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Applying dyslexic strengths to your career

Friday 29 March 2024

Applying dyslexic strengths to your career

We asked successful dyslexic people what helped and hindered them on their route to their chosen careers.

Andrew Tumilson is a Registered General Adult Nurse, read his journey below.

Andrew Tumilson

Andrew Tumilson - Registered General Adult Nurse

What skills and strengths make you well suited to this work?

My work requires a combination of theoretical and practical learning. Clinical and academic knowledge is essential for nursing alongside advanced communication and interpersonal skills.

I’m a good communicator and a real people person. In my role it is essential to be approachable and to listen attentively to what people are telling me as I often need to advocate for them. I am analytical and have a solution focused approach.

Did you overcome barriers to make it in this field and what helped you do that?

I wasn’t formally diagnosed with Dyslexia until my early 30’s. So, on reflection I can see that some of the challenges I endured at school and university were due to being dyslexia. I developed compensatory mechanisms from an early age, but without a diagnosis I missed out on having additional time to complete written work, use of coloured paper, and getting handouts/presentations in advance and these would have been beneficial.  Access to assistive technology especially dictation software would also have helped me. I have had difficulties in navigating some of the support required for reasonable adjustments for the workplace, as neurodiverse challenges are not always visible.

I think that being passionate about my profession and nursing has motivated me to find ways to learn and develop throughout my career.

What might have made your pathway into your job easier?

Earlier diagnosis and access to the right interventions would have helped me in education and the workplace and given me access to assistive technology and extra time for written work too. Plus, access to a local dyslexia support group for adults so that I could receive signposting and guidance to help me at home and at work.

How do you think dyslexic strengths could be better celebrated in your profession?

Everyone who lives with a neurodiverse condition is an individual. Whilst there may be some similarities for neurodiverse individuals, equally there are vast ranges of differences and therefore it is important to focus on each person’s individual strengths.

It is important that the nursing profession recognises that neurodiversity can bring many strengths collectively and individually. This may include problem solving skills, practical solutions to complex problems, the attention and level of detail to specific areas of practice, improving and undertaking research. These interpersonal skills are essential to the foundations and fundamentals of the nursing profession.

The integration of reasonable adjustments in the workplace not only provides benefits and support to the employee, but also has a positive impact upon colleagues and professionals in the team. Providing adjustments helps to foster a culture within an organisation of celebrating the diversity of the workforce, promoting inclusivity, and challenging any stigma that might exist.

What would you say to young people with dyslexia considering training for your job?

Always Seek Knowledge and don’t be afraid to ask for help, Prepare early for examinations and assignments alongside clinical placements. It is also essential to provide feedback on your experience. Using your own coping mechanisms and strategies in combination with assistive technology both in university training and in clinical practice may be helpful. Over time you will discover what works best for you.

Be aware of support that is available – Occupational Health, Disability Services, charities like the British Dyslexia Association, Government bodies such as the Access to work scheme.