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My Dyslexia Story: Paul Millar

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Growing up, I didn’t speak until I was four years old. In primary school in Scotland, I struggled with reading and times tables. I was introverted because I felt different from my peers. When I was eight years old, my family moved to England, and I attended the same school where my aunt was a teacher. She recognized that I had difficulties and took time out of class to teach me.

Although she was strict and I didn’t appreciate the extra lessons outside of school at the time, her help made a difference. Another strict teacher at the same school also took time to help me understand the material.

Neither of them diagnosed me with dyslexia, but they both knew that I had difficulties and gave me the best chance in life.

My education level plateaued at the end of middle school. In high school, I faced new challenges. On my first day, I walked into a classroom where kids were jumping on tables and play-fighting - a stark contrast to the strict middle school I had attended.

The teacher gave us an assignment to write about ourselves on an A4 sheet of paper. My classmates were noisy and talking while I tried to concentrate on writing. At the end of class, we handed in our papers and my form teacher stopped everyone from leaving to say “This is what Paul Millar deems as an hour’s work” while holding up my paper which only had 1/4 of a page written on it.

From that moment on, he belittled my work and my classmates saw me as open game for bullying. Eighteen months into high school, I snapped and fought two of my bullies - and won.

I went from being seen as a thick weirdo to being one of the cool kids. The bullying stopped but I became a bit of a jerk - giving my form teacher hell but never being rude to other teachers. However, I was disruptive in class and got countless suspensions and even got into trouble with the police.

When I was 15 years old, they put me in a special education class where I was finally diagnosed with dyslexia. I left school at 15 after getting into more trouble and drifted for years with no GCSEs - as my form teacher described me as “a no-hoper”.

I went from factory job to factory job for a few years. But because I am not as fast at catching on, and get my words wrong, I always felt I got passed over for promotion to more intelligent people, who had the ability to communicate better.

But I always wanted more so I taught myself tech skills and became a programmer - working on systems and POCs for companies like Microsoft Bing, MOD, Royal Mail, Legoland etc.
Recently, I worked as a software developer at a law firm where the third-party software they used had scope for improvement so I set up The Legal Pro – a company that has been accepted onto the Microsoft Start-up program thanks to amazing technology like Microsoft Bing AI which allowed me to articulate my software professionally. The start-up is in its early stages but will aim to actively recruit talented and creative neurodivergent individuals when the time comes to join The Legal.

My advice for someone who has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia:

You have to do things on your own, it's a neuro-typical world that has very little sympathy for neuro-originals, I take a long time to get my head around something, but when I do, I have an array of creative, imaginative and clever ideas, I don't know if that is a cognitive superpower, or just compensation for my weakness in other areas, my advice, keep pushing yourself and use your imagination to think of different methods if something doesn't work, and although things are tough and you feel like there is no point, keep pushing anyway, and you will be great.

I want the world to know…

While society strives to be fair and inclusive, there are still challenges and disparities that need to be addressed. For example, while the prevalence of dyslexia in the general population is estimated to be around 10%, studies have shown that the prevalence of dyslexia among prisoners could be much higher. One study conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch in conjunction with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice found that the prevalence of dyslexia among prisoners was 48%. These statistics suggest that much more needs to be done to support dyslexic individuals and provide them with opportunities to succeed in society.