Vague ideas that need other people’s brains and cash

(The above could probably be the title of my autobiography…)

Yesterday I went to a rehearsed reading of a friend’s play. Like me, she is dyspraxic. She is c. 12 years older than me, a wife and mother, and was diagnosed at the age I am now. She’s had a couple of plays produced professionally but this is the first time she has written a play explicitly featuring a dyspraxic character, which she hopes to take to major venues next year. Whilst I was there watching the (fascinating) rehearsal process and taking notes I got to thinking about how I can make my experiences and knowledge pay, bearing in mind that writing by itself is no life at the moment, and I’m not qualified or skilled to do anything else (although I’m frequently asked for advice on dys’s, and spend a lot of unpaid time giving it). I thought about all the dyspraxic/dyslexic people I’ve met in the 4/5 years I’ve been writing and speaking on it: The most professionally successful ones I know (and there are a fair number, including people outside dyspraxia circles who I’ve met purely coincidentally) have gone into business with people who have the skills they lack, whilst using the skills they have. It makes sense: often the best skill we have is delegating.

Then I thought back over my own personal experiences, not just in terms of the practical side of dys’s but communication and self-image. In thirteen years, I have gone from someone who was such a wreck at interviews I couldn’t even get a weekend job stamping books in a smalltown library, to someone people pay to speak. This has largely been due to long and arduous self-therapy, and I still see myself as a work in progress. My journey could’ve been a lot shorter, less painful (and frankly a bit less boring for everyone around me to listen to) if I’d received qualified support earlier on. My view was backed up by one of the actors in yesterday’s play, who is dyspraxic (not the one playing the character, interestingly enough) and says it isn’t an issue for him at all because of the amount of intervention he had as a child.

There is indeed a decent-ish amount of SpLD provision for school-age children if you know where to look, but virtually none for adults and young adults, which is very important given how common late diagnoses (like mine) are. There are consultancies I know well who set up in-work provision (assistive software, quietrooms, flexible hours etc) but I think there is a gap in the market specifically for business-focused communication skills and self-esteem support aimed at people with SpLDs: (ie: interview skills, presentation skills, interpersonal skills). I am constantly hearing variouses bang on about how much these matter in business, and constantly hearing about people with SpLDs who lack them. Of course, this is mostly due to lack of recognition but even when they are identified and diagnosed the legacy of a lack of support is often a very negative self-image. It would be great if there were a dedicated supportive organisation with a floating pool of SpLD-aware therapists, actors, drama teachers and suchlike. “Drama therapy” is often mentioned in the context of physical/mental disabilities but not SpLDs, where I think it would be very valuable.

Obviously I am not qualified for this on my own in any direction but I would love to team up with investors and people with the relevant skills and abilities to make something like this work (or get qualified opinions on how feasible it is…). There is a lack of corporate world knowledge in the SpLD sector as most people with an interest come from medical or educational not business or fundraising backgrounds. I’m fully aware the economic climate is what it is, but the more work and networking I do in this field the more I think there is a business case which just needs the right people to find and make it.



One thought on “Vague ideas that need other people’s brains and cash

  1. Initial (lengthy) thoughts:
    1. You could do with befriending someone who has just, or is about to graduate on a Drama therapy degree if that’s the kind of thing you want to embed, because those who have just graduated are often in a really good position to get support from their uni. I know mine (which runs well regarded UG/PG drama and art therapy courses) has a 3 year post graduation business offering, with a loan/grant and office space. Clearly it’s miles from you, but if you do want any contact details let me know.
    2. If you are going to do anything that might warrant a business loan now is the time. So many schemes cut off at thirty, because I guess we’re so horribly old us over-30s that we might drop dead before we repay. But more seriously, you’re still just about in the criteria age for many schemes, it’s worth hunting.
    3. With my business head on I’d say have your business case sketched out well before you hunt for angels. Make your case specific. It doesn’t matter if it’s in writer speak rather than business speak because that can be sorted, but do make sure you are really clear about what the scope of your project is. People will fund good ideas, people won’t fund vague ones sadly. It’s better to be turned down five times by people who are clear, than have someone say yes and you find that what you are talking about is two totally different things.
    Be as detailed as you can. I’m in the process of writing one atm and it feels like I’ve repeated the same thing 20 times, but for so many reasons it’s very important to be that precise and/or repetitive if you’re asking someone to part with their money. equally it’s a really good way to manage expectations particularly if they want to support you because of a personal interest. It’s great if Ms X wants to fund you because her sister is dyspraxic but if her interests and ideas are massively different you need to make sure that case outlines what your interests are and what you are prepared to be involved in. Equally in a bluntly financial sense you need to be able to tell them why their purse is going to like this idea too. Genuine 19thC philanthropist types are very rare beasts, even those passionate about improving circumstances for adults with SpLDs will want to protect their bottom line.

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