The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant Elizabeth Wilkinson |EXPLORING DIFFERENT BRAINS – Episode 10


 

In this episode, Hackie Reitman, M.D. interviews Elizabeth Wilkinson, The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant and founder of Dyslexia Information Day. Elizabeth discusses her own dyslexia, her later-in-life diagnosis of autism, and the work she has done to advocate for the dyslexic in England.

For more information about Elizabeth’s work, visit www.theddc.org.uk

 

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HAROLD REITMAN, M.D. (HR)

Hi, this is Dr. Hackie Reitman with another episode of Exploring Different Brains. And do we have a different brain for you today. Her name is Elizabeth Wilkinson and she is the founder of the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant. Eli, welcome to the show!

ELIZABETH WILKINSON (EW)

Hi, thanks for having me and inviting me.

HR

It’s such a pleasure to have you on here–and, first tell us about yourself, because I am going to just start talking about how great it was to meet you and how–our funny exchanges and everything–and oh, we’re going to have fun, because you should be the poster girl for neurodiversity. I’ll bet you’ve got a million labels, so go ahead, Eli, tell us about you.

EW

So Elizabeth Wilkinson, or Eli for short–I’m dyslexic autistic, and I found out I was autistic six years ago, found out I was dyslexic–well I’m 43 now, found out I was dyslexic when I was 28, I think it was, we’ll say. I can’t remember, anyway, longer than I’ve known about the autism. Both labels have meant quite a lot to me understanding myself and how I work, particularly the autism diagnosis. I’ve been a lot nicer to myself since finding out. However, the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant started in 2007 January, so we just turned nine. And my passion is to educate everybody around me about dyslexia, raise awareness and make people aware.

HR

Well, I can’t tell you how great it is, because you are just full of positive energy, and you’re doing great stuff, and you may be the worlds authority on autistic dyslexic people who live in England. Now I want to know how to pronounce the name of that town you’re in.

EW

Telford, Shropshire.

HR

Now, I want you to say Shropshire ten times fast. Can you do that?

EW

Shropshire, Shropshire, Shropshire, Shropshire, Shropshire, Shropshire, Shropshire, Shropshire, Shropshire.

HR

Oh you’re good. You are good.

EW

I have lived here for quite awhile.

HR

Well, over here–we’re in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and my folks had a gas station in Jersey City when I was growing up and I still have the Jersey City accent, and all I can tell you about the English is, when I played rugby for 11 years up in Boston, their teams used to come over and kick our butt, unfortunately.

EW

Yeah we’ve got a local rugby team.

HR

Yes, they–you do.

EW

My dad used to play rugby.

HR

Oh, is that right? What position was he, do you know offhand?

EW

No idea, but I remember the only time I’ve seen him cry was on the way to the hospital when he broke his collar bone. One guy got in one way, one guy got in the other way, and they–yeah, you heard the crack.

HR

Oh boy, oh boy. So what were the issues that lead to your diagnoses, Eli?

EW

For autism?

HR

Well, let’s start with dyslexia, and then we’ll get to the other.

EW

Well, my mom had always thought that I was.

HR

Why? Why did she think you were dyslexic?

EW8

I would imagine, she would say, because of the difference between my academic attainments and my IQ, vocabulary, interests, etc.

HR

So, in other words, you were pretty smart but you weren’t doing good in school.

EW

Yeah. I’ve got a mom with an IQ of 163 so I come from good stock.

HR

Wow. I can’t even count that high. Let’s talk about your brain from the vantage point of your first level dyslexia, because you are the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant.

EW

I am, I do want to say how meticulous the odd goes–I just–I work with dyslexics and I train people about dyslexia. But what I find is when I’m working with a dyslexic on a one-to-one or in a small group, if I–when I tell them I’m dyslexic, I can physically see them relax, because they’ve finally got somebody who will understand, or at least knows where they’re coming from. So you know that they get it. They get that I get it. And I also understand that, as you say, everybody’s different. So that always helps. And I like recycling undoers, you know, you say to somebody, “Try this idea,” but don’t just think you’ve got to use that idea in itself. You can change it and adapt it to suit yourself.

HR

Have you always been so bubbly and outgoing?

EW

Apparently so.

HR

Okay. Well that’s great. So, you were diagnosed, and then what did you do, like what tips can you give our audience that–how you overcame the challenges?

EW

In all honesty, I did a course to find out about dyslexia because I thought my son was, and, from there, everything made sense. I knew the answers to questions, I understood the topics, I was getting good grades on my assignments because I understood the subject. So I, personally, had done a lot of research, had done a lot of reading around dyslexia, and I came across a book by Dr. Tilly Mortimore, who is my idol, I have to say, when it comes to dyslexia. And it was her first book about dyslexic learning styles that I learned about the three core deficits of dyslexia, so I learned about short-term memory difficulties, automatisty difficulties and phonological difficulties, and they made sense, and I understood about myself, so, for me, my advice to people is find out how something effects you and have that impact on your everyday life.

HR

You are so passionate in helping other people, it is truly inspiring, and so is the name, “The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant,” I love that. Love it.

EW

My dad said, “Name the business that is something that people will know what you do just by the title.” And you’ll be amazed how many people say, “So what do you do then?” I was like really? Read it again.

HR

Very cool. Now, something–many in our audience would like to know, because we’re actually meeting people from all over the world and all over the United States, but, explain to our audience, what do you perceive to be a big difference, if any, with neurodiversity in England and Neurodiversity in the United States?

EW

Based on what I see on twitter, facebook, and a few interactions, is that–and I don’t know if this is true or not, I’m wondering if we’re a little bit more advanced on provision in the UK, because it seems to be you are fighting a lot with the States to get recognized in schools?

HR

Well, it’s kind of getting recognized, but it’s very discouraging that our political system is just kind of cutting back on things, and there’s a bunch of new rules that have come up, which, frankly I don’t understand. And I was just at a meeting at one of our universities here trying to understand it, and I still don’t. But it’s not–it’s not accepted, generally, that, look, all of our brains are different, let’s stop one-size-fits-all, let’s give people the help they need to be productive and to do all of these good things. And what’s the political situation over there?

EW

We’ve had cuts to funding the, same as the south, and we have a partner funding over here called “Access to Work” for adults that work. So if you’re labeled as disabled, which, of course over here, dyslexia, autism, is all under that label. You can access funding to help you keep you in work. So different software support and things like that. The trouble is, every time something like this is successful, they change the way it works.

So just as you get used to, you make phone calls, you see somebody, that’s the process–and, of course, for autism, that’s an issue if they change the process halfway through. So there’s a lot of funding cuts–sorry I’m going off on a tangent now, I just realized, so the situation is, is a lot of funding cuts, and, I don’t know that we–we had the Equality Act of 2010 and employers, schools, educations, establishments, are supposed to make reasonable adjustments, however, a parents idea of a reasonable adjustment and an employers idea of a reasonable adjustment are different to schools ideas or an employee’s ideas. So it’s a case of working together and trying to find the most cost-effective ways to support people.

HR

What made you to decide to dedicate your life to helping others with dyslexia and spreading awareness and giving them tools to use and everything?

EW

A combination of a few things. The first one was finding something that I really enjoyed, which was learning about dyslexia, learning about teaching, again, when I was doing my teacher training, I was getting “A” grades, and we have to do a basic skills course, or tests, within those sessions, and, interestingly, I was getting “A” grades on my assignments for teaching, and a couple of other people I knew who were getting lower grades than that scored very highly on their basic skills, however I didn’t score quite as high on my basic skills. So that just gave me proof that it actually–yes, basic skills are important, the test scores aren’t the be-all-and-end-all, it’s what you can actually do that is the thing.

So I had a really bad teacher on my first teacher training who made me feel awful and made me feel like I was bad at school. And then I had a really really good teacher called Michelle Dawes the second course, and she became my mentour as I went on and got more qualified. So she was somebody I aspired to be like and I always try to make my students feel how she made me feel. She made me just–yeah, she was very passionate, very good. So, that was there, too, my experience with Michelle, learning about something that I wanted to do, and then also, the support I got from a lovely lady called Kate Edwards, who tested my son for dyslexia, supported me, helped me through my dyslexic qualifications, she could see that I got it, I just needed to get it onto paper. Then, experiencing that, and that feeling of success and happiness, made me realize that, well if I can do it, then I can support other people, to do that and have that same feeling. So I endeavor to make people feel how Michelle made me feel and I endeavor to make people feel that passion and excitement with what they do.

HR

That is just so wonderful. That’s very inspiring, really. And now tell us how that translates into what you do at the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant. What do you do?

EW

What do I do? Well I do paid work, I train people for–in specific learning differences, so dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia also includes some ADHD in there, New Zealand Syndrome, so trained teachers, trainers, staff members and companies about dyslexia and the other things, and what the basics are so they can recognize those and the people they’re working with, and see the similarities and differences, and start to understand, inevitably, everybody will say, “But I do that. That doesn’t make me dyslexic, or it doesn’t make me ADHD.” No, but it’s the combination of those symptoms, the lifelong effects. You don’t just fall asleep reading a book because you’re tired, you fall asleep reading a book because it’s exhausting if you’ve got New Zealand Syndrome, et cetera. Remind me of the question? because I’ve gone off on a tangent.

HR

No, no, no. That was very good, because what you’re really saying is that the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant helps a lot more people than simply someone with a label of dyslexia, because you get neurodiversity. So you’re going in and training companies and trainers about basically every kind of neurodiversity. Do I have that correct?

EW

Yeah. So I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I am good at picking up similarities and things that people need to know that will then help them do their jobs. So, for example, I’ve worked with the local Shropshire Fire Rescue Service. I’ve trained their trainers on dyslexia and specific learning differences. Similarly, I’ve also trained 498 trainers at RAF Costford, which is the Royal Air Force, the Defense College of Aeuronautical engineering and schools and I’ve guest lectured at Baspar Union, Doctor Telemortema asked me to do that, that was wonderful. So on the paid side of things, that’s what I do.

I also founded, in 2008, something called Dyslexia Information Day, because I realized that, whilst I had started taking up an interest in courses and teaching and I’d accessed a lot of information. That wasn’t actually available to me as a parent, I didn’t know where to go get that, so I, soon, a year after starting the business I realized that parents were strugglling to get the information, so twice a year, whenever I can afford to, I will run two information days and that is as many service providers and information of guidance under one reef as I can get. We have fabulous volunteers that, I’m beginning to believe what they say, which is the reason people started helping, was because i’d done a free screening test or I’d done a free consultation for somebody and they just wanted to give back and do that, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.

HR

So you’re the founder of Dyslexia Information Day?

EW

I am. DID for short. And then this year, because, you know, that’s all sorted and touched wood, it’s all going well. This year I’m founding the first Dyslexia Awards, or our first Dyslexia Awards, so that’s to, a bit like yourself, about wanting to educate people and inspire them and let them know that things–I like to say that it’s trying to let teachers know that they don’t have bundles of hell in their classroom, they have bundles of potential, and I try to let employers know that they have employees with skills that could be really really good and useful to them in the world of industry. And then just letting the public know that you don’t have to do badly just because you’re dyslexic. You can do really well.

HR

That is a message I’d like to put in a bottle to everybody, to go to the employers–that, look, don’t hire these individuals to be good or nice, do it because you’re going to make more money. Because this is going to be a dedicated employee with unique abilities and skills that you can harness if you give them a little bit of help. And you don’t–you know, they need a little bit of accommodation, they need something. We all need something. Everybody’s a little bit different.

EW

Yeah. We–that’s one of the biggest things, I find, is trying to explain to employers that actually, the things you implement for the dyslexics or anybody else they work with, they actually work for non-dyslexics as well.

HR

What do you feel is the biggest misunderstanding out there now, relative to different brains or neurodiversity?

EW

Lack of understanding. Lack of–I suppose, people–lack of empathy. People can only empathize if they experience something. So, you know, I didn’t–I felt sorry for people who’ve had heart attacks or family members–people see family members went through things like that–but until my mom had a heart attack last year, I had no idea of the systems that need to go in place, the work that’s involved, rehabilitation, so until you’ve been through something, you can’t–most people tend not to be able to empathize or understand. So that’s where training or videos or meeting people, talking to them, is really important. Because whichever way somebody learns, if we can educate them, it will start to change things.

Very well said. Are you making any videos at this time?

EW

Well, yeah, we hope to. I watched many–well 10, 11, maybe 12 years ago now, there was this film called The Unwrapped Gift of Dyslexia, and I, again, endeavor to make a film that makes me–makes the people who watch it feel as that did to me. So we had a meeting last year with a load of people who were really keen to get involved, but it’s now just trying to pin that down to the right person to film it and get it made. So it’s hopefully going to be really inspirational across the generations film. Because that–like you say, or somebody was saying in one of your other videos about children grow up to be adults and Aspergers, autism, dyslexia doesn’t go away. So it’s trying to get that cross-generational thing in the film hopefully.

HR

Yeah, well I think that’s very commendable, because, you know, we’ve inadvertantly been discriminating against adults.

EW

Yeah, yeah.

HR

Because it’s all been about the kids, well the kids grow up, and they have to get a job, they have to get a life, they have to maximize their chance at independence as much as we can, and certainly, if they go to the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant, in Shrophire–

EW

One of the things I kind of–the last eight years, I decided that actually, if I worked with the adults and equipped the adults with the knowledge and the understanding, then they can work with their children and they can work with the childrens’ schools in order to battle the government or whoever. Probably going to get struck down after all of it, they can battle and get things for their children. So if I equip the adults with the tools, they can sort it out for their children.

HR

Now do you have one child or more than one child?

EW

Just the one. He’s 23. He’s dyslexic and autistic.

HR

And tell us–would you mind sharing and telling a little bit about him?

EW

He’s fabulous. But, of course, I’m going to say that. He–it interestingly is only because of him that I got diagnosed, because we went through trying to get him diagnosed, and I wanted him done before–and through the system before he was 18 so that he went through the child diagnosis and everything would be in place by the time he went to–into the world of work. However, we got bounced around the system and that didn’t happen, and he saw one psychiatrist who, you know, when you’ve got friends, you’ve got interests, you can’t be. And then we happened to meet a lovely lady called “Sarheeth,” who was just wonderful. She used to be the Shropshire autism representative, but they cut her pay.

And then another friend who’s got an aspie husband and children, and she just took me to one side and said, “El, I think your son might be (because she’s an aspie as well) autistic as well as dyslexic,” and I suddenly had an insight as to what my dyslexic parents go through when they’re first told their child is dyslexic. Because I was mortified that I hadn’t noticed it. So again, I did lots of research and found out about what that meant. He got bounced around the system, we didn’t get him diagnosed, but then we bumped into Sarheeth, who founded Autonomy Here, cause her son’s autistic. And he directly said to me, after meeting the first guy, “I’m not doing this anymore, you’ve got to go first.” Because it will always be that if I can explain things to him, he’d be fine doing anything. So I kind of went, “Ah, okay then, I’ll go first.” And it has been the most revolutionary diagnosis, really, because I’m now not so hard on myself. Like doing this with you today, I make sure I’ve got nothing else on until tomorrow afternoon, because I am going to be absolutely exhausted, I can already feel my head cave in, because it’s new and I’m very excited to talk to you and honored, if I’m honest. But as you understand, near well exhausting.

HR

I understand and I hear from my daughter Rebecca, because like I–I was just lucky enough to be included to give a couple of workshops at Lynn University Transitions a couple of weeks ago, and they all want to see my daughter Rebecca, who has spoken in public a few times, but she said, “Dad, it’s just totally draining and exhausting,” she’s going for her master’s in Applied Psychology, she’s tutoring kids with Asperger’s, and, you know, she goes, “I can’t–I don’t want to do that.” Well do it–she said, “Why don’t you read your own book and do it in chunks? Chunk it.” And I’ll go to the small thing you’re doing at a library, and then you can go to the big thing with 600 people, you can gradually get there. And I’m learning so many things like that that are just trying to get people comfortable doing what they’re doing, you know, and trying to relieve the anxiety. Like at our office, we try to get everybody doing what they like doing and enjoy doing and they’re good at doing or want to be good at doing, so it works out pretty well. What’s your son’s name?

EW

Max–not that he’ll thank me for saying that.

HR

Uh-oh. Well I won’t say it then.

EW

That’s okay, he won’t mind.

HR

Okay. And he’s 23, and he’s doing pretty good. He’s fabulous as you said.

EW

Say it again?

HR

You said he’s fabulous.

EW

He is, absolutely fabulous. I think he would be–and I’ve always thought this–he spots holes in the market–I think any company that trains him up on every section within their business, and they could put him anywhere to check where there’s faults in the system. He’d be awesome. So the company that realizes he’s got that potential, will have stricken a gold mine.

HR

Well this company recognizes that.. how do we get in touch with him?

EW

Well, contact me afterwards and I’ll give you his contact info.

HR

Okay, all right. That’ll be–that’ll be great. How do people get in touch with you if they need to get in touch with you? I’m sure we have the listeners to our podcasts and the viewers of our videocasts and the readers of the transcript we’ll be making of this, and the other people who are going to now become aware of you–how do they get in touch with you?

EW

Either on Twitter, so it’s EliTheDDC and I’ve seen you do this on other videos, so, I did this. Not that it’s any good for your podcast people, and that’s really messed the lighting up hasn’t it?

HR

Hold it up. Hold it up again, let’s see if we can see it and we’ll challenge Joseph the editor, hold it up to really do it. Www.TheDDC.org.uk?

EW

That’s the one.

HR

Okay, all right.

EW

That’s my main website.

HR

I think we’ve covered a lot of ground here. I’ve got a couple more questions, though, okay?

EW

Let me just say something, because your–your book has been a bit revolutionary for me, a bit like Dr. Telemortema’s book was for the dyslexia, so, as I know you’re aware, I haven’t finished the book yet, I am on page 133 but I read it chapter at a time and I digest it, because I not only digest it for myself as somebody with autism, but I also digest it as a mom with a son with autism, and also the daughter of I think two autistic parents. Certainly aspie parents. So it’s multifunctional, and it has been just such a relief to be able to read something, as I did with the dyslexia, and go, “Yeah, that makes sense.” So your perspective and your daughter’s perspective have just been invaluable really. And the snowflake that you say, Rebecca said about, everybody’s different, is just how I view people. So that’s been really good for me, so thank you.

HR

Well thank you. That is a–you made my day, I can’t wait to tell Rebecca about this, I’ll tell you. Well you know, having–in the Aspertools book, having Rebecca be able to set things straight at the end of a chapter, and Pati Fizzano who’s one of the great special ed teachers. She really gets all this stuff too. But, you know, when rebecca would say things–you know, like they’re truth tellers. “Well I know my dad thinks that, but he’s all wrong. Here’s how it really is,” and that’s wonderful. We really want to provide tools that can help. And getting back to that, would an earlier diagnosis for either dyslexia or autism have made your life different, and if so, how?

EW

Yes. And this is a conversation I have with everybody I work with, every adult. Is that you’ll go through, as an adult being diagnosed, you’ll go through a very–a bit like a grieving process, first of all you’re relieved, then you get passed and you realize the years that you’ve lost. I mean part of me wouldn’t want to change anything because I love what I do, but maybe I’d have started doing it earlier or maybe I’d have more money behind me now and a pension when I’m older, who knows, but I think, definitely diagnosis earlier, because, if for nothing more than understanding myself and being easier on myself, therefore my life is easier, I would have been doing that at a lot earlier age. I just think that–I think the screenings should be done in schools for all of these things. And yes, so yes I do think earlier diagnosis–I think it would save a lot of mental health issues as well.

HR

You know, I’m trying to capture in my own brain right now, how to best convey this depth of knowledge that you have.. From such a unique perspective, and I have to say, I’m really going to put my thinking cap on with my brain, what’s left of it after 26 pro-heavyweight fights I don’t know how much my brain works, but–

EW

You are an inspirational gentleman, so please–you are in the club.

HR

Well, thank you. I have to say,

HR

Well I have to say this has been a tremendous pleasure speaking with you. We’ve been speaking with Elizabeth Wilkinson, the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant, over in England, in a place in England that I cannot pronounce, but she can, and you can get to her, I guess you can google “The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant” or you can go to www.TheDDC.org.uk, or you can email her at.. where can they email you?

EW

They can email me at info@theddc.org.uk

HR

That’s great, I wish I could talk with your accent, you know, it’s–you could say whatever you want, it sounds good.

EW

Yours is kind of cool as well, you know.

HR

Yeah, except whatever I say sounds bad, whatever you say sounds good.

EW

No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t. Whatever you say sounds really positive and encouraging and lovely–

HR

Well, I tell you what–meeting people like you is just–it makes my day. I just feel so lucky to be meeting, and I’m finding more and more upbeat, positive people going after this, and that’s what I’m trying to do, and that’s what we’re all trying to do at DifferentBrains.com, is to get everyone to be nice to each other and positive and try to stay away from that stuff that goes on.

EW

That’s good, you’re good. We need people that do what you’re doing. It’s–I think it’s brilliant.

HR

Well, thank you very much. Well I can’t tell you how great it is to meet you, and this is Elizabeth Wilkinson from over in England, the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant, and that concludes another episode of Exploring Different Brains. Thank you so much, Eli.

EW

Thank you, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much.

HR

We’ve been speaking with Elizabeth Wilkinson, the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant. For more information, visit us at DifferentBrains.com

 

 

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