The dyslexic success which is IKEA

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It was Zoe who pointed me at the secret taxonomy behind IKEA’s product names. I always knew there was something behind the product names but had no idea it was all the idea of a dyslexic man thinking about the world and where things fit within it.

Bookcases are named after professional occupations (Expedit means shop keeper) or boys’ names (The bestselling Billy bookcase is named after IKEA employee Billy Likjedhal). Outdoor furniture is named after Scandinavian islands (Äpplarö an island in the Stockholm archipelago and Västerön is in Aaland). Rugs are named after cities and towns in Denmark or Sweden (Ådum, Stockholm, Silkeborg), while bed sheets, comforters and pillowcases are named after flowers and plants. (Häxört or circaea lutetian is an herb in the primrose family).

The rules for naming were devised by IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad, who struggled with dyslexia and had trouble remembering the order of numbers in item codes.

This lead me to find out more about Ingvar who I knew had a checkered background, especially with the Nazis.

I didn’t know he was dyslexic but this strikes such a cord.

One day, it is reported that Ingvar Kamprad overheard one his draughtsman (a kind of designer or engineer) named Gillis Lundgren. The man had difficulties fitting a table into a transport. After many unsuccessful trials he shouted out loud: “Oh God! Let’s pull off the legs and put them underneath!” Ingvar Kamprad understood that his employee was correct in his assessment of the situation. Moreover Kamprad understood the potential of this remark.

Soon afterwards IKEA introduced new product lines of furniture which were designed to be sold unassembled. In this way the cost for manufacturing (no more assembly) and logistics (standard transport costs due to optimized measures) could be reduced significantly.

Great insight, which started a great business… Should have known

 

Dyslexics thriving in the workplace

Reading the Dyslexic Advantage
Quite a few people have said good things to me since I posted about reading the dyslexic advantage. On Saturday I finished the whole book and although there are so many great sections the last one had so much to talk/blog about

The last section which is all about work, and so very fitting…

For individuals with dyslexia, good-fitting jobs have several common features. First, they engage strengths and avoid weaknesses. As we’ve discussed, many individuals with dyslexia excel in big-picture reasoning, or the ability to see the overall features, “contours,” or implications of objects or ideas. The occupation or position in which they best display this ability depends upon which MIND strengths they possess, but as a general rule, jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well stress problem solving, troubleshooting, fixing things, coming up with new ideas, thinking about what’s missing or not being addressed, or telling stories (e.g., sales, counseling, coaching, advertising, entrepreneurship).
[…]
In contrast, individuals with dyslexia often struggle with fine-detail processing, mastering routine procedures to the point of automaticity, or rote memory. As a result, they often find that jobs that stress repetition, efficiency, consistency, attention to details, use of procedures, application of fixed rules, or routine processing tasks (especially clerical tasks that involve the manipulation and use of written symbols) are a poor fit.

I can’t tell you the cognitive pain of repetition, I find it super uncomfortable and far prefer the new and unknown. My mind wonders and before long I’m innovating my way out of doing the task as is. Better way to spend my cognitive surplus?

After choosing a job that seems to be a good fit, individuals with dyslexia should work hard to optimize that job environment by being proactive in pursuing opportunities, self-advocating with supervisors and co-workers, building partnerships, pursuing leadership opportunities, and using technologies to maximize their productivity.
Many individuals with dyslexia are especially good at spotting opportunities that others have missed and then aggressively and proactively taking advantage of those opportunities. Professor Julie Logan cited this ability as one of the most common characteristics she’s observed in the dyslexic entrepreneurs she’s studied.
We’ve also observed this ability in many of the individuals with dyslexia we’ve interviewed—and not just in business. Astrophysicist Matt Schneps told us, “One thing I’m very proud of is that I’m very good at taking advantage of opportunities. If I see something I think is useful for me, I think about how I can make the most of it and take advantage of that.” Because of this ability (and strong self-advocacy skills like those we’ll discuss later), Matt has been able to enjoy four entirely different careers over the past thirty years, all with the same employer.

Making and taking those opportunities is a big thing, which I’m certainly hard-wired for. Most people take and give out business cards as a brush off but I take them seriously. I do like to meet or follow up, see if theres a chance for collaboration. I’m also generally interested in the person and if I can connect them with someone else I might know.

A second key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they engage interests. While everyone works better on tasks they find interesting and enjoyable, individuals with dyslexia are often especially dependent upon interest to produce their best efforts. In contrast, when tasks fail to engage their interest, they often struggle to perform well and remain focused. This is largely because many of the rote or automatic skills needed to perform routine tasks require more focused attention for individuals with dyslexia. This need for heightened attention can be difficult to sustain unless there are things about the job that are especially interesting. When work heightens interest and mood, dyslexics typically respond with greater creativity and performance.

Absolutely, like most people I assume but I guess I actively find my mind drifting away to more interesting things. Focus is difficult when not in my wider area of interest. I mean I’m curious about lots of things, so its really got to be something poor/bad for me.

A third key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they focus on results rather than on methods. Many of our interviewees mentioned that they often perform tasks in unconventional ways—frequently of their own devising. For example, more than half told us that they solved math problems differently from how they were taught by using unconventional methods that made more sense to them.

This is something I’ve known for a long while, I can’t help but find alternative ways to do things. This is why if you tell me a task without the bigger context/picture I find it frustrating as hell. I’m always thinking about the final impact not the individual steps to get there. Those are just details to me. Reminds me of Do you have humility, a sense of craft and can you hustle?

Jobs that allow flexibility can open the door to success for dyslexics. It’s often while devising new methods for routine tasks that dyslexics come up with innovative approaches that save time, effort, and expense and improve outcomes for everyone.
[…]
There is evidence that this kind of flexibility is often more easily found in positions very near the top or the bottom of the structures of large organizations but in shorter supply in the middle. Professor Julie Logan has found that although many large corporations have CEOs with dyslexia, fewer than 1 percent of middle managers in such firms are dyslexic.

Now this is very interesting detail… Be interesting to look into the stats for the BBC via the BBC’s Neurodiversity project.

Some large companies, like his former employer Intel, manage to maintain their flexible attitudes despite their size. Douglas Merrill also told us that supporting this diversity in thinking styles was one of his primary goals as chief information officer at Google. Douglas worked hard to give employees the greatest possible flexibility in choosing the work habits and technologies that allowed them to be their most productive. When a company shows this kind of flexibility, it’s likely to be a good fit for individuals with dyslexia. Of course, there’s no employer that can provide more flexibility than oneself, which is one reason why so many dyslexics start their own businesses.

And theres a long long list of successful dyslexic entrepreneurs. Interestingly the guardian piece pretty much says the same thing as I read in the dyslexic advantage.

Its a great book, I do wish it was more dyslexic friendly to read but the content is certainly incredible.

Reading the dyslexic advantage at last

The Dyslexic Advantage
At long last I started reading or rather listening to The dyslexic advantage. I’m totally blown away by what I’ve been reading. I mean I knew most of this but the science behind it and how it can be a super power; has literally shocked and moved me. I have written about my own dyslexic a few times including in everyday life, in the media and my thoughts about how it may affects relationships.

From the very start the book sets its agenda, to look at dyslexia strengths and less about its weaknesses…

Most books on dyslexia focus on problems with reading and spelling. While these problems are extremely important, they’re not the only—or even the most important—things that individuals with dyslexia find critical for their growth, learning, and success.
As experts in neuroscience and learning disabilities, we’ve worked with hundreds of individuals with dyslexia and their families. In the process we’ve found that individuals with dyslexia often share a broad range of important cognitive features. Some of these features are learning or processing challenges—like difficulties with reading and spelling, rote math, working memory, or visual and auditory function. But others are important strengths, abilities, and talents; gifts we call the dyslexic advantage. While these features differ somewhat from person to person, they also form recognizable patterns—just as the different musical works of Mozart are distinguishable yet recognizably the work of the same composer.

Theres many paragraphs but I wanted to share some of the key ones I’ve read so far. The whole book focuses on M.I.N.D strengths, which are the 4 key strengths dyslexics share or in parts.

I personally have a strong amount of all 4. They are not saying its only dyslexics which have them but much more likely and much more strongly. Think of them like the Big 5 personality traits rather than Myers-Briggs types.

  • M-Strength for Material Reasoning, which is primarily reasoning about the position, form, and movement of objects 3D space
  • I-Strengths for Interconnected Reasoning, which is primarily the ability to spot, understand, and reason about connections and relationships (e.g., analogies, metaphors, systems, patterns)
  • N-Strengths for Narrative Reasoning, which is primarily the ability to reason using fragments of memory formed from past personal experience (i.e., using cases, examples, and simulations rather than abstract reasoning from principles)
  • D-Strengths for Dynamic Reasoning, which is the ability to accurately predict using patterns derived through experience the future or the unwitnessed past

The I, N & D Strengths are very much a key part of me (M too, but maybe a little less so). I always seen the world in one massively connected ecosystem. Everything is connected and its hard trying to explain to others how it all meshes together.

Patterns are observed and seem to stick in my mind. They seem to exist as a narrative or at least are stronger as narrative. This is extremely useful when finding my way places again unfolds as a narrative rather than a map or directions.

For dyslexic brains, excellent function typically means traits like the ability to see the gist or essence of things or to spot the larger context behind a given situation or idea; multidimensionality of perspective; the ability to see new, unusual, or distant connections; inferential reasoning and ambiguity detection; the ability to recombine things in novel ways and a general inventiveness; and greater mindfulness and intentionality during tasks that others take for granted.
Nondyslexic brains often excel at applying rules and procedures in an expert and efficient manner. Dyslexic brains often excel at finding “best fits” or at ad hoc problem solving.

I hadn’t really thought about it this way but makes so much sense. Maybe this is why Art just makes sense for me. Its also clear a gist, conversation, sentence or just a word can spring tons of connected thoughts. For example the idea of “local evil” which was a title for a event had my mind cycling for weeks.

The cluetrain manifesto is another example, from the 95 rules I could almost tell the thesis as a complete narrative without reading any of them. My favourite being #7 Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

The power of Interconnected reasoning lies in its ability to link all of an individual’s knowledge, ideas, and mental approaches into an integrated conceptual matrix. This integrated matrix is incredibly powerful because it allows objects of thought to be approached from many different angles, levels, and perspectives, so they can be seen in new ways, related to other phenomena, and understood in a larger context. The three core skills, or I-strengths, that help form this conceptual matrix are the abilities to detect relationships between different objects of thought, the ability to shift perspectives or approaches, and the ability to reason using a global or top-down perspective.

Can’t tell you how useful this is, its sometimes hard when explaining to others different angles or the bigger picture. Maybe this is why the end of interstellar just made such sense and I actually use it in a few presentations.

Variations not versions
While talking about D-strengths and the incredible power of insight, this point was made.

“Given a problem and an hour to solve it, we typically spend the first three minutes intuiting the answer, then spend the other fifty-seven backtracking . . . to check our results through data collection and deductive logic.” According to Sarah, this intuitive approach “functions in leaps rather than by neatly ratcheting intervals” and is “less lineal than iterative or circular.”
This intuitive approach—used very heavily by individuals with dyslexia who excel in Dynamic and Narrative reasoning—can be very powerful, but it does present a problem: when viewed from the outside it can look an awful lot like goofing off.

Absolutely… Its always painful to backtrack and explain the leaps in thinking. I know its a important part of the scientific process but it doesn’t stop it being not the way our minds are wired.

To be honest, I felt like its not just the education system which is trying to kick this out of us but also society. Partly if you look at the systems which surround us and who is writing them.

One day at work she was standing by her office window staring serenely out at the mountains while trying to let her mind “ease itself around a problem.” Her CFO walked by her door, looked in, and saw one of “his people” staring out the window, so he snapped at her to get back to work. Sarah calmly replied, “You work in your way, I’ll work in mine. Now stop interrupting me.” Sarah later wrote of this episode, “What this CFO didn’t know was that staring into space is precisely how we work. It is our capacity to throw our brains into neutral and let connections assemble . . . that makes it possible for us to see connections that others can’t. We relax into the work.”

I can’t tell you the disbelieve some people have around me working in the northern quarter. The different buzzy environment completely changes the way I think, like staring out the window or being less focused.

This need for patient reflection can also create enormous problems at school, where time for reflection is in critically short supply. Try convincing a teacher that staring out the window is how you work best or that “getting busy” means you’ll get less done. Yet this passive and reflective approach really is a valid problem-solving method, and there’s plenty of scientific evidence to support its validity and effectiveness. In the research literature, this method of problem solving is referred to as insight.

Absolutely… Says it all! Always said hours does not equal effort. I’m personally more effective late at night, when I’m in a more relaxed state and have room/space to think wider and larger. There was a period when I found it hard to sleep because my mind just buzzed away.

Although insight-based problem solving is very powerful, because much of its connection-making process takes place outside the person’s conscious awareness, it can often seem second-rate, mystical, shoddy, or even slightly disreputable. But there’s an observable neurological mechanism underlying insight that’s been well worked out over the last decade by researchers.

Yes insight is always seen as hooky, non-scientific or a joke. There is a large section debunking insight as this but its well worth a blog post on its own. But I think this is a fitting end to insight discussion.

…As teachers, parents, co-workers, and bosses, we need to be watchful for individuals who frequently reach the right results through insight, and when we find them we need to treat their different reasoning style with the seriousness it deserves. Not all staring out the window is productive reasoning, but quite a lot is; and it’s important to understand that some people—including many of the most creative—really do need to “relax into their work.”

I haven’t even finished the Dyslexic advantage but I’m already raving about the book. Its clarified many things and given much more fuel for the things I kind of knew was true but found hard to explain. Gaining deductive logic or insight about my insight (ha!)

This is the kind of book with some tweaking could be a very powerful book for young dyslexic children growing up. Its a little inaccessible but the audio book is great and having both really works.

Dyslexia, creativity and diversity

The advert that caused controversy, asking for dyslexic people

I am a subscriber to the codpast which is a excellent podcast about dyslexia and dyspraixa. Almost every episode is great and I started going through the back catalogue a while ago. There are some suprises like how I kind of warmed to Peter Stringfellow (I never thought I ever would).

But the most recent one really got me rewinding once I finished in the shower (I tend to listen to podcasts in the morning while getting ready for work)

Creativity is often seen as the preserve of artists, musicians and writers, but Chris Arnold, founder of ad agency The Garage, sees creativity as an essential aptitude needed to make it in the world of business.

With dyslexia and creativity tightly linked, Chris put his money where his mouth is and courted controversy when he posted a job ad stating, ‘Only dyslexics need apply’!

 

I wish there was a transcript but its such a great listen…

What do I make of the advert? Well the word “Should” makes all the difference in my mind. If they said they would “only” accept dyslexic people that would be rightly breaking equality law. The law which is setup to help.

 

Neurodiversity as a superpower?

I always loved the idea of the listening project and of course took part in it myself with the lovely Kate. The editors enjoyed the last part of conversation, which we still haven’t actually gone through with yet?

It was Kate who included me in this tweet about Leanne and Eloise talking about dyslexia as a superpower. Something I’m fully behind being dyslexic and living in a world of the neurotypical.

The Dyslexic advantage is quite something, along with the videos; in this regards. I remember Malcolm Gladwell getting a lot of attention for saying something similar in his book David and Goliath. Desirable difficulty, I believe were the words.

It’s slightly ironic, when reading about the sperm donation place which was turning away dyslexic men. I’ve also been thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of telling young children about their superpower. Can this be a good or bad thing? It’s really hard to say, especially because I don’t have kids, so have no skin (as such) in the game. But of course it doesn’t stop me from chipping in with something anyway.

I was talking with a colleague recently and we were talking about the joy of seeing neurodiverse people doing what comes naturally, instead of trying to fit in with the neurotypical view. For example, I write as I talk, this isn’t the way you write… lots of people tell me. So I tried to adopt this, but in the end gave up knowing it simply was not the way which works for me. I am obviously a lot happier because of this but I’m still waiting for the technology to catch up.

Street art in Manchester's Northern Quarter

The colleague is a very visual thinker and prefers to communicate in pictures. One of the many great things I seen is this person writing emails using gifs and very little text. Its sounds nuts but it works so well and I’ve started wondering why this doesn’t happen more often? I mean Emjoi’s are becoming more common place, I seen Gif usage increasing in spaces which support them like Instant messaging, Twitter, Slack, etc. I even have a task to install a few apps so I can create my own.

Media which expands human communication and curiosity?

Superpower or magic

How about that for a superpower?!

Dyslexia the reality of daily life…

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I had drafted this blog for a while now and rewrote it a few times, then I read Chris’s blog post about Aspergers and decided it was time  to post it and be done thinking about it. I’m split the post up. This one about daily life. The other about love. Of course they both intersect.

I am a proud dyslexic, I came out (as such) along time ago and even have it in my blog subtitle. I write openly, hoping this will encourage the many other dyslexics and generally more neurodiverse people to come out (in lui of a better word).

From the start

I always knew I was different when I couldn’t spell short words, the lessons made little sense and I was easily distracted by other stuff. The words had a code/pattern which made no sense to me. By the time of primary school, it was clear something was different about me.I couldn’t follow peoples voice directions without translating it into a map or something visual.

Tying laces, ties or knots was a small nightmare mainly due to trying to remember which hand is left and which is right. Because of this I became slightly ambidextrous which would confuse things further

My primary school  did send me for dyslexia testing but I never finished it and so my dyslexia wasn’t officially diagnosed till over 10 years later at Ravensbourne College while trying to write my final year dissertation. This means I had no help, allowances or support all the way through secondary school and most of my college life.

Reading was also difficult for two reasons. The line lengths and the words. My mum would regularly take me and my sister to the local library and I managed by reading lots of non-fiction.

In that period of time, the seed was set in my mind and I read up about dyslexia and found coping mechanisms which centred around using computers to remember everything I couldn’t remember or spell. I bought a  2nd hand HP 200LX pocket computer with my saved up paper round money and used for lots of things. That was my first and I followed that with the Compaq Areo and Ipaqs.

Time management

I am notoriously bad with time. But thats only half the story. The reason why I’m so bad is because I tend to pack a lot in. To give you an example.

I live all of about 10mins walk from the Piccadilly Station (the major station for Manchester) Knowing its only 10mins away I tend to leave about 15mins before the time of the train leaving, I should really leave 20mins before to be sure. But what typically happens is knowing I can make it in 10-15mins, I end up doing stuff right up to the last minute I can leave. Maybe I can send off a few more emails, put bleach in the toilets, empty the recycling, etc, etc. With that I end up rushing to catch the train.

The way I see time is more elastic than others and this does seem to be dyslexic trait.

Time management is very difficult, if not impossible for many Dyslexics.   This is not due to them being lazy, thoughtless or uncaring. Dyslexics are right-brain dominant thinkers and live in the present. The past and future belong to the left-brainers.

A Dyslexic tends not to look at their life in any kind of a systematic way. They are often called “free spirits”, “flighty” , “unfocused” or “easily distracted” .

Welcome to the flow

I also tend to get fully immersed  in things and tend to forget about time as I enter the flow state. Luckily the flow state tends to be with other people as we bounce ideas around.  So its not directly responsible for missing the train most of the time but there are many times when chatting with somebody or some people, that time will just slow down and I wont even realise what time it actually is, meaning I’ll miss the last train or bus home.

Flow is a interesting state and there are certain people I feel the flow with more than others. The other night at a party I was pleasantly surprised to meet a women who I suspected was dyslexic but look through her book shelf confirmed it. We talked till 3am and to be honest could have talked the rest of the night easily. Insert joke about two dyslexics in a cafe never leaving.

I’m curious about everything and find creative people  quite attractive (this is where the sapiosexual stuff comes). I do find people concreted in reality a bit boring and tend to ignore them a little. I find these people too straight-laced and too conformist for my thoughts. I am not conformist… I’m black, I’m dyslexic and a self confessed geek. I have found my as a bit of spokesperson for the all of those things at times in my life. People come to me with stereotypes in mind and I break them in half. I won’t lie, I kind of enjoy the look on their face when I challenge their stereotypes.

Know thy self is what they say, and to be honest through my life experiences I do know who I am.

Working with dyslexia

I feel my mind is consistently on the go, bouncing from concept to concept. A few people in the organisation, have said “we pay you to think” and I frankly that plays to my strengths.  I am so grateful to be in a job which fits but I know so many dyslexics people who struggle with their job positions.

BBC R&D is very academic and frankly I haven’t chosen a  academic course for my life. Luckily the research world is in the middle of being radically changed by the internet (like most things) and this means conceptual thinking and collaboration is better treasured. If I had applied to join the department in the past, my cv/application would have been binned. But I was adsorbed into the department with my position as BBC Backstage.

I find work is full of people who are bound by the tangible and my unique selling point is the intangible, forward thinking and the essential need to collaborate. This why I partly find academic papers interesting (building on other ideas) and ever-so backwards (why are they so hard to write?)

I have little time for non-collaboration, I actually think every project I have ever done in BBC R&D, have been done with an external organisation of some kind. Information security love me, as I use tools which have collaboration baked in. They must have a fit every-time I try something new but I do take security seriously and struggle through end user licence agreements to understand whats really going on.

Literacy, language and memory

This is the stuff everybody thinks about when they think about dyslexia but there’s other elements which you may not think about. Consistent with most dyslexics my short term memory is bad. Trying to remember a phone number, ip address or email is a little nightmare. I changed my voicemail to reflect this issue.

Reading out-loud from a book or text is a nightmare I don’t have to visit too much since leaving school. Sometimes I forget the problem till I get up and start reading. For example I read a chapter from my book in a get together and the feelings of trying to do it came flooding back. Its the reading and speaking outloud, its not being in front of a small number of people or talking. I do that all the time and learned to ditch speaker notes and find my own style which just happens to be best practice for presentations.

Learning a different language is painful to say the least. I don’t know if its a dyslexic trait but I have such a hard time trying that it seems almost pointless. Thankfully the technology has my back, as I found out in Tokyo.

The future is intangible

I am seriously blessed to born in a age where whats in your head isn’t a sign of intelligence. However not everybody has got the message yet.  The nature of business has changed and being authentic and collaborative is key. Its also very clear a diverse workforce is better than a monolithic workforce.

I met a woman once who wrote a academically sound paper as a series of videos. She passed her PhD with the series of videos and her fight to get it accepted is something I’m not unaccustomed to.

I’ve had to fight for many things in my life and to be honest I will never go down without a fight. Being dyslexic is a card which I was dealt and there are advantage and disadvantages. Especially when it comes to my social and love life…

Could I imagine life not being dyslexic? Heck no!

(To be continued soon…)

The ragged state of dyslexic help in Manchester

Skies above Manchester

I hadn’t heard of Ragged talks but I was convinced to go as there was a talk about Making Manchester a Centre of Excellence for Dyslexia.

Ragged events are about getting together in social spaces, putting our feet up, breaking bread, and enjoying learning something new.

I like to think of Ragged talks as something between BarCamp and Tedx. Its certainly not as grand as a Tedx but much more pulled together by the community like a Barcamp. Their ethics and guidelines are well thought out too. But its single track and can be about anything interesting, theres also food and its free just like a barcamp.

I skipped Technights to attend Ragged talks and the two talks were certainly interesting.

Roger Broadbent gave the first talk – Making Manchester a Centre of Excellence for Dyslexia. It was shocking to hear how bad Manchester is for dyslexia support. It all seems to come from one man who use to be at the top…

A Labour MP has claimed dyslexia is a myth invented by education chiefs to cover up poor teaching (BBC 2009).

Backbencher Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley, describes the condition as a “cruel fiction” that should be consigned to the “dustbin of history”.

He believes the reason many children cannot read and write properly is that the wrong teaching methods are used.

But Charity Dyslexia Action said the condition was “very real” to the 6m people in the UK affected by it.

Writing in a column for the website Manchester Confidential, Mr Stringer said millions of pounds were being wasted on specialist teaching for what he called a “false” condition.

Also in the Guardian (2009). Shocking stuff, and it seems to have caused a chilling effect on Manchester schools and support. Of course theres many people trying to reverse (small and large) this but I haven’t seen this level of ignorance in a long long time.

The second talk was about slow TV its story and its surprises… or as I prefer it ambient TV. I have heard of it and saw some of views following the BBC’s attempt at slow TV.

Surprisingly, it was quite interesting and started thinking about links to Perceptive Media. Quote of the night come from Tim Prevett while explaining why slow TV works….

Silence is better than bullshit

I enjoyed the Ragged talks and may end up doing a talk if they allow me. Always good to go new places and try new things, there seems to be a ton of events in Manchester to discover.

If I was offering advice to young dyslexics…

… what advice would I give…? Well first I would watch the video above!

This is a question I ask myself after reading the Guardian’s post about writing tips for dyslexic kids.  I think myself and Tom are pretty much in agreement, but here’s my thought alongside his top liners.

Tip 1: sometimes the things we struggle with can be the most rewarding.

I struggled with writing for many many years and now I write almost every single day and publicly. Many of non-dyslexics fear writing publicly but I do it for myself. Its hard when you get people picking holes in your own words but keep going it is very rewarding. Its the grit of getting knocked and coming back stronger, which will make you stronger in the future.

Tip 2: never be afraid to think visually.

Absolutely, and its important not to feel ashamed for thinking differently. You are gifted in many ways. visual and spacial thinking is beautiful and fascinating. The medium still needs to catch up but push it and make it work for you. I’m no longer waiting, I’m building it to suit me. You should do the same.

Tip 3: Try not to get annoyed and throw a book/custard pie/tantrum at anyone who corrects your reading*.

They just don’t understand and will never understand how painful it is having people corrected over and over again. Its not you being dumb, its only one disadvantage, in a massive arsenal of advantages. Feel better by doing something you love straight afterwards if you feel the need to get very upset.

Tip 4: don’t be afraid to surround yourself by what you love.

If you are not doing what makes you happy find ways to escape, ultimately it will make you unhappy. Treat it as a problem which needs to be solved in the most creative way you can. This also applies to people as well. If somebody is making you feel rubbish, tell them and if they still won’t listen, avoid them, basic communication till they change. Love is passion and underestimated by many

Tip 5: if anyone goes at your work with a red pen, grab it off them, snap it in two and throw it out of the window, then ask them to read what you have written, rather than correct it.

Absolutely! Recognise that its always easier to pick holes and correct than start. Put a blank piece of document/paper in front of them and ask them to start writing, see how they get on with the pressure. Conformity is boring and will make you ultimately unhappy.

Tip 6: poetry often works to a structure, you know that a certain line rhyme with another, it makes you think about words. It’s like the foundations of a house are laid out in front of you, and you have to add the walls and roof.

Poetry can be messed with, there is plenty of room for your creativity. The constraints are there to drive creativity not hinder it. Think on your feet and don’t try and emulate somebody else.

Tip 7: don’t be scared of a blank piece of paper, it’s the best thing in the world.

A blank paper, screen, wall, etc are a world of possibilities. Its waiting for your ideas and inspiration. Make your mark and never apologise for making a mark/your mark.

Tip 8: learn about what dyslexia is, read about it, you’ll find yourself going “I totally do that!” quite a lot. There are many others like you, all of them probably have felt isolated, stupid, like they didn’t belong at some point too.

There are others like you and me. If you understand the advantages and disadvantages, you can learn where you’re strengths and weaknesses lye. There are some great people who are dyslexic, but even better you can help others.

Tip 9: writing is about you, they are your thoughts, the things you have to say, and those can never be wrong.

No matter what people say, don’t feel the need to censor yourself and write personal things in somebody elses voice. Be creative with your words and don’t be ashamed when making up new words. Just put some quotes around it, like “thingybob” and then define it.

Tip 10: stop reading this and go write something amazing.

Agreed…  and never be ashamed of your writing and voice.. Anthony below further expands on the themes above…

Phone Etiquette for Dyslexics

I kind of hate voicemail (who doesn’t) but mine are for different reasons. Dyslexia Victoria sums it up perfectly

As a Dyslexic I have issues with different aspects of verbal and written language.  One of my pet peeves is people leaving phone messages. Callers have a tendency to start their message by saying their name quickly, launch into their message which can go on and on and then finish by saying their phone number so fast, it’s practically unintelligible.

I believe there are people who can catch these numbers but as a Dyslexic I am challenged trying to write numbers down in the correct order, especially phone numbers. I will usually get the first two and a couple more somewhere in the sequence of numbers and always reverse the two middle numbers in the last set of numbers. So for example:    1-800-346-0925 becomes –    1-8??-3??-?296

This means I now have to go back and play the message several times to get the name and phone number and some of the message. This drives me crazy..

Yes it drives me crazy too, so much that I changed my voicemail message to ask people to slowdown and repeat their number. I certainly concur with the suggestions…

Here are some suggestions for people leaving messages because you never know if the person writing the message down is numbers and word challenged.

  • When you begin say your name slowly and clearly, who you are with if applicable and your phone number.

  • Say the phone number slowly and clearly and then repeat it.

  • Keep your message short and clear

  • End your message with your name and phone number said slowly and clearly

HBO’s Rethinking Dyslexia

Somebody suggested I seek out HBO’s one hour special on rethinking dyslexia. The special is called the big picture movie and had me in slight tears to be honest.

From IMDB

Successful leaders in Business, law, and Politics reflect on their Dyslexic experiences as we follow the story of Dylan, a high school senior who is must overcome the challenges of Dyslexia to achieve his dream of getting into a competitive college. By following his journey as well as other children, we come to see how many myths and misconceptions there are about Dyslexia, and how it offers gifts as well as challenges. Recent findings in neuroscience reveal for the first time that Dyslexia is physiological challenge, and Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, top experts, explain how Dyslexia works and what the opportunities are. Written by bronyaur

And the two reviews are excellent too.

The film does a great job at allowing the viewer to understand many of the challenges faced by dyslexics. Most don’t realize what dyslexia really is and how many people it effects. I wish the film offered solutions or let people know that they can deal with dyslexia if their school teaches them correctly. People need to know that they can learn to read and spell much better if the proper method is used. Specifically the Orton-Gillingham method or the Wilson method works. Whole language method is an absolute failure for anyone with dyslexia or a dyslexia related issue. This film is inspiring for dyslexics but should be watched by all. Fight for your children. Don’t let the school systems label your kid as LD, instead make sure they know your kid is dyslexic, and as such needs specific OG methods to learn properly.

The documentary is excellent and I have already sent a link to my parents and sister. Hopefully give them more insight into how I think and go about things.

I recently bought the Dyslexia the advantage (although I got to say its not very dyslexic friendly from a quick look, so as usual I got the ebook version too) and am looking into different methods which I have never heard of including the the Orton-Gillingham method and  Wilson method. The more I learn, the more I wish I knew back when I was in school. There is a level of regret but like in the documentary my character was changed (maybe) for the better because of the mountains I had to climb as a result?

Relating to dyslexia

Albert Einstein - Dyslexic and most recognized and well-known scientists

I was reading wired.com’s post about Dyslexia from a while ago and it almost had me in tears on the tube today. Why? Because I related to so much of it, it was freaky.

Interconnected reasoning is another kind of strength. These connections can be relationships of likeness — analogies for example — or causal relationships, or the ability to shift perspective and view an object or event from multiple perspectives, or the ability to see the “gist” or big-picture context surrounding an event or idea. Many dyslexics work in highly interdisciplinary fields or fields that require combining perspectives and techniques gained from different disciplines or backgrounds. Or they’re multiple specialists, or their work history is unusually varied. Often these individuals draw the comment that they can see connections that other people haven’t seen before.

This is one of my biggest things. I see the world in a connected way (for example the post about the singularity and diversity) and I find it hard to explain to others but in my head it makes sense. The tools I’m told to use limit me and drive me insane (don’t get me started on having to separate my life and manage two calendars, thankfully I opted out of that crap)

Here comes one of those connections… I have been looking for a way to do collaborative mindmapping. I love google docs but a document is sometimes limiting. I have looked around and found quite a few commercial mindmapping tools but then I found mindmup which is open source. And with some experimentation the other day, I got it working with Google Drive in a realtime collaborative way. Expect more mind maps in the future now.

But back to that post…

Wired: Would you want to be dyslexic if you could choose to be?
Brock: Absolutely! It’s a phenomenal kind of wiring.

This one really got me. For all the people telling me I’m doing it wrong, correcting my writing, etc, etc… Its made me a stronger person. A person with a super strong personality, self confident about my own ability and weaknesses. I have to admit even with the hard time I got at home and at school, I wouldn’t change a thing. Its part of who I am, and I can’t imagine not being dyslexic.

I luckily grew up in the technological revolution meaning I could cope through reliance on technology. If I was a generation earlier, it would be a different story.

I do wonder what difference it would have made if I had been correctly diagnosed in junior school? Rather that 10 years later while doing my dissertation at Ravensbourne. The test of half a day was intense but finally the results were posted to me later and as I always knew, I was pretty badly dyslexic.

I’ll be keeping an eye on dyslexicadvantage as I’d certainly like to improve on my already quite unique skillset.

Dyslexie: A typeface for dyslexics

Following my post about the advantages of being dyslexic, Cristiano Betta finds this and sends me a link to Dyslexie

Talking to Dave and others about Dyslexic typefaces… They seem to have not taken off simply because there not free, which seems a real shame.

I was thinking how interesting it would be to hack this onto my Kindle…

Dyslexia the advantages…

People sometimes ask me, why do you put on your blog that your dyslexic?

Well I believe its got a lot of advantages… and of course disadvantages…

One of the strange advantages is the dyslexic-dar (modifying the gay-dar term). You seem to get a sense of when someone might also be even slightly dyslexic. There’s certain things people do and say which triggers the radar in my mind. Usually there’s a strange kind of infinity, and it might be down to familiarity of communication and habits.

Tom Pellereau, is one of the final 5 on this years UK apprentice, and I kind of warmed to him a bit. But I kept thinking theres something different about him, something familiar. It wasn’t till I watched the final 5 apprentice show, that it all clicked (clipped a piece from the show under fair use).

I do personally think I have the ability to think differently from other people

Tom and his mum are right, being dyslexic is an advantage when problem solving for example. You just think very differently about problems and don’t get hung up on the same issues. The way you view the world is very different and in a world where thinking outside the box is valued highly this is a precious way to view and model the world.

I can imagine even 30 years ago, this wouldn’t be an advantage but right now, it certainly is… I refer back to Bill Thompsons talk at Future Everything… Designing the future, this is certainly what I feel I’m doing. A world where my strengths are an advantage. Its somewhat empowering to see others dyslexic people embracing it and using it for there own advantage.

A while ago, after my bleed on the brain, the doctors looked at my dyslexia report from 2000. They said, I had been outpacing my projected overview by a long way and maybe the bleed might have set me back to how I was projected back then. If you know anything about me, you would read the report and say nahhh thats someone totally different, maybe they got the reports mixed up? But I think what the report doesn’t account for is the massive change in technology. Maybe without the technology things for me would be very different.

Thankfully I live in a world which somewhat values logic, abstract/intangible concepts and openness.

The ebook dilemma

My sister and I spoke on Skype the other day and I said to her I finally got around to reading What the Dog saw by Malcolm Gladwell which she bought for me about 2 years ago at Christmas. Yes about 2 years to read a book (of course it didn’t take that long in reality) but it did take a while in between all the other stuff I was doing. I guess I should have read it while I was in hospital last year.

She said she had watched a programme on BBC Three called Kara Tointon: Don’t Call Me Stupid. It was all about Dyslexia. And she had kind of got it. I had watched the same programme a while ago on demand and to be fair I did think it was going to be crap but actually it was pretty good, even though I had never ever heard of Kara Tointon, and to be slight blunt don’t really care.

I’m a hard person to buy presents for and of course I want to make it as easy as possible for loved ones to buy stuff for me if they would like to. Books are a regular choice but they usually end up on my book shelf and read by myself sometimes up to a year or so later. In actual fact I have a fantastic book which Si Lumb lent me a while ago around late Summer. called Last night a Dj saved my life. Its right by my bedside but I’ve never read more that 5 pages of it so far.

We talked about the possibility of ordering a ebook and sending it to me via Amazon’s Wispernet but it worries me. So far I’ve never bought a kindle book, just uploaded ebooks from elsewhere. My problem with ebooks is simply the DRM. Yes I have a kindle right now and there’s readers on most devices and platforms (no linux client by the way, but there is a web client now) but what happens when I don’t? What happens when Sony bring out a decent ebook reader which is colour and half the weight of the kindle (aka the weight of a feather) or maybe someone develops a foldable eink display… How am I going to move my books from the Kindle to what ever? On top of that, don’t even get me started on the sharing aspect….

So in light of this, I suggested to my sister that she should in future just get me Amazon gift tokens and I can use them for books or ebooks. Its not as personal/nice as buying a book but it also works and theres much more chance of me actually reading it.