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Learn how Brian was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, that was missed in his childhood.
“As you can probably imagine, being a dyslexic engineer has not always been easy. Over time, attitudes and awareness to dyslexia are changing for the better, but there’s still too many people who aren’t diagnosed and won’t receive the support they need.”
I’m Brian, a retired engineer from Solihull. I’ve been a member of the IET and its former organisations since the 1980s, and I’m a proud STEM ambassador.
As a young child, I always struggled with English at school. I just didn’t get it, so I didn’t want to do it. In those days it didn’t matter as much as it does now, but it was nonetheless a challenge without any support available to help.
However, whilst I may not have been particularly skilled at English, I was always very good at visualising information. I think in pictures, and can visualise processes easily. So, after leaving school, I began a heavy manufacturing engineering apprenticeship with a machine tool company.
I worked hard and built up a fulfilling career and later progressed to a role with Land Rover, despite the difficulties I faced with communication and the lack of lack of support.
But in 2001, Land Rover launched a scheme where they wanted staff to be degree qualified.
I found this terrifying. I had to do it, but with all the writing and emails that come with studying for a degree, it was a huge challenge for me.
Getting my diagnosis
I have a brother who was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 14 whilst he was still at school. My experience studying for my degree caused me to reflect on all the other difficulties I’d faced throughout my career and early life, and I began to wonder if I could be dyslexic myself.
So, I decided to see if I could get some answers, and went for a 2.5-hour assessment. The assessor told me I had severe dyslexia, and was amazed I’d been coping as well as I had.
Now I had the answer as to why I was struggling so much. In one sense it was like a weight had been lifted, but I also felt very frustrated it hadn’t been picked up on before so that support could have been put in place to help make things easier.
The assessor suggested that some assistive technology could help me with my communication, so my employer generously funded some voice recognition software called Dragon.
But, whilst it seemed like a good idea, the reality was the in-house IT team weren’t familiar with the software, and consequently installing and using it wasn’t a smooth experience. Sadly too many IT departments lack the tools and understanding to check compatibility with assistive technology.
Using my experience to help people like me
I still feel very angry and let down sometimes that I wasn’t diagnosed sooner. I have no doubt that being able to access support earlier would have made a big difference in my life.
For this reason, I’m really passionate about helping neurodiverse people in STEM to make their voices heard, and get the support they need, when they need it.
That’s why I’ve volunteered with the IET since 2015 to support their neurodiversity network for members, and why I’m really pleased that Foothold are launching additional much-needed support for neurodiverse engineers.
There are so many barriers for people like me – the cost of assessments and assistive technology are just one aspect. But getting the right support really can transform someone’s life, whether they’re at the beginning of their career or retired. Employers also need to play a role in developing their knowledge and support for their neurodivergent employees so everyone can be accepted for who they are at work and at home.
Start #EngineeringYourWay today
If you’re struggling with dyslexia or dyslexia symptoms and it’s affecting your day-to-day life, we might be able to help. To find out more about our Engineering Neurodiverse Futures support programme, join our Differently Wired Hub for free today.