DysAdvantage: Empowering dyslexics

Kyle RamThough dyslexia is one of the most common learning disorders in the world, it can be among the hardest to relate to if you don’t have it.

When Kyle Ram was diagnosed this year at age 22, he started a crusade to raise a positive message about being dyslexic.

We caught up with Kyle to find out more about DysAdvantage - a growing social media movement designed to give young dyslexics the confidence and resources to become the best version of themselves.

So Kyle, what was it like for you at school?

My biggest struggle was fitting in as I always had the constant headache of feeling stupid. Even though I could really showcase my skills when it came to debate, when it came to writing, reading and spelling, I never felt clever.

My close friends were in the top sets, but I didn’t want anyone to know I was in a special set for kids with learning difficulties. I started to believe I wasn’t very smart and turned to being the class clown.

Dealing with problems

I always suspected I was dyslexic, but as I wasn’t diagnosed, I could never openly say I was. However, this led to me coming up with several coping strategies which gave me a very strong creative edge.

So, for instance, when I had to read out loud in class, I could calculate which lines I would be reading when it came to my turn, and I’d practice in my head. I’d also memorise the text. But I’d be thrown if someone read ahead and I’d get a new line to read!

I’d constantly come up with new ways to hide my problem. To avoid writing on the board or a flip chart, I’d say my handwriting was illegible so people didn’t know how bad my spelling was. I’d also pretend I couldn’t read off the board, by saying my 20-20 vision was dreadful.

What difficulties did you face in getting a job?

I did well on telephone interviews, I really smashed them. But for one call centre job, I had to also take a test which involved typing, but it wasn’t geared up for someone who is dyslexic. The names and addresses were hard for me to spell, and I couldn’t process more than two or three numbers at a time.

I didn’t get any further and I remember walking away feeling bad about myself. If I’d stayed in that mindset, I would have looked for jobs way below my real potential.

Luckily when I applied to work for BT in an IT role, there wasn’t a numerical test, rather a variety of different assessments. I aced them all and got the job.

What challenges did your new job bring?

I had a lot of difficulty taking numbers down on customer calls. When people say numbers quickly, I can’t write them down, so I leant heavily on my creative skills to slow the conversation and get the information.

I’ll also use Google to quickly check spelling and copy and paste text to make sure the words are correct.

What was the inspiration behind DysAdvantage?

Once I was formally diagnosed as being dyslexic, I was a new Kyle. My expectations of myself were so low because of my struggles at school, but knowing there was a reason made me feel reborn.

If I’d known earlier and been surrounded by the right people to talk to when at school, it would have given me a head start. So I figured there must be hundreds of intelligent young people like me, who have a talent but it needs unlocking. That’s when I started work on creating a platform where the younger generation of dyslexics could come together.

How did DysAdvantage come to life?

DysAdvantageI wanted to help others but I couldn’t find any material that made me proud to be dyslexic, and I couldn’t relate to a lot of the support available.

Seeing the amount of jokes about dyslexia on the internet, inspired me to build a page on Instagram full of positive images and motivational quotes.

That’s how DysAdvantage started. I created memes using images of celebrities who have dyslexia. Soon people were talking and sharing my posts, tagging their friends and family and commenting positively.

It grew and grew and now has 40k followers.

I discovered that by embracing my dyslexia, people would open up to me about the struggles they’ve had with the disorder.

I then created the DysAdvantage website where I post a weekly podcast featuring interviews with a variety of people with dyslexia, including celebrities, who share their success stories. The podcasts are available on iTunes too.

What’s next?

Using social media has helped me reach thousands of people, and I plan to keep going. I started a Facebook page not long ago, and coming soon is my YouTube channel.

My dream is to empower as many dyslexics as I can. Being dyslexic isn't the end of the world, it's more like the start. It all comes down to your mindset.

For more visit the DysAdvantage website, follow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and check out the free weekly podcast on iTunes.

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