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How to deal with Dyslexia in the Construction industry
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How to deal with Dyslexia in the Construction industry

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What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a difficulty with reading, writing and/or spelling. Individuals may also experience challenges with their short-term and working memory as well as with their communication and organisational skills.

Dyslexia is not uncommon so, it is actually one of the most common learning difficulties affecting both children and adults. While no two individuals struggle with the same set of symptoms, most people with dyslexia must work harder than their peers to develop literacy skills.

Strengths associated with Dyslexia

  • Individuals with dyslexia can be very creative and enjoy practical roles.
  • Strong visual thinking skillset - See or think in 3D, visualise a structure from plans, etc.
  • Good verbal skills and good social interaction
  • Good problem solving and out the box thinking.

Difficulties associated with Dyslexia

  • Difficulty with reading, taking notes, remembering numbers, names and details
  • Difficulty with timekeeping, managing time, organising workflow.
  • Problems with written work such as spelling and writing
  • Short-term memory problems and sequencing difficulties (Such as following instructions).

There are many individuals out there within the construction industry undiagnosed with dyslexia, many are unaware that they could have dyslexia or would rather not put a name on it. We wish to both raise awareness and provide some guidance to those who are suffering with dyslexia within construction.

Here are 7 tips for working with dyslexia in the construction industry.

6 ways to deal with Dyslexia in construction

#1 - Letting those around you know

Don't feel the need to keep something like this a secret! It's not something to be ashamed of. In addition, the UK has laws in place to protect people from workplace discrimination. Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence and those with dyslexia are often very intelligent, bright, creative and fully capable workers. If possible, be upfront with your situation in order for others to understand and be aware.

#2 - Use Technology to your advantage

The written day is going out of style, there is a shortening need to have to do handwritten notes and everything has moved onto computers, where there is spellcheck, text to speech, auto-complete functions and so on. The resources are there!

#3 - Work your dictionary

Start to understand what vocabulary is important to you, your job and those you spend your time around. You can focus your efforts to reinforce this vocabulary, such as typing drills, spelling drills and so forth.

#4 - Gain control of your schedule

Time is a major factor at work and understanding how to get a good grip of your workflow and schedule will allow you to really take control of your situation. There are plenty of calendar apps, scheduling apps that you can use to your advantage to provide assistance to gaining control of your workflow.

#5 - Develop workarounds

You may process information in different ways to others, may find difficulties understanding a wall of text but when put into a chart or diagram things become simpler. Take a moment and try to develop a stronger understanding of yourself and how you best process information. Colour colours, shapes, graphs or audio dictations.

#6 - Keep Organised

Stress affects everyone in the workplace, but it can be particularly difficult if you are already struggling with a learning difficulty. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, try your best to stay organised and manage your task appropriately. Don't feel the need to take on every task, but take on what's important and prioritise what is most important.

A lot of individuals will view dyslexia as a disadvantage, while it can be seen in a negative light, it can be used to your benefit.

Luke Birkett's take on dealing with Dyslexia in Construction.

Luke Birkett, diagnosed with mild dyslexia is helping us today by telling his story and how he deals with dyslexia in the construction industry and uses it to his advantage.

Luke Birkett is also one of our fantastic Saint Ambassadors who volunteer their time to support the Construction industry. You can read Luke's Saint Spotlight Interview here: An Interview With Luke Birkett.

“My dyslexic brain is wired up differently, my way of thinking could be very different to the rest of the team members so my thoughts and ideas would be considered great contributions because of my thinking out of the box.”
Luke Birkett

Have I always had an interest in construction?

I originally chose to do a three-year bricklaying apprenticeship for Taylor Wimpey Homes, as I found I was great at practical tasks and I had always wanted to build my own house later on in life.

I quickly learnt that I wanted a career in construction management, so I worked my way up from site manager to project manager, then to contracts manager and construction director for a number of the large national house builders and main contractors, such as Balfour Beatty.

I enjoy the construction process and get satisfaction out of seeing the finished end product, which you understand how it was constructed and all of the effort that goes into each end product completed and from who.

It is a passion of mine to build houses, and I have started my own company named

“Future Homes Design and Build”. I plan to build homes of the future in appearance

and technology that are high spec, eco-friendly and environmentally sustainable.

The construction industry is a great industry for both academic and practical persons but is a great environment for practical people to go into as the industry has so many options for career paths that can, as mine did, actually take you into an academic world such as construction management through career progression from a trade level for example but can still mean that the less academic person can still thrive, in a more academic career construction management level.

How does my dyslexia affect how I view and do my job?

I used to be ashamed of having dyslexia through school and college, as well as in the starting years of my construction management career.

I thought people would think I was stupid, or that I was not able to complete normal tasks such as reading and writing, or that I was not able to be trusted in a responsible role such as senior management.

I now understand how my difference in thinking and my practical understanding and problem-solving skills are actually a strength that outweigh my academic weakness, that I learnt how to overcome by teaching myself, different learning methods and sheer determination while putting myself through all of the training and qualifications that I have completed and still are now carrying on with further CPD, which is important as “you never stop learning” and you need to stay up to date with the continuously changing and evolving industry standards .

I’m in a strong position in my construction career because of my experience, knowledge, qualifications and because of my ability to see things differently.

My drive to succeed

I have worked my way up from the bottom, determined to keep progressing my career. I started working on the tools as a bricklayer, then progressed onto site manager, project manager, contracts manager, construction director for both national housebuilders and main contractors working on very large volume housing and government projects, as well as one-off high-end prestigious prime/super-prime housing projects.

Then, more recently, at the start of last year, I started up my own company, “Future Homes Design and Build”, which is what I had always wanted to do.

I will be honest, that it has not been easy on many occasions both at work and studying and you can feel the urge to give up or be beaten by negative situations and people but I have just kept going, picking myself up every time and driving forwards again between jobs, companies and career levels.  

Even though I did not enjoy academics, I drove myself through training and courses, so I could be the best at what I do and bridge my academic weakness gap, which meant I achieved 4 chartered titles within the best and biggest British global professional associations, that are relative to my role and industry.

I have recently completed a Level 8 in Global Strategic Management and Leadership, which is equivalent to a doctorate, and I plan to complete a thesis top-up to gain the full DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration).

If I had asked my 18-year-old self whether I would be doing a DBA and getting addicted to training and qualifications, I would laugh and say, “No way!”

My goal to bring Awareness to the Construction Industry and the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) setting

I am trying to bring awareness about dyslexia and similar conditions and/or backgrounds, to anyone starting off in the study, career or even the ones that are further into their career life’s at any level or age, as I think the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) subject has a lot of potential for positive promotion, for all groups, individuals, industries and organisations to benefit from.

It would be great to let others know even if they are struggling or not sure of their value, that it is OK to be dyslexic or different.

You can be proud of your dyslexia or difference and the positive aspects it can bring. Do not give up. We are greatly needed and desired because of what we can offer.

I realised it is a gift and can be used to my advantage and in a positive way.

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How to deal with Dyslexia in the Construction industry

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Luke Birkett

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