Ross Duncan Interviews Sam Marsden

One of the many difficulties with dyslexia is that children can flounder when it comes to reading and can fall behind.

Sam Marsden, an internationally recognised engineer was “completely incapable of reading and writing” at school.  He says that school was a set-back and the “hardest part of his life”; in his opinion this was mainly due to dyslexia being poorly understood by the experts who claimed this was the inability to read and write.  Sam through his own experiences points out that this is wrong.

But advances in modern technology software like text to speech and speech to text have changed people’s lives.  Using this type of software helps Sam, as “dyslexia” is no more limited that the vocabulary that he chooses”.  However, he still stumbles across words that sound the same, like “are” and “our”.  Another problem is that the software may not understand his accent.

In terms of engineering, being dyslexic lends itself to the role in Sam’s opinion.  Having to do academic papers and reports is another story – most people in a similar position would agree that this can be a bit of a battle.  In engineering there is a degree of using specific words and as a result there is a need to use spellcheck.  For Sam “the field of engineering works with results and mathematics regardless of achievements”; “the biggest challenge is the frustration in having to go over everything four or five times to make sure anything else in that “everyone wants it done yesterday” -to be on top of your game for someone with dyslexia can be even harder.  On top of that “results are results and you have to keep the pace”.  But having dyslexia has never limited his expectations and having the mindset to succeed has only driven him to push his limits to constantly improve, with a reminder “that you can never be too prepared”.

Sam took a year out from University to work for the prestigious Red Bull Formula 1 racing team as a junior design engineer.  Working in that type of environment in motorsport highlighted a huge advantage in being dyslexic and the uniqueness in wanting success, because having a strong mindset “ is a powerful thing” which Sam had already had and “shouldn’t be underestimated”.  But being an engineer and being dyslexic is a “massive advantage” for Sam; being able to see the bigger picture and have understanding lends itself to strong interdependent reasoning and visualisation skills.  This is because engineers are not scientists or mathematicians and can’t always model things that others might be able to.  But they need to be able to make the right judgement at the right time.  Then you can move forward in building a device or project to see exactly how good it is.

Reflecting on his own experience at school and how things are now, Sam thinks that there is better identification and understanding.  This underpins his view that teachers now see dyslexia as a hurdle for a child to overcome and not a limitation.

Ross Duncan

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