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Stories by successful dyslexics who IDC have helped over the years
Gifts of dyslexia
Peter Beard – Documentary Producer/Director
I was luckier than
most dyslexics, being assessed when just six years old and offered support
throughout my schooling. Whilst I struggled at times and faced challenges I was
always encouraged to embrace the positive aspects of my dyslexia. Being slow at
reading, having atrocious spelling, not being able to copy from the black
board; these were just symptoms of my mind working differently. If I approached
learning in a way that suited me, then there was no reason I couldn’t reach my
potential. And, with the difference in my brain came other side effects;
creativity, lateral thinking, a visual approach to problem solving – the gifts
of dyslexia. Although it is hard to focus on these when it seems you just can’t
succeed at the simplest of tasks at school, people like my mother made sure I
did and embraced every opportunity to exploit them. She instilled in me an unwavering belief that
dyslexia could be used to my advantage, and is nothing to be ashamed of. I was
encouraged to be ambitious and not to let worries about my dyslexia impede me. Beyond
my schooling I was encouraged to have as diverse a view of the world as
possible, from socializing with a broad range of people from a broad range of
backgrounds to the films I watched and the places I visited.
In my late teens,
like many others, I decided that a job in Film and TV looked like fun. I soon
found out that was easier said than done. Apart from having a parent or close
family friend as an executive, there’s no direct route into the industry. I had
neither, but I did had determination and desire to do it. This turned out to be
I’m not sure if my
determination had anything to do with my dyslexia but I do believe that having
faced considerable challenges in my schooling gave me resilience and an
understanding of the value of persistence.
The great thing
about the world I wanted to enter was that it was a visual one; although it had
its fair share of reading and writing, the only real grammar of any importance
was the onscreen one. Your ability to put pictures and stories together in an
interesting and imaginative way was what counted. There are no hard and fast
rules and the creativity is rewarded above everything else. I’d spent years
thinking myself round corners and finding solutions to problems that took me in
different directions to others, so I instantly felt at home.
I properly found my
feet at the end of my final year at university when I decided to focus on
documentary. I choose a rather ambitious project for my dissertation
documentary, which took me to the depths of the Bolivian jungle. It proved to
be both exciting and medically disastrous leading to months in hospital. But I
managed to finish the film, and make something that got me noticed.
I was lucky enough
to be spotted and mentored by the editorial manager for disability at Channel
4. She began working with me in the early stages of my career and encouraged me
to focus my training and employments to reflect my ability to film and
construct stories. This led me to observational documentaries, which is the
field I now work in. The joy of this type of documentary for me is seeing
behind closed doors. Peeking behind the curtains of people’s lives and houses
all around the world. I spend my life talking to people, hearing their stories
and looking for what lies behind. I like to think I’m good at this, and I’m
able to tell their stories in an interesting way. I’m also used to working with
others and asking for help, which makes the collaborative world of filmmaking a
downsides; the hours are long and keep me away from home a lot, you end up
living on service station sandwiches and driving hundreds of miles a day. The
other problem is organization. Following other people’s lives takes a lot of
organizing. To make events fit your time frame it often requires you to
organize their lives for them. As a dyslexic I find it hard enough to organize
my own life. With the expense of filming it means that days, hours, even
sometimes minutes lost, costs a lot. I had to really step up my game, use every
trick I’ve ever been taught, become hyper- organized. It’s worked so far; we’ll
have to see how long I can keep it up.
From my experiences
I genuinely believe that problems raised by dyslexia can be almost completely
mitigated if the education system tackles them in the right fashion. It is a
gift, not a burden, and everyone should remember that.
Please note in November 2017 we relocated to a new office. Our address is
IDC, Fifth Floor, Tavistock House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HX.
Our new office is approximately a one minute walk away from the old office.
Our telephone numbers and email addresses remain the same.