I’d like begin by asking you three simple questions:
- How many people with dyslexia do you work with on a weekly basis?
- How much do you actually know about dyslexia?
- What could be the positive impact on your organisation of understanding dyslexia better?
Over the past few years, York Associates has been working with schools and businesses to raise awareness of a condition which affects ten to fifteen per cent of the population. In doing so we have been helping raise these organisations’ effectiveness through offering practical techniques to get the most out of everyone. This year we’ve worked specifically with educators from right across the European Union and beyond, and one of the beneficial things we found is that the more people and the more cultures we have worked with, the more knowledge and the more varied ideas we have shared. In essence, the more we have worked to raise awareness, the more of our own awareness has been raised in the process.
So what have we all learnt from this experience?
The first thing is – as we might have expected – that different cultures have very different attitudes towards dyslexia. This can affect not only the way we look at the condition, it can affect the value we place upon trying to understand it. In a competitive world, where educators as well as businesses are trying to stay one step ahead of their competition, this can have a massive impact on one organisation’s results compared with those of their rivals. So our message is that we should always pay attention to the attitudes we have towards dyslexia because it’s our attitudes which can give our working practices the edge.
Secondly, the very different education systems of different countries – even those within the EU – will have a huge influence on the abilities of schools and teachers to bring about change. Because of this, York Associates has started working with its participants to create frameworks for change, so that increased awareness brings practical results. Many of the people we have worked with have voiced their frustrations of attending courses in the past, only to find their hands tied when they returned to their schools. We believe that understanding goes hand-in-hand with action, and have focused our courses appropriately as a result.
Thirdly, while we don’t always realise it, we understand – in fact you might say we define – dyslexia relative to the aims and purposes of our organisations. Those who are involved in remedial services look upon dyslexia as a problem that needs to be overcome; while those who work in the creative industries look upon it as a highly desirable characteristic. The statistics may be dubious (it was recently incorrectly reported that over 50% of NASA workers were dyslexic) but the fact remains that NASA does choose dyslexic employees for their problem solving and cognitive abilities. So when we examine our own aims and purposes, we can understand better what dyslexia means – and needs to mean – to us.
From both a personal and professional point of view, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those I have worked with on the dyslexia awareness courses. Each and every participant has broadened my own understanding, helped increase my own knowledge, or challenged me to think about things in ways I hadn’t previously expected. And it’s this that allows our programme to constantly evolve in ways we hope meet the needs of our future groups.
Martin is the lead trainer on our course “Dyslexia in the teaching environment” (York Associates)