What is dyslexia?

A range of difficulties or learning differences, often underlie dyslexia, which is why it is often viewed as a syndrome or ‘neurodiversity’, rather than a specific condition. A useful working definition is that:

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Dyslexia is a combination of abilities and difficulties that can affect reading, writing and spelling as well as organisation, memory and sequencing.

Is dyslexia considered a disability?

Around 10% of doctors in postgraduate training are thought to have dyslexia. These doctors think differently, which can be an asset in a medical career, as they tend to think laterally in the workplace. However, by contrast, multiple choice exams under time pressure may not be their strength. People with dyslexia are often ‘big picture’ thinkers, and find making connections easier than others.

Under the terms of the The Equality Act 2010 a person is considered disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Dyslexic health professionals may fall within this definition and, as such, are entitled to receive ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the educational institution and in the workplace.

The GMC also offers some guidance on support for doctors with disabilities.

Doctors with dyslexia

Doctors in postgraduate training with dyslexia may experience difficulties in completing tasks on time, especially those involving reading and writing under time pressure.

A weakness in spelling, formulating written expression and processing print may affect performance. Dyslexia often overlaps with other neurodiversities such as dyspraxia and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

Exam Boards

If you require a dyslexia assessment to present to an exam board, please note:

1. Exam boards will state a definitive deadline beyond which adjustments cannot be implemented.

2. Please allow 3 months before your next exam sitting for the screening, consultation, assessment and then your application to College for any reasonable adjustments to be made. This also allows time for you to embed any recommendations into your study practice and exam technique, supported by follow-up coaching sessions with your educational specialist.

3. Late referrals will not be able to meet the tight timeframes and requirements of the Colleges.

Referral and screening

If a case manager suspects that a doctor may require dyslexia support the case manager will refer for a dyslexia screening.

If your score on the screening checklist indicates that you may benefit from an assessment, you will be offered a consultation with one of our dyslexia specialists to discuss the situation further.

How does the screening process work?

Dyslexia coaching

If the diagnostic assessment process concludes that the doctor does have dyslexia or another neurodiversity such as dyspraxia or ADHD, the case manager will offer the doctor (up to two) 90 minute 1:1 sessions with an educational specialist, to help the doctor develop strategies to help minimise their difficulties.

The specialists works collaboratively with the doctor to devise approaches that are beneficial to them and their learning style (for example, developing revision strategies and e-portfolio writing).

The specialist dyslexia coaching session are usually carried out by remote platform, for example Zoom, Skype, or Teams.

Dyslexia coaches

The dyslexia coaches working in the Wessex PSW are:

Glynis Lavington
Jane Miller
Sadhbh O’Dwyer

Case study

In this video Richard Purcell shares his experience as a dyslexic medical student, doctor and entrepreneur:

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