I was diagnosed with dyslexia whilst in primary school at the age of seven. Dyslexia can manifest in many ways and therefore very much dependent upon the experience of the individual. A classic misconception by many is the condition is defined by the issues people experience with reading, writing and spelling. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg with regards to the “issues” a dyslexic person might experience - they are many and varied!
Whilst I do experience issues with reading, writing, and spelling I also experience problems with memory retention, as well as organising and expression of thoughts in written work. At school exams were my nemesis, and unfortunately for me my favourite subject history did not help matters as the subject is traditionally assessed via exams. My A-Levels grades were not great, and a careers officer suggested I should be less aspirational in my hope to do a history degree. However, with support of some amazing tutors I managed to get a place on a degree course in history and heritage management and would go on to complete 3 Masters degrees. Many people I meet are surprised to find out that I’m dyslexic, but what they are not aware is the perseverance and incredible hard work that goes into just keeping up to date.
Last year I was interviewed on the dyslexia life hacks podcast show Episode 21 – Ian Sudlow-Mckay on Dyslexia as a Librarian and taking 3 Master Degrees - Dyslexia Life Hacks
As I have mentioned, dyslexia can affect more than a person’s ability to read, spell, and write and while these are factors I have to deal with on a daily basis. Find it hard to listen and maintain focus, concentrate if there are distractions which can create sensations of mental overload and make some tasks unexpectedly challenging, all of which can be a cause of deep frustration and distraction.
In addition to all this there are also emotional implications dealing with struggles on daily basis can cause fatigue and result in low self-esteem.
Throughout my life I have developed numerous coping strategies to help me get through day-to-day life at work. My top tips to help get work done are:
- Assistive Software – I use a range of assistive software to help with my work including screen filters, read aloud and mind mapping.
- Pomodoro Technique - it is a time management method that uses a kitchen timer to break work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used as a university student.
- Progress Plans Problems (PPP) - is a management technique for status reporting, however I use it to reflect on any project work I am doing. I use the three Ps to:
- Progress: reflect on my accomplishments, finished items and closed tasks.
- Plans: think about goals and objectives for the next project/week/month/year.
- Problems: Identify tasks/items that are stuck and can't be finished. Problems often need help from someone else, such as my manager.
Heather Armstrong, Disabled Student Engagement Worker, Student Wellbeing and Inclusion
I am Heather Armstrong and I have worked in Student Wellbeing Inclusion since 2020.
I am neurodivergent, having lived with dyslexia my whole life but did not get a diagnosis from an educational psychologist until I was in my early 20s, when I was in university.
Edinburgh Napier University has always been a supportive place to work, I have worked with line manager to come up with ways of managing the signs of my dyslexia, which includes issues with reading, writing large pieces and time management.
Being part of Edinburgh Napier University community has also been useful in supporting my dyslexia being able to use the available assistive technology to staff and students, on AppsAnywhere.
I have always felt comfortable and confident talking about my dyslexia with colleagues at ENU, something that I often worried about after my diagnosis and when thinking about entering the world of work.
Wider opinion of dyslexia has changed over the years with dyslexic thinking now classed as a valuable skill. Dyslexic people are often good problem solvers, great at conversations and thinking outside the box - a wide range of great skills that neurotypical people might not have.
Maria King, Subject Librarian, Learning and Research Services
Being neurodivergent impacts my executive functioning skills, below are examples of these, what it means in practice, and what helps me whilst working at Napier.
Time management and estimation of time - I can find it challenging to estimate how long a task can take, meaning I often have to overestimate the time it will take to do something in order to avoid being late or running out of time to complete a task. Other things that help me include creating master, weekly, and daily to do lists, and adding all tasks to my calendar including deadlines for completing these. I also have an extensive colour coding system in my Outlook calendar so at a glance I can easily see all the different tasks I am doing in a certain day/week.
Staying on track on tasks and how distractions impact me – my mind is constantly jumping between different thoughts and so it is very easy to get distracted from what I am doing. If I need to focus and concentrate I close down applications where notifications might pop up e.g. Outlook. At Napier it is also good that I am able to have my Teams and calls set to voicemail, which again removes distractions when I am teaching or focusing on a specific piece of work. Working from home is also really beneficial for me as I find the office environment very difficult to focus in sometimes as there are so many distractions out of my control.
Sequencing of tasks and procedures – complicated tasks with lots of different steps or tasks with set procedures can be more challenging for me to complete. Breaking complicated tasks down into separate tasks and stages and working through these as separate individual tasks is really helpful. With procedures, having written documents/flow charts that I can refer back to is essential for me to follow procedures accurately.
The other main impact for me of being neurodivergent is the sensory environment, particularly noise and sounds as I am impacted by auditory processing challenges and sensitivities. This includes noises that may be quiet or unnoticeable to others sounds very loud to me which can be very distracting and make it impossible for me to focus on work, an example of these are clocks and working in an office that has an analogue wall clock that ticks. Multiple sounds in the background of the office environment are also competing for focus in my brain so again can really distract me from being able to focus on work. Hot desking in large shared offices makes this even more difficult as it makes the environment more unpredictable and less familiar for my brain to get used to and manage.