Mishcon de Reya page structure
Site header
Main menu
Main content section

In conversation with Marcia Brissett-Bailey

Posted on 15 July 2022

Earlier this week, Diversity and Wellbeing advisor Matthew Carpenter spoke with Marcia Brissett-Bailey, speaker, author, and co-founder of the British Dyslexia Association Cultural Perspective Committee.

Marcia is a Forbes-featured international speaker, with over 30 years' experience in the education sector.

More recently, she was recognised as one of the Top 50 Influential Neurodivergent Women for 2022 by diversity & inclusion company Women Beyond the box.

In this session, Marcia discussed her work in educating people about dyslexia and shared her lived experiences of education, equity, diversity, and inclusion matters.

The Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions
In Conversation with Neurodiversity Narrative Changer Marcia Brissett-Bailey

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

Hello everyone and welcome to this Mishcon Academy Session which is part of a series of talks looking at some of the biggest issues that are facing the world currently, looking both at individuals and organisations.  My name is Matthew Carpenter and I support the Wellbeing and Inclusion Functions here at Mishcon.  So we’ve got Marcia Brissett-Bailey joining us today who is a Neurodiversity Narrative Changer, a Forbes featured International speaker and author who has co-founded the British Dyslexia Association’s Cultural Perspective Committee.  With over 30 years’ experience of the education system, Marcia was recognised as one of the top 50 intellectual neurodivergent women this year.  She has spoken at various organisations including Deloitte, NatWest and we are glad to add Mishcon to the list.  So Marcia recently won the British Dyslexia Association Adult Award for her advocacy work for both dyslexia and the neurodiversity space and her first self-authored book is coming out next year I believe?
Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

In the summer.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

Fab, we can talk about that a bit later on and I could go on but I will stop there and hand over to Marcia, thank you so much for joining us today.

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

Thank you so much for that introduction.  Where do I really begin there is so much to talk about in terms of my journey and dyslexia but one of the things I really want to say initially is that dyslexia is authentic and it is unique to the individual and what I mean by that is that you know when we talk about dyslexia it, it comes in different forms.  There is no define… clear definition of dyslexia and there is over – when I did my MA – there was over 35 definitions that I found.  There is still that I guess there’s that intersectionality piece which is about looking at race, culture, education and how that impacts you and I know that that’s impacted me in terms of how I’ve shown up in the world and how my journey has been challenging because of my education routes, the diagnosis that never happened until I was… later on when I was 16.  The system kind of failed me along that journey because I loved school but school doesn’t feel like it loved me and I didn’t feel like I can get through navigating why, what I was passionate about and that was learning, understanding literature and just understanding, being curious about the world but I just felt crumbled within the school system so dyslexia I would say is definitely unique because of those factors, because of those different elements of people having opportunities and some people not having the opportunities because of class etcetera, so that’s the beginning of my journey with dyslexia but it is definitely authentically unique to the individual.  One of the things I will say also is that it is genetic so I am dyslexic, my mum’s dyslexic and my daughter is dyslexic so there is definitely a genetic feature there.  Also my nephew is autistic so we are a very neurodivergent family and what I mean by neurodivergent which is being coined was… neurodiversity we call it, was coined by Judy Singer who is Australian and she sort of talked about the celebration of autism but as time has gone on in the journey it’s now… because it’s about neuro and how the brain processes, it is now, we’ve joined into that process so like people who are autistic, you know, dyslexic, ADHD, Tourette’s, we all fit in that real kind of circle of neurodiversity and looking at how the brain processes and we want it to be a celebratory muscles because you know, I am here by design, this is who I have been design, it’s that biodiversity so that’s a little element of sort of talking about dyslexia from you know, it’s authentic to the individual but also the neurodiversity kind of umbrella.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

Yeah and can you talk a bit more about, about sort of some characteristics that you see with this dyslexia?

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

So talking from my new diversity, because one of the things what’s important to say as well, with my dyslexia or anybody who may be dyslexic, it can co-occur or overlap with other neurodiversity’s, so like I mentioned you could have autism, you could have ADHD so there could be also traits so I can talk about probably there are some elements of ADHD in my traits with my dyslexia but my dyslexia shows up in a few ways.  My memory, my short-term memory, I can remember, actually I can remember when I was about 5 but something that happened yesterday I might have to really think about it or take some notes.  My short memory that phonological, it sometimes doesn’t serve me in the way I’d like it to.  Writing and reading, it always comes and shows up as this is dyslexia.  We, yeah I can read and write if I am taught the right strategies and that’s something that was missed when I was at school.  Strategies to how I learn so I am more of a visual learner of a kinesthetic learner, I learn by doing things and I am quite visual and that’s some of the things what really good strengths within employment but I will talk about that a little bit later.  Quite creative, thinking outside the box so I’ve learnt to develop my strengths but initially I didn’t know them or I thought they were a bit quirky or a little bit strange because I didn’t see anybody else doing these kind of things like visualising things and then create it into a mind map.  I never knew that that was a way because that wasn’t the way I was taught at school so once I sort of came to find and develop my dyslexia when I was diagnosed at 16 at college, I started to find out that actually these are some of my strengths and these are the ways that I need to navigate in the world so I can swim rather than sort of sink so yeah, dyslexia will show up in different ways for different people and some people have… mine are definitely around being creative and visual.  I am definitely a visual way of learning and thinking.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

And you sort of shared a bit of your sort of lived experience but it is really interesting to sort of see how you got involved with the British Dyslexia Association and particularly thinking about that Cultural Perspective Committee that you co-founded?

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

I was at an AGM meeting for the BDA and I was saying that you know, the representations are really key and something really important to me because growing up you didn’t see, you know dyslexia for example, represented.  There was you know, lots of white people with you know dyslexia you know, we’ve got Richard Branson, we’ve got Alan Sugar, we’ve got… but I didn’t see anybody look like me and one of the things I said when I was at the BDA is that you know, this is great having this, this AGM but the representation of people from black and brown people and young people not here and then somebody else said the same thing and they said, ‘why don’t we put together a Cultural Perspective Committee and you guys are it, you are the co-founders’ and it was voted in and there we were in 2016 and that was like ‘wow okay’, from somebody who didn’t feel they had a voice, for somebody who selectively muted at school because I was so traumatised by the school experience and here I am being told you are voted in to have a co-founding sort of committee to change the narrative and make a difference to talk about representation, talk about stigma, traumas and taboo from a cultural perspective was just mind blowing but I was privileged because even though I kind of feel it in my stomach that this is the child from East London in Hackney who you know, I was feeling like I was going to be a statistic and I had to keep persevering and believing in myself in order to navigate into a system that I feel there are lots of systematic barriers and I feel like those were some of the barriers that were stopping me but I kept on breaking them down.  You know, for me I am not a rope learner or a logical thinker and sometimes people the way they show up and do things, you are not going to see the amount they have to do behind the scenes.  Being part of the Cultural Perspective being great, I am with a committee of other women at the moment and we’d like some men in there to really change that narrative and hopefully be imbedded within the BDA and the cultural perspective won’t be there because you don’t really need a cultural perspective, what you need is an inclusive corporation about how we think and bringing culture from all aspects which I always keep saying is good for business.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

And as part of that narrative and as I mentioned before I think you’ve got a book coming out next year, I think that talks to your experience being a black woman with dyslexia and you’ve got other people that have come along and shared with that book. Can you sort of talk a bit about sort of how that book came about and yeah sort of…

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

No don’t laugh okay, so when I was about 10 I loved poetry, one of the things I like is poetry and I was reading a quote from Maya Angelou and she was somebody I really, I felt she got me because even though she doesn’t know or did know that but I just felt the story of the pain, the struggle and I said I would love to be a writer and that was when I was about 10 and I think I got really serious in 2016 or thereabouts because I was in somebody else’s book about amazing dyslexics, I talk about my sort of journey a little bit in there and then I just spoke to the publishers and said, ‘I’ve got a book’, I had drafted something but it wasn’t finished and I was I’ve got this book and I really want you to look at it and I did a proposal and then they said, ‘We really like, we want it’ and the reason why I wrote this book is really because again I don’t want to keep repeating myself, but it was about changing that narrative.  We don’t hear enough about black and brown stories, about you know, neurodiversity or dyslexia and I for a long time when I was 16, I felt like I was on my own, I thought I was the only black person who had dyslexia, I’d never met anybody and I felt this story is not just about me because I truly believe it’s about collectives.  So I’ve got twenty other five people in the book and we’ve got some men in there talking about their journey as black people with neurodiversity or predominantly dyslexia but some of them have got dyslexia, dyspraxia which is also part of that neurodiversity umbrella, talking about their experiences.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

We’ve had one more Q&A.  In researching the idea of limbic capitalism the premise that corporate entities such as Match.com create habit forming behaviour.  I am curious to know if you think dating apps are keen to match people or are they actually more interested in just retaining your attention?

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

Well I think that’s a really good question because you know it’s a question about the economic and the business model behind these apps and sites and I think yeah there is a lot of people saying that you know these platforms, it’s not in their interest that someone meet up… that they meet their partner because you know they want to keep people on the platform.  Actually I don’t think that’s what the best model builds on because the thing is that if you have a product that’s made for something and this is not working, words going to have it and you know it’s going to you know, it’s going to spread that you know, it’s not working so I think that’s actually bad for the enterprise in the sector as a whole and they are quite explicit about this in their business plans.  They don’t… it’s not in their interest if nobody meets, you know, nobody… they want people to meet someone but they also know that relationships break up and when they do they want people to come back and that’s, I think that’s a very classic business you know, economic model, having people yeah, you know customers that they don’t you know, stay with the brand, they meet the ending they buy new products but they, they buy the product and when they you know, need to renew they go back so it is kind of making you know clients stick in the long-term and dating sites and apps really work that way.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

And is there anything else that you think organisations can be doing to support individuals, any other resources that people can go for support with regards to neurodiversity?

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

I think the think that was key that you said about the dyslexia friendly.  If it is dyslexia friendly but it is for everybody so like I mentioned about the assistive technology.  If that’s on boarded for everyone, it doesn’t have to be for someone who is neurodiverse.  We’ve got these assistive technology you can talk into your um, can type your emails, you can listen back to your reports, they are already inbuilt in some of our software so if we are having that language and that natural conversation it is accessible to everybody so everybody is equal but if we are not having those conversations then how do we, how do we begin.  You begin… you know you are going to have somebody who is feeling ‘ooh I don’t know, should I ask, should I not ask, I don’t feel like I can ask’ then you start to build up, ‘I won’t ask, I don’t feel like I can’ then what happens to that person you know, triggers a trauma or going back to when you feel like you didn’t belong, these things can really happen, they are really real so I think mentorships a good one, or having champions within your organisation.  If you have people who are neurodivergent and there is kind of I guess an infrastructure for it because obviously that’s someone’s time but if you’ve got some things like that built up within your organisation and groups that you can attend, that’s a good way forward.  One of the things I would say as well, middle management training is really important because again some managers don’t know about some of these things and why should they if it is not already from the beginning of when you have your induction to have awareness and if not they have a support mechanism to go I think because you know, we can’t make assumptions about what people are and who they are but what we can do is get the right training and support and give people the awareness to, to feel comfortable to share if they want to and not going on to people about performance management when that’s not what it’s about.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

So if those individuals and families out there that are supporting their children going through perhaps diagnosis tests or just support with their neurodiverse condition, what kind of external resources are there out there?  Who can they contact for sort of help if they are sort of struggling and coming up against it because I think there’s massive waiting lists for sort of tests and support out there?

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

Some assessments, one of the things I want to say and this is from a parents perspective as a parent with a child who is neurodivergent, you are the expert on your child.  You know your child.  Obviously you are not professional like an educational psychologist but you have a sense of things you know, when my daughter was reading her, Pip and Chip books, we would be coming to certain things and she would be asking the same word again and I would be like, this is something interesting but what my SENCo said, not my SENCo, my daughter’s SENCo said she is on par with her peers, I mean what does that mean, on par.  Not every person is going to understand that.  I understood but I am saying, ‘okay let’s look at this’.  Eventually I just kept on knocking, ‘hello it’s me again’ and I just had to keep doing that and had to be consistent and not feel fearful of the authority because also there should be co-production so there should be a partnership with the school and yourself so don’t feel fearful, that’s the first thing.  There is support out there I mean I’m obviously with the British Dyslexia Association, they have a helpline, you could call them.  There is also local affiliations with the BDA, so I am a Trustee of the Waltham Forest Dyslexia Association and we have a support helpline but also do tutoring for children with dyslexia and we do touch typing, all sorts of things to empower and support that young person.  So there can be, if you google, there can be support, local support groups, maybe not just dyslexic, it could be neurodivergent so I would start maybe with the BDA because it is a national organisation but there are other affiliations as I said so it is just worth starting there.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

So perhaps a parting question is so if people are taking one thing away from this talk, what would you want them to take away and sort of start doing from today?

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

I would like that we change our induction processes if organisations such as here have induction process, how can we make it not only more inclusive but how can we bring that, the kind of change it from this is disabled you could get a ramp kind of thing.  We need to move away from that and we need to adjust the building.  It’s a bit more than that and then that’s no disrespect of that because we do need that as well, that is part of reasonable adjustment so people can have access but access looks different in different ways.  I’ve got hidden disabilities, I’ve got osteoarthritis as well, no one is seeing that but how, what kind of support mechanisms are in place to support me so the induction is really important, not just about on boarding but as an organisation because it starts with a culture.  If you don’t feel you belong somewhere what is going to happen?  So you need to make it, the language more inclusive and make sure that the culture of that organisation is on it, it’s… you’ve got to do the inside work and that is some of the inside work, looking at all of that and leadership are involved as well in making those changes and talking about it all the time.  So I think I’ve said one… did I say one thing?

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

We’ve got a couple, that’s always good.  Thank you so much Marcia and thank you everybody for joining our session today…

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

Thank you.

Matthew Carpenter, Diversity & Wellbeing Advisor, Mishcon de Reya

…both in the person and virtually so I think a round of applause to end it.  Marcia thank you.

Marcia Brissett-Bailey, Speaker and Author

Thank you for having me.

 

The Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions
To access advice for businesses that is regularly updated, please visit mishcon.com


Visit the Mishcon Academy for more learning, events, videos, podcasts and reports.

How can we help you?
Help

How can we help you?

Subscribe: I'd like to keep in touch

If your enquiry is urgent please call +44 20 3321 7000

Crisis Hotline

I'm a client

I'm looking for advice

Something else