John McEvoy is a Senior Water Engineer who only found out he was dyslexic when he was in his 30’s. Here he eloquently describes how this has affected him and how he deals with the challenges this brings in working life.
Dyslexia is a disability that is getting more and more diagnosed every day. It is one of the most common disabilities in the world but also one that can’t be cured. It is something that one must live with and change their working life to suit. It affects your ability to store information, unless like someone who doesn’t suffer from dyslexia. There are a few famous faces out there that are dyslexic, such as Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson and Albert Einstein, just to name a few.
Dyslexia is something that I had never heard off until a line manager in a previous employment stated that I could be dyslexic, after reading an email I had prepared. Asking me to review dyslexia using the internet, I asked him “how do you spell that?” This was one of a lot of words that I have an issue spelling. I completed an online dyslexia assessment, from which I found to be very realistic and worrying. From my years in school, college, university and professional career, until I was diagnosed in my 30’s, I knew I was different especially at spelling, reading and writing. Only one teacher in secondary school understood that something wasn’t right, but back in the 1990’s dyslexia wasn’t very common, as it is today.
Completing a dyslexia exam, which took 4 hours, it was found that I was dyslexic, where my reading, writing and spelling was in the bottom 1 to 5 percentile for an adult. The average person should write between 22 to 25 words per minute, where my ability was found to be 12 words per minutes, well below the correct standard. My reading was slow and pronunciation/decoding of words were found to be in the bottom 5 percentile. My spelling was better but I was a bit angry when I spelt “Principal” incorrect and spelt it “Principle”, where one day I hope to be a Principal Engineer.
Dyslexia is where someone has difficulties in processing information and this is a daily struggle for me. Numbers have never being an issue, where letters just seem to go in one eye and straight out the other. To overcome this I print out a lot of information, which isn’t very sustainable, but it allows me to complete my works quicker and more effectively. I work many more hours than I should, to make up for the shortfall of being dyslexic. It can take me a long time to produce something, where someone can produce something in half the time. I don’t let it frustrate me, as I understand that dyslexia is a disability and no one is perfect.
In engineering one of my biggest issues, which was identified in my dyslexia exam, was problem solving, where you have to think outside the box. Identifying solutions to problems is a major obstacle I have had to overcome, which I still struggle with sometimes. To overcome this issue I use a red pen and some paper. The colour red is clearer than any other colour, and helps me take in information, where other colours don’t. I only use a red pen for all work activities, as this allows me to be more effective in my work.
Over the past 6 months with COVID-19, and how our working environment has changed for the foreseeable future, I have had to adapt to this. I have found this very difficult, especially starting a new secondment, where I have to understand and read a lot of different material. I have purchased a printer, so I can print and mark on information that I require. I have purchased a new phone, so I can use “Siri” in spelling words on a daily basis, and have used Siri 15 times in writing this article. These little things have made a huge different in how I can work more effective, and able to get into a routine.
I have found that dyslexia has slowed my progression in my professional career, but as I am a strong individual who enjoys life, I don’t let it hold me back. I have had to build on my strengths, while focusing on my weaknesses, so that I can improve them. Writing articles like this has been a slow and lengthy process, where I need to read and rewrite a sentence 3 to 4 times for it to make sense. It is like my brain is saying one thing but my fingers are saying something completely different. It is something that I have got used to in recent years.
I am still trying to understand myself everyday with dyslexia, while making the best of a bad situation to deal with this disability, but taking one day at a time.