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Disability Narratives

Paul has worked at the university for around six years. Paul said that having a good manager who values his strengths helped him manage his dyslexia at work. Paul also went on a mindfulness course that has helped him cope with his anxiety.

Image representing PaulBackground

at the time of the interview – 2016

Paul has a management role in the University of Oxford. He is married.

Ethnic Background/Nationality: White British.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - 2016

Paul has a management role in the University of Oxford. He has worked within the university for around six years. Paul was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was around 10 years old. He recalled receiving very little extra support during his school years, with only a little more at university. Paul said that for a long time the focus was on the things that he could not do due to his dyslexia e.g. could not spell, poor at reading and writing.

Over the last eight years Paul has tried to focus more on his strengths than on the things he could not do so well. He has used the psychological reports from his dyslexia testing to help him understand and reflect on where his skills lie such as in team management and big picture issues. Paul felt that his experiences had helped him understand how to manage teams better, as he respects the need for diversity of strengths within teams.

Paul started to suspect that he had dyspraxia when he was attending a talk about it and other Specific Learning Disabilities (SPLD). He was diagnosed after formal testing and said that getting the diagnosis helped to make sense of some things that his dyslexia did not fully explain, such as bumping in to things and problems involving coordination. Knowing this helped improve Paul’s self-confidence. For example, now instead of feeling clumsy he had an explanation for when he walked into things. Paul also said that before his diagnosis the physical and mental effort he used to cope with his coordination problems would leave him exhausted at the end of the day. Now he was able to identify these causes, such as a wobbly chair, and have them replaced.

I think the biggest thing for me is understand your strengths . . . And that the important thing is to find a job that works with those, and a manager that works with those.

Paul said that he has always been a little shy, but around two years ago he started to experience greater degrees of anxiety in his social and personal life. It did not affect his work directly as he was always speaking form a place of expertise in his role. However, it did affect him when he was being interviewed for a new role. More recently Paul feels that the mindfulness techniques he has learnt have helped him keep his anxiety more under control. Paul was allowed by his line manager to attend the six week ‘introduction to mindfulness’ course run by Oxford Learning Institute. Since then he uses the techniques whenever he feels he needs to, either at work or at home. Paul said that the mindfulness tools help him to stand back from the problems he is facing and break them down so that he can resolve or deal with them.

Over the years Paul has had some mixed experiences with managers. He felt that his struggles arose when managers required him to follow their process and focused on the ways in which he was not able to do this. Other managers, however, have had more understanding of what Paul’s range of skills are and sought to build upon the things he can do well. Paul did not think this was necessarily something that was done by these managers in response to his dyslexia or specific needs, rather he felt this was just good management practice seeking to build on the strengths and weaknesses of the members of the team.

Biography at the time of the interview - 2016