Elizabeth Wilkinson is the owner of The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant based in Telford, Shropshire, and is a qualified Specialist SpLD (Specific Learning Difficulties) Teacher.
Elizabeth founded Dyslexia Information Day in 2008 and started the Dyslexia Awards in 2015. Over the years, she has won numerous awards including Pride of Shropshire 2016 and Federation of Small Businesses Volunteer Champion 2021.
Why did you start The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant (TheDDC)?
I thought my son was dyslexic when he started nursery school, and as the school were not so understanding, I signed up for a 10-week OCN Dyslexia Awareness course at Telford College to find out more. That course and its teacher changed my life path, which lead me to where I am today!
On leaving school, my highest-grade GCSE was a D in English Literature - which I find ironic as so many people think dyslexia means not being able to spell, read or write!
Suddenly I find myself back at school, but this time learning was amazing, interesting and I was not only getting it, but I was also smashing it; so much so that the teacher offered me a Saturday morning job working with dyslexic children at Telford Dyslexia Workshop.
I went on to become a qualified Teaching Assistant and was headhunted to a local secondary school, where I became their Specialist Support Assistant – Dyslexia.
I had found my path – education and teaching, so I continued with my studies, did the three-year teaching qualifications in an intensive two-year trail course, and started to get top A grades. I really had found my area of expertise and passion – it wasn’t easy but it was so enjoyable! I became a fully qualified Teacher, as well as going on to qualify as a Specialist SpLD (Specific Learning Difficulties) Teacher, specialising in working with adults at a time when most were focusing on working with children.
My mission was and still is to make a positive difference, to educate, to raise awareness and effect change in the public’s perception of dyslexics and dyslexia in my hometown and home county.
I love the #DyslexiaPositivelyUnique and #DyslexiaUniquelyPositive hashtags that The Dyslexic Dyslexia Consultant uses. It is important for people to understand dyslexia doesn’t mean we cannot read write or spell, it actually means a super skillset that is yet to be utilised in most dyslexics!
What advice do you have for someone wanting to start their own business?
Go for it. Running a business that makes you happy, allowing you to spend time doing the things you love to do, is amazing!
Employ or commission professional help and services to do the things you are not so keen on. For some that may be accounts, others it may be PR. Get people who love to do the things you hate or don’t enjoy, to do them. You do what you do because you’re really good at it, and you get other people in to do the rest of it. You might not want to pay people but think of it this way - whilst they’re doing the things you hate, you can be resting, working with more clients, or networking – it’s a win-win!
What inspired your Dyslexia Information Day?
I quickly realised that I was giving the same advice to different people over and over again. In 2008, I set up an event to house as many dyslexia service providers and information as I could, so that the public could visit and get information, advice and guidance and be inspired by local dyslexics – thus the Dyslexia information Day (DiD) was born!
DiD is only possible because of an amazing team of volunteers. They make every event amazing and our exhibitors understand that DiD is not about making money, it is about imparting knowledge, information and empowering visitors to be all they can be and want to be! The volunteers believe in me and my passion, and make the events very special and unique, so much so we have inspired others to go on and run their own versions. We are all very proud that we are the original Dyslexia Information Day event.
We’ve had a great impact with the event over the years and it’s shown that there is power in linking people to people, services to people and networking.
Exhibitors are there by invite only, and we always have local inspirational dyslexics on hand to talk to visitors: individuals, families, employers, employees, teachers, Teaching Assistants, parents, grandparents – even local politicians pop in from time to time! We always try to make sure that there is a craft table in the centre of the room so that children attending with parents or guardians can be out of ear shot, whilst the adults allay their fears. The children get to have fun, make something to take home with them, and start associating dyslexia with a positive experience.
Why did you start the Dyslexia Awards?
In 2015, I started the Dyslexia Awards to turn the negative publicity about dyslexia on its head. I’ve worked with so many amazing dyslexics over the last 22 years. Sometimes the world is so focussed on the negative of what they think dyslexia means, that they are not aware of the amazing talents dyslexics may possess. The Dyslexia Awards was created to shine a light on the amazing, the positive, and to create local positive role models.
We have several award categories for entrepreneurs, community stars, talented creatives, supportive employers and more. The Dyslexia Awards started in Shropshire, but over the years the demand to expanded has been too much to ignore, so in 2020 we opened up nominations to West Midlands, took a year off in 2021, and 2022 will be the first UK-wide awards.
Do you have any advice for employers looking to make their business more accessible and inclusive?
I would say that communication is key!
Anyone you employ who is considered under Equality Act 2010 as disabled is protected and legally requires reasonable adjustments – but that will mean different things to different people. So, make sure you have a discussion with each individual to understand what that means to them and you.
Talk about applying for Access to Work funding. A needs assessment by a needs assessor via Access to Work will make recommendations for reasonable adjustments and you may be able to get help towards any costs. In fact, if you have 49 or less employees, you may well get this fully funded. And if you have a new employee starting for your company, it is worth starting the Access to Work process within six weeks of them starting to get fully funded support, no matter the size of your company.
Putting reasonable adjustments in place for staff can have a massively positive impact, not just on work, but on life too. Any good employer will know that a well-supported, valued, and happy employee is a productive one! Reasonable adjustments that help to reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue, and will have a positive impact on life outside work too, and that means you have a positive brand ambassador for your company with in the community and beyond.