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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 enough.

 

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 good fit.

 

There are 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.


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Please note we are relocating to our new office on Monday 13 November.

Our telephone numbers will remain unchanged, however, they might not work for a short period of time during the cross over. We will have email access so please contact us via info@dyslexia-idc.org should you be unable to reach us by phone.