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The awards championing dyslexic people and their potential

Words by Abi Scaife

Confidence is key - everyone knows that. Having said that, it can be hard to find confidence in life when schools don’t teach in a way that suits you.

This is something that people with dyslexia have to struggle with regularly - and, unsurprisingly, that’s a huge knock to your confidence. 

“Usually when you say ‘dyslexia’, they automatically think: ‘children who can't read, write or spell’ and actually, it's not about that,” says Elizabeth Wilkinson, known as the Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant. She is also the founder of the National Dyslexia Awards - a yearly celebration of the achievements of people with dyslexia.

“Dyslexia is a learning difficulty," she explains, "If we're taught the right way, in a specific way for us, we can achieve anything anybody else can do, but we go through school having to fit we're like square pegs being forced through round holes.”

Elizabeth works with dyslexic adults, rather than young people - working on the premise that if she teaches adults about dyslexia and how it impacts them they can advocate for their children. She aims to break the cycle of low self-esteem and help all people with dyslexia realise how great they are, and how much they can achieve.

The idea of the awards was something that Elizabeth had been musing on for some years - and it was only after a difficult bout with laryngitis left her questioning if she would have to end her career early that she finally took the plunge.

“Over the last 24 years, I've come across amazing individuals who are dyslexic, and amazing employers and amazing teachers,” says Elizabeth. “Obviously, you get some that aren't so good. But you do get some that are amazing - and those are the people I want to champion, really. I discovered loads of adult dyslexics who hide their light under a bushel that don’t understand the strengths and the skills they’ve got.”

Elizabeth’s whole career has been about championing people with dyslexia, encouraging them to see their own abilities and talents for what they are. She coaches them to find their confidence in their abilities, and to learn the best way to work with their dyslexia, rather than writing themselves off.

The National Dyslexia Awards are all about promoting and championing people with dyslexia from all across the UK. Of the nine award categories available, only three are open to both dyslexics and non-dyslexics - and these are awards that celebrate those who are incredibly supportive of those with dyslexia.

“When people are diagnosed, they tend to be thinking of Richard Branson, Whoopi Goldberg - famous actors or millionaires,” explains Elizabeth. “I worked with a young man in high school a long time ago, [talking] about all the famous dyslexics. This kid [said] ‘I’m not being funny but I'm failing school and you expect me to be a millionaire?’

“No, - what I'm saying is [you can be] anything you want to be. In that moment, I realised that everyday people [are] more inspirational because they're accessible.”

The National Dyslexia awards are all about reminding people with dyslexia that they can achieve anything - and giving them real people to be inspired by. Elizabeth takes nominations from all over the country - you can nominate a friend, a family member, someone you work with.

As Elizabeth so rightly says, having dyslexia can knock your confidence, mostly because of the way you’re treated - but also because of how dyslexia is discussed in schools. By helping those nominated to appreciate their own abilities, the cycle is broken.

“You really worry that … are you just stupid? Because you always feel like there's something not right,” Elizabeth explains, of the feeling before you have been diagnosed. The National Dyslexia Awards helps to create a community, reminding you that you aren’t the only one that struggles - and like those winning the awards, you are capable of anything. “People have said [The National Dyslexia Awards] helped them realise that they sit in a room full of people and they're not alone."

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

British Dyslexia Association. This charity is the voice for the 10% of the population that are dyslexic. Support them here.

Made By Dyslexia. A global charity, led by successful dyslexics that have build the world's largest community of dyslexic people and allies. Learn more here.

The Dyslexia Association. They provide support and services for dyslexic children and adults of all ages, their parents/families, educators, employers and the wider community. Find out more about them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs