Friday 3rd December 2021: Today, (3rd December) is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) and will be promoted by the Valuable 500, of which John Sisk & Son are a member.

As part of our ongoing Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) work we wanted to share with you this story from Sam Painting, an Undergraduate Engineer working on our Santander project in Milton Keynes. Thanks to Sam for doing this and it’s a reminder that disability is not always visible.

Please see Sam’s story below. 

Tell us a little about yourself.
“I have completed my second year at Oxford Brookes University where I am studying Construction Project Management and am currently away on my industrial placement for 12 months with Sisk. Outside of work I tend to travel to both Norwich and Bromley in Southeast London to see family and friends where I occasionally watch football and play golf (at a poor standard!).”

What has been your experience of living, studying and working with dyslexia?
“Dyslexia has always been a challenge for me but during school and university, help was always offered where it could range from extra time in exams to a study support tutor. During these support sessions I would be taught how to use specific software that would help my learning, like Grammarly, which would improve the quality of my writing and check for errors.”

When and how did you find out you were dyslexic?
“I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 12 by a private assessor but this could have been identified earlier as I believed that reading and writing were not my strongest skills. After I was diagnosed, I understood exactly what areas I would struggle with academically and found many ways to overcome these challenges. This included different revision strategies which proved successful where I was able to achieve ABC at A-level.”

What are some of the misconceptions people may have about individuals with dyslexia?
“People may think that individuals with dyslexia are less intelligent and less capable of performing but this is simply not true. Although textbook learning may not be a strong point for people with dyslexia, this can be overcome by using a mix of practical and listening strategies. I believe that dyslexia can be used as an advantage as it brings out the more creative and out-the-box thinking in people which gives the extra edge in an industry like construction, where quick thinking is essential.”

What are some of the challenges dyslexia has presented you with and how did you overcome these?
“One of my biggest challenges is processing information and relaying this in the future. I suffered from this during my GCSEs and A-levels as many of my subjects were textbook based. I had to change my learning style to overcome this, so I took an interest in more practical and listening styles and developed these into revision and work strategies which proved successful. It is important to find the correct mix of techniques and resources that work best for each individual.”

What is the biggest benefit you feel your dyslexia brings?
“I can understand other people’s troubles through their disability or differences that might not be able to be recognised and where they may not feel confident. There should never be any shame in people’s differences as very often they can be used as an advantage and individuals should embrace their unique qualities.”

What advice would you give to anyone who is not sure whether to disclose they are dyslexic or not – to their employer, manager, colleague or friend?
“There are many different types of dyslexia and if you have never been tested it’s well worth it. There is an immense amount of help to make general daily tasks, like sending emails or reading information, much easier and less time consuming. An example is using different coloured backgrounds as this may make it simpler for the brain to process information. A professional can help decide which tools and resources will benefit you most.”

If you could change one thing about how our workplaces and / or society approach dyslexia – what would it be?
“I strongly believe that the same level of help that is given to people with dyslexia during school and university should be offered in the workplace. This can include specific software training or computer attachments to help those with dyslexia carry out their job more efficiently and effectively to eliminate the challenges that we face. I believe society has accepted dyslexia as being normal now and realised that there are many advantages of being dyslexic, which people did not know about in the past.”