I always loved English and creative writing as a child but it wasn’t until I went onto study both at university that I was offered a full psychological assessment that I realised I was Dyslexic and to my surprise Dyspraxic at the age of 26. Rewind a few years back to school and it was obvious that something wasn’t quite right. I always did my homework and loved to read but it took me twice as long to complete as everyone else and I needed to read my work aloud to spot the mistakes, which I still do now! Having lived with Dyslexia for a long time I naturally found coping mechanisms including requesting extra support after school from my Teachers. I used to get very frustrated with how much longer it would take me to complete a piece of work in comparison to my peers but would put it down to not being as intelligent. I worked hard and gained the GCSES to go onto College but with my condition going undiagnosed at this stage I struggled with the more academic subjects I had chosen and flunked all but one of my A Levels.
Determined to still pursue my studies I pushed on with creative subjects and it was only at 21 when I had completed a 2 year Acting Diploma that the college I had attended began to question whether there was underlying issue. The college went on to employ me as a Learning Assistant and it was at this stage they gave me an internal assessment which flagged up the possibility of Dyslexia but could not be made official unless I self-funded the Psychological Report which was nearly £1000. So I continued to adapt and find ways to make life easier in order to be able to do my job well. I accepted that life would always just have to be that bit harder.
Fast forward a few years and it was now that I was finally offered a full assessment. I had applied to study an English Degree as a mature student and expressed my concerns when offered my place. The learning team at the university were amazing and after an initial assessment offered me the full psychological report. This was extremely eye opening as it turned out I was Dyslexic and Dyspraxic, the Assessor said if I had been assessed as a child my results would have been more severe but I had spent years finding coping strategies that had helped mask both conditions. I felt so relived to finally have a label for what had been a tough journey through my education and the support I was now entitled to from the university meant I would finally be able to apply myself fully to my studies. I loved my time at university and ended up staying on to undertake my Masters, all this on top of giving birth to two children, not something I would recommend to anyone in hindsight!
So, the question most people most ask when they find out I am Dyslexic and Dyspraxic is what do I find difficult in contrast to a “normal” person. Having worked with SEN students in previous roles what I tell people is that everyone is different and what I find challenging will not necessarily be the same for another person with the same disability. It’s important to get to know the individual and find out what support they would find most beneficial. As I have already alluded to I have become a master at disguising my disabilities.
For me reading was never too much of an issue and I have always enjoyed presenting and reading aloud, however to process written information I do need to read things a few times and much prefer printed documents to reading off a screen. Emails can be a bit overwhelming and my Mentor at Thales has helped me find ways to tackle how I organise this area of my work. Initially I was offered a Mentor and additional coaching to support my career development however I have found the opportunity to discuss and work through problems verbally of great benefit. At university it was this 1-1 platform where I felt I could really articulate myself and at Thales it has been a vital part of my journey. My Mentors have helped me prioritise my work and show me ways to manage my work load without becoming overwhelmed. I currently meet with one Mentor monthly and the other every 6 weeks, taking the time to step away from my daily routine and to attend these sessions has allowed me to reflect a lot more on the way that I work and has been such a positive initiative.
My team are also very supportive and if I need a colleague to proof read for me they are always happy to help. Thales were also able to update my laptop with digital dictation software that enables me to produce longer documents much quicker than if I was to have to type them from scratch. When I first started with Thales I didn’t feel comfortable asking for additional support but it quickly became clear that Thales were really inclusive and all I needed to do was ask. For a recent internal role that I applied for I was really impressed with the necessary adjustments that could be made and receiving the questions in advance also allowed me more time to prepare. For anyone reading this who feels embarrassed to speak up and ask for help, believe me when I say it will be worthwhile and will make life so much easier moving forward not only in your career but for life in general.