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Stories by successful dyslexics who IDC have helped over the years


Dyslexia thoughts…

 

JXL, Partner in a City Law Firm

 

I just did not get why I did not get it.  I was interested, motivated but when I tore open my exam results envelope that one CSE Grade 1 in History stared out at me, it was clear that I had severely under-achieved and I did not understand why.  It took me a further three years to secure five O'levels taking two or three at a time but miracles of miracles at one sitting, three A'Levels, and good ones at that.

 

The thing is, I am now a Partner at a City law firm in London, a fairly well respected international lawyer and until this year, I didn't really know for sure whether I was a dyslexic or not.  I have learned strategies and tactics for dealing with not being able to remember things, or not seeing obvious connections.  I mind-mapped, I dictated, I spell checked, I used time management principles.  I now have a name for my issue – and that name was inefficiency which was, for me, dyslexia's alter ego!  Within myself, I have kind of always known I was dyslexic, but when I was growing up dyslexia was commonly known as "word blindness" and I certainly didn't have "word blindness"; I could look at a page and see all the words… but the repeated mantra from teachers that I was slow, that I was incapable of grasping the simplest facts, troubled me because it didn't ring true in my own mind.

 

As the years have passed, a career that had seen me pass through the Foreign Office as an economist, British Telecom as a public relations officer and latterly as a competition analyst, I landed in the law surrounded by millions of words, with complex drafting and even more complex negotiations.  My academics have improved since that CSE Grade 1.  I have undergraduate degrees in Law and Economics and an MA in Political Economics and also a smattering of professional qualifications.  My results improved over the years by using better methods of learning.  I found I could retain more by recording and listening to my lecturers.  Using a Picasso-like palate of colours for my revision notes and becoming familiar with the format of the exams, to the extent of visiting the examination hall in advance, helped me take the mystery out of exams and allowed me to focus on recalling information.  I found closing my eyes and visualising my notes helped.  Result?  Well my results just got better and better! 

 

After six years as a lawyer I was elected to the partnership.  My career was not prejudiced.  Having to deal with a mind that often couldn't remember the finer detail without prompting, I became an incurable scribbler, a taker of notes, writing bits of information on anything I could find to hand.  I grasped the whole concept of mind-mapping again, I revisited it after 20 years and found when mapping out a deal by drawing pictures, and as a marine lawyer I have become quite adept at drawing boats, I could find connections between concepts which hitherto were unforeseen.  I could argue a legal point in a way that hadn't been argued before, I could draft clauses in fresh new ways partly because I wasn't constrained by the normal thought processes.  I wasn't a details man – I was a big picture man but as a big picture lawyer, I could cut through the legal nonsense and get to the heart of the deal.

 

I relied very heavily on digital dictation and my long suffering but ever reliable secretary, Jayne, recognised pretty early my inability to remember things and organise things hence without a first rate PA to do the things that I couldn't be relied upon to remember to do, she allowed me to focus on my real skills.  I also am a gadget fiend – anything that can get me to add colour and vision to my work I grab with both hands.  I try not to have a regimented day – I start my day when I feel I need to start my day and end it when I am exhausted.  I don't make work a task, work is just something else I do in my day in between listening to the radio and watching films!!  By turning work into something which is not a task or a barrier, I became much better at the job I did.

 

However, this is not to say I have not failed spectacularly several times before now!  I didn't know I was dyslexic and hit brick walls.  When faced with brick walls, you find ways out of necessity to deal with that wall.  I tried to smash walls down by ignoring the problem (huge mistake and personal failure resulted), I tried to ignore the problem (again, huge mistake and more personal failure).  Eventually, I knocked a few bricks out of the wall, i.e. the issues I could deal with and installed a door through which I wander freely.  The wall of dyslexia is still there but I have a door which takes me through it.


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