Dyslexic thinking is a skill

5th October 2022

Championing neurodiversity at Civica

3rd-9th October 2022, is Dyslexia Week, an annual event hosted by the British Dyslexia Association to raise awareness about how dyslexia affects learning, reading and writing, and how it can be recognised and helped. Our Local Government Divisional Managing Director, Emily Douglin, shares her story as part of this year’s theme, ‘Breaking through barriers’.

“School was hard at times. I remember feeling frustrated and envious of my peers who took great pleasure in reading fictional books week after week, when I couldn’t get past the first few pages. And I remember being dismissed from an English lesson by a teacher who felt personally offended by my lower grades in her class compared to my other subjects.

“It wasn’t until my third year of university that I was tested for dyslexia due to the discrepancy between my coursework and exam marks. I finally received a formal dyslexia diagnosis and, with it, an explanation as to why I struggled with some activities. While I’m not keen on labels, my diagnosis at least gave me something to research… but it came with drawbacks too, including a hideous sticker to apply in exams which served as a beacon, letting my peers know there was something different about me. From this point, I felt that hiding my dyslexia was essential if I wanted to give a good impression, a belief I held onto at the start of my career.

“Recently, however, I’ve seen people sharing their experiences with dyslexia on LinkedIn as part of a campaign by the charity Made by Dyslexia. The platform now lets users select ‘dyslexic thinking’ as a skill to help reduce stigma, and it’s led me to think more about my coping mechanisms as strengths. For example, because I can’t rely on my brain to take in the maximum amount of information from words, I’ve grown particularly sensitive to patterns of behaviour and body language. I create systems that work to help me recall information, and my desire for logic and pattern-based reasoning underpins a lot of what I do.

“Here at Civica, I’ve recently got involved in our Accessibility Affinity Group to help champion neurodiversity in the workplace. The breadth of neurodivergent characteristics and their related ‘superpowers’ are not always well understood. In the case of dyslexia, it’s important that emotional intelligence, abstract reasoning, and creative problem-solving skills are not overlooked.

“This year’s theme, ‘Breaking through barriers’, shows that dyslexia is not a limitation. Creating a team of diverse people with different strengths enhances a business’s ability to thrive. While my dyslexia has accompanied me throughout my career, it doesn’t inhibit my work. Instead, it’s shown me the importance of diversity in every sense of the word, and how adaptability in the workplace empowers everyone to fulfil their full potential by working in a way that suits them best.”