I'm dyslexic and have a Maths PhD.

I’m dyslexic and have a Maths PhD

My experience was that it’s like being an eagle in a school for wolves. So some things they asked me to do, like digging or searching in a forest were really hard. Whereas things like getting a good overview of material or seeing the big picture was ridiculously easy, all you have to do is fly.

This lead to the problem that teachers said “when I talk to you I see you’re clever but your written work is scattered and rambling so you must be lazy so I’m going to put pressure on you until you do better.” The problem was what I had produced was actually my best work so that was very traumatising, my friends from school who had dyslexia were also traumatised in the same way because we went to a high pressure school.

If I could give my past self advice it would be:

Go and seek dyslexia help. It’s really irritating because almost all of it is set at a very basic level (which I’m glad is there for the people who need it) and it’s hard to convince them you need help but not with very basic things. I have a text-to-speech reader on my computer and that has transformed my life, I read a lot now, that sort of thing can be really useful.

Following on from this don’t try to use your intelligence to hide your dyslexia. I tried this in my first software job and the result was that they put pressure on me to be a good wolf and it didn’t work out well. You want to try to find people who want to hire eagles, then you can fly. I’m on a project now where my job is keeping track of the big picture and it works great.


Do give yourself a break on stuff you find hard, like spelling or writing. Don’t let yourself off though. I’m a good writer now because I keep practicing (blogs/reddit is actually a great place to practice writing). It’s a bit like being someone with strong arms and weak legs. Don’t try to run up the stairs but keep practicing and working on it until you have strong legs and super strong arms.

Ultimately everyone is unique, everyone needs different support and has different skills. Try to hang out with people who value difference and let your strengths shine. Being dyslexic is just being different and so in some circumstances it comes across as a super power. The high IQ dyslexics I know are super creative and adaptable and really good at combining radically different ideas, which is a great strength to have.


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