The Horizons team has been thinking about how to ensure that our activities are accessible and inclusive for all. One example of this is the nurse ambassadors 30 Day Challenge which focused on celebrating diversity and valuing difference

On Tuesday we supported the first NHS England and NHS Improvement webinar by the Disability and Wellbeing Network (DaWN) for #DyslexiaAwarenessWeek. Erica Ottley, Kate Pound, Rosie Redstone, Chris Dempsey and Ruth May joined together in sharing their stories. Ruth's experience is captured below and look out for Rosie's blog soon!

The key theme from the virtual session was that there is so much support available in different forms, so if you're struggling and think you might have dyslexia, or can see someone struggling at work or home, please take a look at the DaWN webpages and/or contact The British Dyslexia Association.

Dyslexia – be proud of your difference by Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England

"I was diagnosed with dyslexia last year. I long had a suspicion that something was not quite right. For example, I have always found large amounts of reading and blocks of text quite daunting and, if papers are tabled late for a meeting, I can find this quite disruptive.

But I must confess it took a lot of courage to face up to the fact there may be an issue. Finally, I sought advice from my team who were fantastic. They set me up with a dyslexia assessment and provided the support I needed when the results came in – something I found surprisingly emotional. 

In the first instance it made me question myself and my abilities – did this mean I was stupid? The news took some time to digest, but soon enough I felt a great wave of relief that the challenges I have experienced have a reason and a name.  And, as with any diagnosis, this is the point we start to find out how we can tackle the problem.

So why do we react to dyslexia like this? With denial, embarrassment, even shame? I am afraid there is a long-standing stigma attached to this condition. It is the reason why I didn’t want to admit there was a problem, the reason I was worried about having an assessment, the reason why so many of us don’t talk about this in the workplace. I believe we don’t talk because we are worried it will damage our reputation at work and impede our chances to progress. 

We need to change how people think.  Research shows there are particular strengths common to those with dyslexia - these include reasoning, problem solving, emotional intelligence, and creativity. Generally, we have strong visual, verbal and creative skills, we are good listeners and questioners. Perhaps these are the reserves we have to compensate for shortfalls we may have in reading, spelling or numeracy?  Whatever they are, they can give us the edge in many work situations and make our difference something to be harnessed and to be proud of, rather than embarrassed by. Made By Dyslexia has some excellent resources including fact sheets and case studies which demonstrate the many strengths of having dyslexia.

We need to create the conditions to help people to speak up and be proud of these differences in the workplace. We need leaders and managers to start the conversation; to encourage people to talk and get assessments and then find out what we can do to fulfil the potential they have for themselves and our organisations.

I hope that by sharing my experiences, including this conversation with Marcella Brown, I can give confidence to people who may suspect they may have dyslexia.  Confidence to speak up and to encourage colleagues to do so too.  Finally – I am still on a learning curve.  If there are things I should be aware of, or could be doing more of, please let me know – find me on twitter @CNOEngland."

For further information contact The British Dyslexia Association.