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My Dyslexia Story - Dr Chris Bushby

Tuesday 25 April 2023

Having been Chief Executive of two leading organisations for over 25 years, a Chair of several Boards and with three honorary doctorates, certain assumptions are made of you. But many will have no idea that some days I can find it difficult to even write my own signature.

My dyslexia journey

I was fortunate to have been diagnosed as dyslexic when I was eight or nine. At the time dyslexia wasn’t recognised and I was considered ‘backward’.

My parents recognised that there was something more complex about the way I learnt and took me for a diagnostic testing, which confirmed a dyslexia diagnosis.

At senior school I also benefited from the support of four fantastic teachers who recognised my abilities. I finished school at Debenham High as Head Prefect, House Captain and Head Librarian, which is ironic as I have hardly ever read a book!

The highs, the lows and some self discovery

Undeniably there have been barriers. As part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme I undertook a placement at a veterinary practice in Framlingham. I loved it! They thought I had promise to become a vet, but because of the academic qualifications and lack of recognition of dyslexia at that time, it wasn’t a possibility.

Instead I spent three years in the army in the Coldstream Guards, which enabled a route into university on my return. On graduation, I was privileged to be awarded the top student of the university. By this time there was a greater understanding of dyslexia.

I am a black belt, 3rd Dan in Judo. This practise and resulting achievements, competing on a national and international stage, helped my personal development and an understanding of what I am capable of.

Play to your strengths

I urge those with dyslexia and those around them to never consider it a disadvantage but to have self-belief instead.

You develop your own personal strategies to cope and play to your strengths. For example, I couldn’t write or read well, I see words as shapes, but I could think and speak. I was the only pupil at the time to have been awarded 20/20 in my oral English exam. My speech was on ferreting, and I took in my pet ferret. The external examiner had to hold him while I did my oral exam and didn’t take any notes!

Dyslexia in the workplace: My advice

As a business leader, it is important to build a team around you with the skills to help you succeed. All work places today should have a culture where everyone has an awareness of learning difficulties and the challenges they may present.

Those with learning differences should be fully supported with additional help as required. Simple changes can make a big difference, such as changing communication methods and using audio more frequently. Everyone should be given a chance and I am pleased to say this is certainly the case at Big C.

Like a lot of dyslexics, I have a good memory, I am good at problem solving and seeing the big picture. Technology has been a game changer. I use dictation software on my phone, spell checking and find models and other visual tools, such as PowerPoint very helpful.

The support given should never be patronising, diversity within teams is extremely beneficial to an organisation and can bring a different dimension to thinking and creativity.