A story of dyslexia

A clear plastic brain on a stand depicting neurodiversity

At our recent Unjudged event, we were honoured to have Lorna McHugh tell her story of dyslexia – how it has shown up in her life and career and what it has meant to her. This blog shares some personal reflections and take-aways from the event.

Childhood

Lorna’s story of her childhood paints the picture of a young lady who was always destined to go far.  Two things really stood out for me:

Hard work

Lorna eloquently described the extra effort that she has put in at all stages of her education.  Her stories made me think about the effort that people who are neurodiverse have to exert. How hard they must work, just to fit in with our society and achieve what their peers take for granted. 

And yet Lorna spoke about the superpowers that having dyslexia brings.  Lorna’s superpower is the ability to think creatively at a system level rather than in a linear way. More broadly, people with dyslexia are generally good at maths, science, technology and the arts. That is why you find a lot of neurodiverse people in engineering, banking, media and creative industries. And, without dyslexic minds we wouldn’t have the light bulb (Thomas Edison), Ikea (Ingvar Kamprad) or the unique technology from Apple (Jonny Ives).

Self Awareness

Several of Lorna’s stories demonstrated a real depth of understanding of her own preferences and approach. In particular, how she learns, how she processes information and how she communicates. 

As a parent, I have been reflecting on my role in helping my children to develop their own self-awareness.  Do I invest enough time and effort to notice their own individual and unique styles?  Do I share my observations with them in and give them the opportunity to agree or disagree with me?  Am I helping them to establish their own awareness of themselves and how they fit into the world?

Professional Career

When Lorna spoke about her career, she showed true passion for helping others and making the workplace “safe” for everyone.  She shared her joy that she is now able to influence how others are accepted and understood by their colleagues. 

Spiky Profiles

The audience asked what organisations and line managers can do to help people with dyslexia. Lorna shared the concept of “spiky profiles”. She talked about how neurodiversity shows up in different ways for different people. They often excel in some areas, but struggle with other skills.  She also talked about the potential of dyslexic thinkers – many of the world’s great entrepreneurs and business leaders are dyslexic

Lorna highlighted that many performance review systems seem to require “flat profiles”. That is, organisations expect people to achieve a “high” level of ability or excellence in all skills.  Lorna feels passionately that organisations should support people with neurodiverse needs in team settings, and focus on building teams for success. 

Advice

Lorna was generous with her reflections and advice to the people who joined the call.  Some were there as parents, seeking to support their own neurodiverse children.  Some as line managers, reflecting on how best to work with neurodiverse colleagues.  And others still as coaches, friends, leaders, all open to expanding their view of the world and putting themselves in the shoes of others.

The key messages that I l took away were:

  • Be curious – ask questions, seek to understand what does and does not work for each individual
  • Forgive – accept that everyone is different, and do not expect brilliance at everything
  • Celebrate strength – find and leverage the superpowers of each individual

A heartfelt thank you to Lorna from the Becoming International team, for her generosity and vulnerability for sharing her stories with us. 

Edited on 17 Sept at Lorna’s request.

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