Virtual International Dyslexia Conference - An Interview

01/06/2020 09:10

In July, global experts are coming together with a united response to address the issues experienced by hundreds of millions of people all around the world: dyslexics.  Here, our in-house writer Holly speaks with Roger Broadbent, one of the organisers of the International Dyslexia Conference to find out more.


Could we start by you telling me a little more about how you came to work with Dyslexia Institute UK and about its endeavours?

Holly, I discovered that I was dyslexic only during my volunteer work with other dyslexics.  I was screening ex-offenders at the time for the Manchester Probation Service, and I realised that I struggled to do the tasks that I was doing with them as part of their screening for dyslexia.  Before that point, I just thought everyone forgot names or missed appointments.  I have worked in a variety of roles supporting dyslexics: delivered training to teachers/lecturers; proposed the European Dyslexia Charter to the EU; set up the Manchester Dyslexic Self Help Group; was a trustee at the Dyslexia Foundation; been a study support coach at the University of Manchester, MMU, and the University of Salford; advised the EU Mental Health forum; trained staff in excluded pupil referral units; hosted regular workshops; work as a consultant to Claro Software, and Firefox; and now am bringing dyslexia experts from around the world to share their knowledge and expertise at July’s Virtual International Dyslexia Conference.


What can be done to better support children with dyslexia at school and adults with dyslexia in the workplace?

Educators need to be given a better understanding of the condition and what helps dyslexics learn.  There is a range of teaching techniques that are good for dyslexics and non-dyslexics.  The role of Teaching Assistant is super valuable for the pupil and the teacher; however, too often these roles have been cut.   Also, tech can bring a lot to the learner.  The latter is a huge discussion topic, especially for students from less well-off backgrounds.

Unemployment rates are way too high for dyslexics around the world.  Often dyslexics end up in roles that are not commensurate to their IQ/abilities.  Similarly, dyslexics are too often bypassed in promotions.  There is also the more sinister issue that dyslexics will be bullied out of work due to the employer’s lack of understanding/support for the condition.  There is so much that needs to be done in this field: HR managers need training; dyslexic skills need to be recognised and encouraged (e.g. seeing the big picture, great sales skills…), tech can also be very important.  This is a theme in itself being addressed at the virtual conference.


What would you consider to be the main barriers people have towards mental health and SEN?

This is a big question!  We fail dyslexics at virtually every opportunity throughout education and in employment.  We need to challenge the stigma and fear of dyslexia.  Once we focus on reducing the anxiety experienced by dyslexics as they progress in their lives then we will see much more positive mental health outcomes.  Again, this area is being explored at the conference.


Why do you think people can be reluctant to adopt a positive framework around SEN and mental health?

There are many obstacles to change in this.  Here are a few: cost, desire to make the effort, ignorance, the system has many powerful institutions/individuals that benefit from the status quo…


Who would you consider the Virtual International Dyslexia Conference is suitable for?  

The conference is for the global audience that would like to learn more about the issues that affect the dyslexic individuals, their families, workplaces, and communities.  The issues we are addressing are replicated in every county around the world.  It is dyslexics who are over-represented in prisons, drug users, truants, unemployed, the list goes on.  The dyslexic population of the globe is between 1.7 billion and 700 million.  Attendees will be driving the lived-experience of these people into a better place for everyone’s benefit.


And how can people get tickets?

Tickets can be purchased here.  The conference is free for students and people on a limited income.