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Dyslexic journalist opens up on working with condition

Will HaywardA regional journalist has opened up about his struggle coping with dyslexia while working.

Will Hayward, left, who works for the South Wales Echo and Western Mail, was diagnosed with the condition – which affects people’s ability to read despite having normal intelligence – during childhood.

Former sports coach Will decided to become a journalist aged 26 and studied on the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at Cardiff University, where he had particular difficulty learning shorthand.

He has now written a piece for the sister dailies’ online arm Wales Online on how being dyslexic affects his life in the newsroom, revealing he has developed rhymes, techniques and jingles to help him remember spellings.

Wrote Will: “The main problems for me come when someone is watching me type. If an editor comes and sits next to me and asks me to change a sentence I am praying that all the words will be easy. If not they will think I am odd as they hear me rapping the song I made to spell ‘road traffic collision’ under my breath.

“The other problem comes when I am on the phone and someone asks me to spell something. Unless it is my name I am in big trouble. I have to furiously type or write it and then read it down the line to them, all the while pretending the signal is bad.

“Despite my techniques, I still dread that moment when I misspell something and a colleague, or worse, a reader, spots an error and comes out with: ‘You can’t spell? Call yourself a journalist?’

“Harsh, yes. But completely fair. If you read something with spelling errors, the reader’s first thought is to disengage from it. My job is now, among other things, to present clean, well-written words. Being dyslexic is not an excuse. You couldn’t have a firefighter not put out the whole fire because he or she had asthma.”

Will added that every time he comes into work part of him feels he will be “caught out” and that he has “no right to write for a living”.

He continued: “But I wouldn’t give up my learning difficulties if I had the option. It has shaped me and in many ways makes me better at my job in aspects that (I hope) compensate for my bad spelling.

“It makes me think outside the box more and problem solve in a different way. It makes me adaptable. I am hyper-aware of my own limitations and that makes me focus on my strengths.

“People will always tell you as a dyslexic that you can’t spell, write or read. And to put it bluntly they are probably right. But your self-worth should be derived from your reaction to those adversities not from the limitations themselves.

“That said, I still remain the only person I know who has had a passport application sent back because I misspelled my own middle name.”

Will told HTFP: “I had a really nice reaction from all my colleagues at Media Wales and they have really made me welcome.”

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