West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock tells how he was helped to overcome problems with dyslexia
When I was at school, I had real problems with my reading and writing, especially the speed at which I could do both.
I just thought I was bad at English and not good with words, so decided to focus on maths-based subjects when I could. It was not until I reached university that I found out I was not either of these things, in fact I was dyslexic.
I was fortunate enough to be at a world-leading academic institution and had fantastic teachers to help me overcome these issues, despite my late diagnosis. Not everyone is that lucky.
Dyslexia was discovered in 1881, affects roughly one in 10 and family specific genetics are one of the most reliable ways of assessing if a child will have dyslexia; in other words, if your parents, grandparents or siblings have it you are far more likely to have it too. With this being the case, you would assume we can diagnose dyslexia relatively early, and we can. But in reality, too many children slip through the net and never get help. Which is why I have joined the call for universal screening in schools, to make sure talent in all its forms is not lost or waisted in this country.
This is will be beneficial not just for the individuals but the rest of society too.
John Lennon, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs – these people are proof of what dyslexics can achieve throughout their lives when given the opportunity. Dyslexia affects the way your brain develops, often reducing natural proficiency in traditional metrics of intelligence and replace them with developments in other parts of the brain in unique ways. Unlocking the potential of dyslexics and utilising these unique dynamic minds has historically, across the world, led to some of the most important developments in human history.
However, one of the greatest detriments to the life of a dyslexic is simply believing him or her are not capable and giving up.
When undiagnosed this thought is often left to fester and grow in the mind throughout formulative school years, like a virus spreading year-to-year exam-to-exam until the host gives up the fight. Of course, this is not true, dyslexics are not less capable and, in many skill categories, consistently outperform their peers. visualising, imagining, communicating, reasoning, connecting and exploring are skills that dyslexics have in abundance and are trademarks of men and women throughout history who have propelled civilisation forward.
But by looking at the fact that according to the NHS only one in 10 of us have a form of dyslexia, alongside estimates that over 50 per cent of imprisoned offenders are dyslexic, we can start making some serious observation about the people in society we are failing.
We want to empower young children who have a dynamic unconventional intellect, not leave them feeling frustrated and helpless, cursing the system and exploring more anti-social career paths where they will be respected regardless of their ability to read and write. We must instead help them to understand the unique potential they have.
What loss it would be to the world if the future Da Vinci or the future Steve Jobs gave up because they never understood their value in the first place. It is up to us to understand neurological diversity within children and then help them understand it too, so they may motivate themselves to truly great feats.
Sir Richard Branson has spoken very openly about how he felt like a failure during his school years and his embarrassment on exam results days. Now his success is known by all and he has attributed part of that success to dyslexia. He said: “If anyone ever puts you down for having dyslexia, don’t believe them. Being dyslexic can be a big advantage, it has certainly helped me in my success.”
We must try to change the narrative and prejudice that dyslexia is purely detrimental to someone’s intellectual capabilities and realise the importance of empowering dyslexics to creating future leaders – in business, science, the arts and yes, even politics.