Did you know that 1 in 10 people are dyslexic – and 1 in 25 severely so? Engineering graduate Lewis Judd, 21, has had dyslexia all his life and even went to a dyslexic school when he was a teenager. Now he has a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Warwick and is a graduate engineer working for National Grid – which he loves! He tells us how he copes with his dyslexia on a day-to-day basis, and why it’s never held him back!
Did you always know you were dyslexic?
Pretty much, yes. Both my brother and father are dyslexic, so my parents made sure I did an ‘educational psychology assessment’ when I started primary school. The tests are run by the Dyslexia Institute (now called Dyslexia Action) and judge abilities like your reading age, IQ and maths age.
I had six tests done between the ages of nine and 17, and they meant I was able to claim extra time in exams and the use of a laptop for GCSEs and A-levels.
How did you feel?
I’ve been dyslexic for as long I can remember, so there was no real shock impact on my life. However, it did knock my confidence, and I used to try and hide the fact that I was dyslexic.
How was school?
At primary school, I had some private classes, but after a while, they stopped as the school said they couldn’t help me anymore. This led to me having poor skills in English – mainly in spelling, reading and constructing sentences – all of which I still struggle with today.
Was secondary school any better?
Yes! I applied for a boarding school in Essex, but the headmaster suggested I went to a local dyslexic school in Kent, called East Court, instead. I went there for years 7 and 8 and they taught me a range of skills to help me cope with my dyslexia. They helped me improve my reading and writing and taught me to touch type so that I could use a computer in the classroom without it slowing me down.
Wow – anything else?
Yes – they taught me to be more confident! And to try and not hide my dyslexia, but ask people for help instead.
How did you get to university?
After East Court I went back to the boarding school (Brentwood School) and stayed there until uni. While I was there I was given plenty of support – like extra time for exams – and I went to on to achieve A-levels in maths, further maths, physics and chemistry. This got me to the University of Warwick, where I studied a Masters in Mechanical Engineering with System. At uni, I received special tuition too, so that I could write essays and lab reports to university level.
Did you intern while you were at university?
During the third year of my degree at Warwick, I did a summer placement at National Grid – which was brilliant and definitely helped. I always knew of National Grid placements from my godfather, so when I approached a stand at a university careers fair I knew it would be a great place to apply. After I looked at the details of the placements, such as length, pay and holiday time, I knew it was right for me.
Tell us about your job at National Grid:
I am now a graduate engineer with National Grid – working in Capital Delivery. Capital Delivery involves managing construction projects, like the installation of new electricity equipment on to the transmission system. The National Grid graduate training scheme lasts 18 months and is made up of three placements in different areas of the business, each one lasting six months. The scheme combines personal and technical training with on-the-job experience.
Does your dyslexia affect your job?
Not really, no – although I might take longer to write reports and I may need someone to proof read my work sometimes. When necessary I just explain that I might need some extra support beforehand and everyone is very understanding.
What advice would you give someone with dyslexia?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, I was worried coming into a work environment that people would be less likely to help with spelling or reading but it’s the opposite! Also, keep challenging yourself! For example, I hate to read out loud to people but if the opportunity comes about I always try and do it because you can only get better at it the more you practice!