I am delighted to introduce you to the second of my inspirational dyslexics for 2017 Dyslexia awareness week, the talented Neil Alexander Passe.
Name: Neil Alexander-Passe
Age (optional): 49yrs old
Job Title or/and Business name:
- Head of Additional Educational Needs at East Barnet School (Secondary)
- Author of 10 (fiction and academic) books
- PhD Student
A brief description of your job role/business:
- I have just joined a large secondary school after 2 years as a SENCO in a primary school in north London, moving it from ‘requiring improvement’ to ‘good’ according to OFSTED. This new role is huge, being the SENCO, in charge of Pupil Premium provision, in charge of ‘gifted and talented’ pupil provision, on the safeguarding team, and finally in charge of pupils with EAL (English as an additional language).
- My latest book has just launched ‘The Successful Dyslexic: Identify the Keys to Unlock Your Potential’, researching 27 successful adult dyslexics and comparing them to 10 less successful/unemployed dyslexics to identify their keys for success, both as children and as adults in the workplace.
- I have just submitted my PhD thesis ‘DYSLEXIA, TRAUMATIC SCHOOLING AND CAREER SUCCESS: Investigating the motivations of why many individuals with developmental dyslexia are successful despite experiencing traumatic schooling’
Location: London, UK
When did you find out you were dyslexic & how old were you? I have been diagnosed several times for university ‘disabled student allowance’ applications, but I was first diagnosed at 12 years old. My mother tried several times in primary school for me to be assessed for dyslexia but my Head teacher just gave me a short reading test and said I was ‘immature and needed more time to develop literacy skills’. At 12 years old my mother paid for a private educational psychologist report so I could move schools and get the help I needed. I moved schools to a private school that promised the earth but didn’t deliver (as it turned out I was the first dyslexic child to ever attend the school and they were unsure what it actually meant).
How did you feel when you found out you were dyslexic? I enjoyed the educational psychologist assessment, it was fun and I found I could do certain things well, which was a change! I guess being given a label meant I had a name for my troubles, and that I was not lazy.
What difference has finding out, made to your life? Having dyslexia allowed me to follow a less academic route from school, there was less pressure to attain like my two older siblings who trained as accountants (like my father). So I went off to Art College for 5 years and gained a degree in graphic design. I was seen and allowed to be the ‘black sheep’ of the family, and interestingly my sister said I was spoilt and allowed to get away with murder (well I was the youngest child)! So not needing to follow a normal career path has allowed me to make up my own rules and I have been successful in multiple fields as a result.
What have you gone on to achieve since being diagnosed? A degree in graphic design, a research masters, a post-graduate teaching qualification, a counselling qualification, and hopefully a PhD. All these academic awards I guess runs counter to the feelings of being stupid at school.
If you ask my wife, she would say I have been successful at being married and having four lovely teenage children (two sets of twins) and being happy with life.
I think most dyslexic adults still need to prove they are not stupid, whereas my non-dyslexic wife who achieved at school and university takes certain things for granted, so sees being a family man as my main achievement.
What advice would you offer to other dyslexics?
- Never give up on your dreams! It has taken me 20 years to achieve a PhD and I’m nearly there. Sometimes you just need to find another route. It may be longer but you learn at each stage something new about others and yourself.
- See any perceived failure as part of a journey towards mastery, never mention the word ‘failure’, as Thomas Edison said to a journalist who asked about him failing 1000 times in inventing the lightbulb, ‘the lightbulb invention had 1000 stages in its development’.
- Find the best place and time to work, and create the right environment for your success. I like to work late into the might as its quiet and in coffee shops to zone out noise, whereas my wife works best in the morning – whereas I can’t.
- Use a computer to draft your work, never send out your first draft and it will improve with reflection. I write my first draft on the computer, correct t on the screen, then print it out and mark up more changes, then go back and make corrections on the computer, and draft more.
What do you do to relax/hobbies?
- I like to write books, it’s an oxymoron for a dyslexic to write books
- I ski and play squash
- I love to travel and discover new cities (I love to walk around cities and avoid public transport), I hate sitting by a pool for more than a day
- Getting long holidays as a teacher I have time for reflection which is great.
Your website & business contact details:
Anything you want to add?
- My research has taught me that the trauma that many dyslexics experience at school can be a powerful motivator for post-school success. Having the drive and determination to do many things and prove other wrong has meant many dyslexics can create innovative and creative products as they can make amazing divergent connections (can combine ideas that non-dyslexics would rule out as illogical).
- See failure as positive, never let it get you down.
- Enjoy being different, it’s our USP (unique selling point) – who wants to be normal!
Huge thanks to Neil for taking the time to do this for me, I am a big fan of his work and as a fellow dyslexic I find him inspirational and love the research and work that he does. I hope reading about Neil also inspires you!
you can buy Neils latest book here: The Successful Dyslexic: Identify the Keys to Unlock Your Potential