DYSLEXIA AWARENESS WEEK 2023
How Dyslexia opened the door to my creativity
Sweco author: Katy Pointer, Internal Communications Manager
For a lot of my adult life, I’ve suffered with depression. It’s plagued me for years and it’s held me back in my career. A lot of it stems from the feeling of failure and not achieving things in life. Here’s how my dyslexia diagnosis has not only explained the way I feel and react to situations…but also became the key to the door of my creativity.
Through my working life, I’ve received a lot of criticism (as have many people). However, I don’t tend to react in the way an average person would. The best way I can describe it is, like being thrown in a vortex. There have been times I’ve been sucked in so far, I’ve struggled to get out. This has really held me back in my life and my career.
Where was I falling down?
I’ve been struggling with a recurring problem of being criticised for not paying enough attention to detail in my work. It’s frustrating because I always put in my best effort and never take shortcuts. I strive to be thorough and make sure everything is done correctly. It’s hard to understand why people would think otherwise.
I remember when I first got my role as Internal Communications Manager at Sweco, I was excited, but I had an underlying concern that I wouldn’t be able to write on demand. This fear was realised in the early months of my role. It became clear that in this role my challenges with attention to detail were an issue.
I developed a strong form of OCD when it came to checking my work. It could result in my proofreading something up to 16 times before actually submitting it. Then I would feel frustrated when inaccuracies were missed. I was distressed by the scrutiny and criticism I would receive, which led to a negative self-image. It was assumed I wasn’t bothering to check my work, whereas in fact, it was the opposite. In my role I knew accuracy was so important.
It’s so strange because when I was at school, I was always good at English and Maths. In fact my stories and poems were always read out to the class by the teachers, and I always got high grades in Maths. I don’t know what happened.
Sweco are real advocates of diversity and inclusion. In my role, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some very interesting people who have neurodiverse conditions and I’ve learnt a lot. What was interesting was that, through these interviews, I started recognising common traits in myself – I do things like that; I worry about things like that – I thought, there is a deeper story here and maybe I should seek help.
So, I reached out and our HR team arranged for me to be referred to the British Dyslexia Association to explore and better understand the strengths and challenges I face in my work and the day-to-day activities.
In May I did an intense set of testing. I wasn’t told what each individual test was for, so I kept an open mind.
The dyslexia diagnosis was a revelation – it explained a lot to me about my struggles throughout my adult life and how that linked to my depression. I had been at a crossroads for most of my life and now I had a clear path to follow and knew what I needed to do.
Katy Pointer Internal Communications Manager at Sweco
It was confirmed – I had dyslexia
This was a revelation – it explained a lot to me about my struggles throughout my adult life and how that linked to my depression. I had been at a crossroads for most of my life and now I had a clear path to follow and knew what I needed to do.
Since finding this out my whole perception of life has changed. It’s like someone gave the combination to the lock on the creativity door in my brain – finally I could see the numbers in the right order. Once I opened that door my creativity returned. It was like when I was at school. I no longer shy away from writing articles and I’m now able to write on demand.
The great thing about having dyslexia in today’s world is that there are so many tools out there that can help you. I now know the right tools to help me to be good at my job. I realised that, it wasn’t that I couldn’t write – I’d just lost all my confidence.
Great tools for dyslexic minds
In an interview I worked on for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, a colleague mentioned a tool he used called Grammarly. I checked it out and I now use it on a regular basis for checking my work. I just put my text in, and it proofreads if for me. One thing I like is that it highlights when I’ve written a word several times – something I wouldn’t’ always pick up on when I was proofreading my own work.
Another great tool I’ve discovered is ‘immersive reader.’ Now when I proof my work, I get someone to read my story back to me and it’s so clear where the mistakes are.
When I look back, I’ve always learnt by sound. When I was doing my French GCSE, I remember recording all of the phrases and conversations onto a cassette tape recorder (I know, I’m showing my age), and listening to them whilst I was getting ready in the morning. I actually did very well at French. I’ll always remember how to say – my car has broken down.
I often proofread aloud. I also learn scripts for shows I perform in outside work too. I record all the dialog (including the other characters) and listen to it in the car going to rehearsals. In my mind I’m visualising what’s going on in the scene.
I like to record Teams interviews so I can go back and listen again. I’ve also found working with transcripts a joy. The information is all there, I just need to edit and embellish.
I’ve since come to learn that these are dyslexia traits.
This is where visualisation comes in
Another thing I was always good at at School was art – my strengths were drawing and painting objects and scenes. I also had a particular flair for collages.
I remember one time I did a collage using small pieces of colour paper cut from magazine and created a jungle scene with a tiger peeking through the trees. I was really careful with the use of light and shade. However, one day I was devastated to see my collage had been put on the wall upside down. It didn’t look like anything. It didn’t make sense. They hadn’t seen the vision I had.
During my testing for dyslexia – my assessor said she noticed I shut my eyes a lot to visualise things. Like remembering a string of figures or shapes.
I have always been able to visualise things in my mind. Somebody can say something, and it immediately puts an image in my head. This can sometimes be quite amusing. For instance, if someone says something like ‘picture a gorilla in a baby doll nighty’ – it instantly appears in my mind (LOL)!
Where am I now?
When I think back on my life, I often wondered what was wrong with me. For a long time, I felt lost and unsure of myself, which fuelled my depression. This recent diagnosis has been a major breakthrough. I now realise that I have many gifts and talents that I never fully appreciated before.
Now that I have a better understanding of myself, everything has changed. It’s not just about having a name or a label. It’s about having a clear path to follow and an opportunity to gain more knowledge.
With the evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) there is a whole new world of tools to explore. I can’t wait.
As I continue on this journey of self-discovery, I hope that others will begin to understand me better. I don’t want to be judged or misunderstood. I just want to be appreciated for who I am and the way that I work.
I hope that by sharing my story, I can help raise awareness about dyslexia and encourage others who may be struggling to seek help and support. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me below.