Lawyer and dyslexia - anything is possible

Lukivaikeus ja juristi - kaikki on mahdollista

Elisa, who is writing her dissertation and working in Vienna, has been diagnosed with Dyslexia. And perhaps due to Dyslexia, she has exceptional ability to familiarize herself with new information, to combine the information in a useful way and to look at an issue from all angles.

“By combining information, I create new links between facts. I draw overviews “big pictures” in my head. For example, during the discussion or the lectures, in my head, I have often combined facts to other data what I have and developed something entirely new. All my best ideas have been developed in this kind of situations. My brain operates this way.”. 

Earlier I was very demanding towards myself; however, I have learned to be kind and merciful to myself.

Elisa had a normal childhood. She was a creative, brave and persistent child in many ways. However, learning to read was very difficult for her. She hated to read aloud, which is very familiar for people with Dyslexia. Also, in the lectures of foreign languages, she experienced anxiety.

“I remember how horrible it was to realize that we would have English, Swedish or French lessons today. Many times, I was just sitting in the classroom and just tried to survive under my anxiety.”.

Although Dyslexia still affects Elisa’s daily life, she no longer thinks about it every day. She has learned to command the feeling of uncertainty which is connected to the living with Dyslexia.

“In the past, Dyslexia even affected my mood because I believed I was stupid and slow. Along with my studies, I also have learned how to develop even my skills of reading and writing to “hidden” my Dyslexia on the way that anyone without neurological professional can not notice my Dyslexia in my texts even though I still have Dyslexia.”

A few weeks before her matriculation examination, she found out she has Dyslexia.

Getting the dyslexia diagnosis just a few weeks before the exams, she was not be assisted or supported for the exam. Elisa was scared that she would not pass the exams at all.

“I graduated by passing extended math instead of the English exam. Swedish exam I passed on the second try.”

Towards the big dreams – the law school.

Elisa was admitted to the university based on the completing of the law studies at open university. Without these passed law studies with high grades, she was able to present her interest and her skills; she might have never been admitted to the law school because of the entrance exam requirements – Dyslexia does not even prevent this kind of career choice. Her persistence and hard work were rewarded in this regard. Currently, Elisa is drafting her tax law dissertation in English for the University of Helsinki while she is living and working in Vienna, Austria, using English and German as her working languages. Elisa is a living example of the fact that anything is possible if only the will is found.

“Dyslexia has made my road more difficult, but it hasn’t made it impossible to proceed towards my dreams - I just have to work hard”.

I have a passion for taxation. I have worked in various specialist positions of tax law in Finland and abroad. My professional expertise is in international corporate taxation, and after making this career choice, I cannot escape from the use of foreign languages. My studies and work in law require extraordinary precision to me. There is a lot to read and to write. My attitude has undoubtedly played a significant role. I have not been given up, so I have always tried to look for better ways to learn.”

“I am creatively looking for ways to learn.”

“I learn in different ways. While reading texts on a computer, I often change the font, if possible. I use a variety of keyword techniques when reading books. I only underline individual words. I often draw pictures. I learn by listening. At school, I remembered everything that had been discussed in class, even though I didn’t read every page of all books. With this tactic, I passed my studies easily before high-school. I visually remember facts from the pictures of school books. Navigating has also been easy for me; with a glance, I can read the map and follow it. But right and left get mixed up”.

“While writing my dissertation in English, I use a spell-checking app. I have also learned to notice my spelling mistakes by going through the texts I wrote. Just by doing and doing many times and using private teacher, I have also gained the confidence to write in different foreign languages.”

How does Dyslexia appear?

“Due to Dyslexia, I have developed more creative learning habits. I have been involved in many development projects, perhaps for a reason of Dyslexia, I have been involved in these projects because I think differently, and I constantly create new combinations of old and new information. My friends and colleagues have told me that my brain seems to work effectively in developing creativity and new structures. Even though I sometimes might be a bit slower than others for reading and writing, due to my creative learning skills, I’m creative and draw the big pictures super quickly. Often, people with Dyslexia are solution-oriented, and I recognize this also in myself. People have also said that I understand things quickly, which can be seen in my ability to ask well-processed and thoughtful questions.”

“In the past, I felt I didn’t want to talk about my Dyslexia, but now I’m more open about it" 

”In my current job, I have told about my Dyslexia to my closest colleagues, because besides about difficult substance questions, I also work with foreign languages and need a bit help from time to time.”

“I think the most uncomfortable situations are those where we go through texts in English or German together on the screen of the conference room, and I must correct the sentences while everyone is watching. In these situations, I need help from my co-workers with spelling.”

Dyslexia should be seen as a strength in the work environment.

“Awareness about Dyslexia should be increased. An excellent problem solver and an inventive person can be the one who helps the whole team and company move forward. It is no coincidence that many inventors have had Dyslexia.”

“It would be important for a person to feel and experience that, for example, in work evaluations, there is no need to fear. We shouldn’t be measured by how fast we read or the number of typos in the text we write. To say this alone aloud would take the pressure away and help focus on what is essential; the substance.”

 What advice would you give to a person who is struggling with Dyslexia?

Living with Dyslexia is no worse than any other. Enjoy that you are a bit different. It is only real strength in studies and your work life. Dyslexia requires us to do more work than others, but it is worthwhile. Also, remember to be kind to yourself and take good care of yourself, because working harder and stressing about it can really be tiring and take away your energy.

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The barrenness and beauty of dyslexia

In the podcast we talk about dyslexia, reading difficulties, challenges, and also successes.