Personal Stories, Dyslexia

Neurodiversity Q&A - with Ross Duncan

Ross Duncan is a dyslexic researcher and writer for British Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia Scotland, The Red Apple Dyslexia Association,Dyslexia Association of Ireland  and Weareumi

Here Ross provides insights into himself, and life before and after his dyslexia diagnosis.

Tell me about yourself

I was up brought living close by an area of industrial heartland of Scotland better known as Lanarkshire, which was approximately 9 miles away from Glasgow.  I was the only son of the youngest of three and grew up in by modern standards, a very strict traditional Presbyterian Scottish household.  

From day one comparisons were already being made of me in how I was slow to develop and to slow grasp even the basics. Where my peers might have done things with a certain level of ease, I  had this continual unsurmountable level of struggle and it was hard to achieve the most basic things.  If I had achieved ‘average’, then this for me was an accomplishment.  I felt, and was almost made to feel, awkward.  “Seen and not heard”.

But according to Alexander Faluday in his book ‘A Little Edge of Darkness’ it tells of a similar storey and his own fight from a young age to be recognised, even though severely dyslexic he had an exceptional IQ and later become the youngest undergraduate at the University of Cambridge.  But sadly, this was never going to me.

What was life like for you before you were diagnosed

High school for me was in part a waste; I was never going to be an academic or a scholar but grudgingly had still to go through the indignantly of trying to fit in. Eventually approaching my 16th birthday I left school with the expected no qualifications.

It wasn’t until I turned 20 that I eventually managed to find a steady job.  I started working in the National Library of Scotland.  Even now I pinch myself in how ironic it must have felt at the time for me to start a career working in a major library. When I started I wasn’t interested in books let alone ever reading a book, and to be surrounded with over 50 miles of book shelving full of books was totally wasted on me.  My time there was a struggle with a of lack of inclusion with the rest of my colleagues; this was mainly due to my own lack of shared enthusiasm and interest in books, something that others around me certainly took seriously. Something I couldn’t understand why.

After 10 years I left to seek a new career in a call-centre.  The constant high pressure in a target driven environment was not something I ever got used to.  Within a matter of months in starting a new career, the public indignity and shame that comes of feeling like a failure soon came back to haunt me. Being sacked from the call-centre and having to walk through a large open plan office, knowing that I was being escorted out of the building, added to feeling that I was being watched, and it got too much for me.

When did you first suspect you were dyslexic?

A turn of fait eventually saw me move out of my comfort zone for the very first time to relocate on my own to Belfast.  Within a couple of years, I had a job, settled down and got married, got a mortgage, and had a family. But not all was a ‘bed of roses’.

My South African born wife started pointing things out that had never occurred to me before.

  1. Forgetfulness
  2. Lack of confidence in filling out forms
  3. Spelling

In her wisdom she identified dyslexia was the cause, whilst I was dismissive.  It all came to a head one night after I read a book about Sir Jackie Stewart.  The message from the book only mirrored what I had been through at the same age.  This reinforced my fears that, aged 42, I was in fact dyslexic. What was even more poignant was that I was on holiday, sitting reading in my old bedroom, a place that was one of the few places that was my refuge from feelings of disappointment.

The first thoughts of dyslexia brought me joy and fear.  Joy at long last that I knew all my struggles over the years wasn’t something that I had imagined.  Fear was why it had taken so long.  Eventually I was finally tested and proved that I was born with it.

Has anything changed since your Diagnosis?

Since my diagnoses instead of drifting or ambling my way through life, I seem to have found an unlikely purpose in life. Something to do and something that I enjoy doing. Most importantly, possibly for the first time in my life, I seem to be good at it.  I became a writer.

After coming to terms with dyslexia, or so I thought at first, I was determined to get a handle on the subject. But soon discovered that for me at least there was never ever going to be the sufficient information available that I was specifically looking for and that was ever going to totally satisfy my needs.  Instead of sitting back and accepting this I decided to look for the information myself.

So I started off doing something new and something novel.  I engaged with a dyslexia charity to see if they liked my idea to write an article for them about their Patron.  It just so happened that I had contacted the Dyslexia Scotland, I would eventually interview the charities Patron.  It was none other than Sir Jackie Stewart.

This was the stepping stone and the path that would lead me out of obscurity.

In fact, I have spent the past number of years sitting back and reflecting on ideas or subjects to potentially write about.  In wanting to do this, it has given me a mandate and a platform to work from.  Before in certain company I was ashamed and embarrassed to even mention my academic achievements, this now has been forgotten about. I have now moved on by engaging and reaching out to write about often recognizable people, not local scale, more a on a global scale.  This was and still is beyond my own vivid imagination.

You can find out more about Ross Duncan at

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About Ross Duncan

International Ambassador for Dyslexia international freelance volunteer writer
  • Scotland