Will Wheeler is a proud dyslexic professional as well as the founder and director at The Dyslexic Evolution. Will is an engaging motivational speaker and the author of an upcoming book: The Book of Dyslexic Motivation In Pictures, a resource packed with tips and stories for Dyslexic professionals and allies.
Based in Sydney, Australia, Will works with dyslexic people around the world – helping them realize the power of dyslexia, use their strengths, and excel as professionals. I have been connected with Will on LinkedIn for a few months now and am constantly inspired by how Will embodies what it means to be a true diversity advocate and educator.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Will for Lunaria Learns to learn more about his journey as a neurodiversity advocate and what neurodiversity means for employers and employees.
Tell me about The Dyslexic Evolution.
I have been a workplace trainer and assessor for the past 11 years. I like working around people – inspiring and developing people. Being dyslexic myself, the needs of dyslexic employees were really obvious to me. I saw a lot of gaps where people with dyslexia didn’t know what technology to use, or how they could progress in their career. I was concerned with these things myself. I would look for people and resources to help me in my career and there wasn’t anything out there.
The Dyslexic Evolution is a career development company. We recruit dyslexic people into job roles and help them develop as professionals. We work with dyslexic students coming to the end of their senior years and support their development as professionals. We enable people to become leaders – to be able to influence other dyslexic, and neurotypical people to understand the opportunity in dyslexia.
What issues do people with dyslexia face in the workplace?
One of the challenges presented by neurotypical individuals is their lack of understanding around how neurodiverse people think – we have a million things going on in our brains and we learn differently. Neurotypical people struggle to place us in situations that put us towards our strengths. It’s not their fault, how could they know what to do if they are not a dyslexic person themselves?
Another challenge is that dyslexic people are often afraid to speak up and say what they struggle with. They are then put in situations where they can’t leverage their strengths and don’t do well.
For a dyslexic person, the presentation of information and their work environment is important. A lot of people think that if they hire a dyslexic person, they will not be able to read or write or do this or that. That is complete rubbish. I can sit down and read through my own book and I might use different accessibility tools to help me.
People think about neurodiversity and immediately think “disability” but neurodiversity is our strength. With dyslexia, our minds are just wired differently, we just think differently, and that’s what makes us so good at what we do. We are creative and can think outside of the box because it is what we have done our entire lives. Once understood, we can be effective staff members and really benefit the companies we work for.
Neurodiverse and neurotypical people really need to talk to one another, share their experiences, and communicate better so that we may be able to respond to diverse needs.
What can employers do to support neurodiverse people?
Employers need to have an understanding of neurodiversity first. Whenever I work with corporate clients, I try to present the research. I do surveys with management, and see what their understanding of dyslexia is, what they are struggling with, and what ideas they have to help. It’s not for me to come in and say you need to do x, y z, rather an opportunity for me to come in and share what staff have reported is important.
Once, I had someone say, “we employ a dyslexic person and they struggle with taking notes and so we don’t have them take notes anymore.” I thought, what if this person wanted to take the notes? Struggling with it doesn’t mean they can’t, they might need to take notes differently, they might need to record the conversation and then transcribe it. Don’t write someone off who is potentially looking for support to help them do their job better.
Neurodiversity recruitment is starting to become a big deal. While a lot of it is still focused on autism, I can see the door opening to other things. Companies need to find the right candidates and then apply them to the right jobs.
Employers should try to encourage candidates, especially in induction procedures to let employers know if they struggle with certain things. As an employer, have an understanding of the work environment, of the person, and encourage an open-door policy. Managers need to work on developing neurodiverse employees, and by doing that, people will begin to see the ROI of neurodiverse talent.
What advice would you give to professionals with dyslexia?
I’ve always been open about my dyslexia. How am I supposed to influence people if I am not open about it? The more people are open about it, the more people will understand it.
At some workplaces, it can be hard to excel when you have a manager or boss who doesn’t think about diversity and inclusion.
Something I try to highlight with neurodiverse and dyslexic people is that recruitment practices might be difficult. We don’t look good on paper or get good marks in university because we are trying to work in systems that don’t work great for us.
A good tip for dyslexic people is to build your professional brand: meet people, utilize LinkedIn, work up the confidence to introduce yourself to people, show people who you are and show your strengths. The more people you know, the more opportunities to do things you love will come your way. If you are showcasing yourself as a dyslexic professional, people who know you will see you for all the good things, and they won’t worry about your dyslexia.
What’s next for you and The Dyslexic Evolution?
Something I am looking to do is build the world’s biggest neurodiversity conference, The World Neurodiversity Uprising. I get so many people overseas connecting with me to talk about neurodiversity. If I host a conference, they would be flying across the country to come. Autistic and other neurodiverse people might struggle in the social conference environment. I thought, how do we make this more accessible? That’s why I am trying to facilitate a digital conference and grow it from there to maybe have it as something people can physically come to eventually. That is one of our goals as a company – to really connect with people all over the world with great technology, and inspire them with everything they can be.
How to stay connected with Will
Visit The Dyslexic Evolution Website. On the site, you will find lots of resources for university students and professionals with dyslexia.
Follow Will on LinkedIn to stay updated on Will’s work.
Check out Will’s latest publication: The Book of Dyslexic Motivation in Pictures on Amazon.