I received a lovely message from a family friend with a daughter who has dyslexia. She said her daughter Rain shouted at her to “come in here, come in here”, because “this man is dyslexic and has actually written a book”.
She said she walked into the kitchen and found Rain cross-legged and transfixed staring at the radio. Rain asked what things we had achieved and she was absolutely gobsmacked. Her parting words to her mum at the school gate were: “I'm going to tell my new teacher that I'm going to start a record label, release my own album and then after I'm going write a book”.
While I haven’t released my own album, I think it’s really important we build children up to dream big dreams and give them the tools so they are capable of achieving them.
Rain’s mum also told me how she struggles with her spelling and her last year at school was difficult due to a teacher who made her feel like she couldn't achieve anything ‘because she can't spell’. It got so bad they moved her to a different school.
What saddens me most about this tale is that it still sounds like how it was when I was at school more than 50 years ago and dyslexia was treated as a handicap. My teachers thought I was dumb and lazy. No matter how I tried, I could not keep up or fit in with the other students.
It shouldn’t matter if a child has dyslexia. We should support them and open their minds to all the fun, creative things they could achieve, rather than box them in and tell them they’re not good enough because they can’t spell.
Being taught to read, write and learn is very important – every dyslexic should get the right help to enable this – but we should spend as much effort encouraging dyslexic children to discover their strengths and potential.
I was also rubbish at spelling (still am!) but I learned early on there are other things I am good at and this is what I should be focusing on. I became an excellent delegator and learned to find people better than me to work with, whether on writing or accounting.
Many dyslexics are great writers because we have great imaginations and are often storytellers - Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie are just two famous dyslexic writers.
I was fortunate I had parents who would support my dreams of dropping out of school and starting a business. Having dyslexia helps me to rise above difficulties, think creatively and keep communication simple and clear. I concentrate on the big picture and surround myself with a great team of people I really trust.
I’m also supporting Made By Dyslexia, a charity dedicated to changing the stigma around dyslexia. It is not a disadvantage; it is merely a different way of thinking. For me, it is really important that we provide young people with the support they need to succeed, and to understand dyslexia as a different and brilliant way of thinking.
Why would we want our children to feel isolated and sidelined when we could nurture them to fulfil their potential and change the world?