apply diversity and inclusion learnings to neural differences
This year, we’ve witnessed a tangible movement in our industry and others across the globe in tackling diversity and inclusion within the workplace. While it’s still early stages, we’ll hopefully see all businesses adopt policies and practices that mean we see real positive, systematic change for people who have suffered racial injustice in the world of work.

It’s clear now that businesses need to better represent and reflect their customers, which means respecting, appreciating difference as well as not being biased when hiring based on age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education and in the case of dyslexia, neural differences.

Respect the different perspective someone with dyslexia will bring
In this blog by Made by Dyslexia they explain that the dyslexic brain is wired differently, so dyslexics are able to connect stories and see patterns in narratives where others may not, making them adept at understanding big ideas or evolving situations and explaining them to others. Not to mention that dyslexics generally have huge amounts of emotional intelligence and are naturally very empathetic.

I would encourage business leaders and hiring managers in the comms industry to challenge any bias they have towards people with neural differences. It's about respecting and embracing each other's differences, whilst being confident they can still do the job well. If we get this right, we create an environment that's a modern day 'primordial soup' in terms of ideas and innovation and will only stand to benefit the comms industry for good.

Written by Madeleine Weightman, co-founder of the platform for marketing and comms freelancers, The Work Crowd which has launched a diversity board with Hanson Search

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