Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

Interview by Ross Duncan

A lawyer by profession, Sam Rapp is also an accomplished playwright and poet[1].  Like so many artists this year, she will not be performing her regular shows at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

What sets Sam apart from the rest of her peers is her performance titles; “I Can’t Spell & I Don’t Do Grammar” and “I Don’t Do Maths” are just 2 examples. These unusual titles give more than a clue to indicate her performance narrative.  It might be difficult to imagine she has dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia, all of which are characterised as neurodivergent. [2]  and would normally be a hindrance to entering the world of writing.

The other thing that sets Sam apart from the norm is her back story. Although now working as a practising lawyer, success has not been easy.  Having left school with no formal qualifications, by age of 18 Sam was homeless, jobless and living in squats. What she wasn’t aware of, was her life was about to change. One day while out walking in her hometown of Brighton, a somewhat dishevelled and eccentric looking older man passed Sam in the street. He noticed Sam and wanted to talk, which subsequently led to him offering to mentor and to help Sam get back on her feet. This kind gentleman was the Professor of Law at the University of Sussex.

The Professor spotted something in Sam not seen by anyone before.  He was the first person to give Sam value in herself, by raising her confidence and self-esteem. Two attributes which were consistently broken down during her school years by bullying.  The Professor was true to his word, by allowing Sam the time to learn, he coached and mentored her journey to achieve the qualifications needed for law school. Sam graduated at Stafford Stoke on Trent in 2019 (?).  Sam loved the learning experience and certainly doesn’t think you need to study at Oxford or Cambridge to show academic worth!

Sam’s experiences at university and subsequent position within a law firm were challenging.  No one knew about her dyslexia, which over time led to hostility. Colleagues highlighted spelling and grammar mistakes and grew frustrated with her need to ask questions. They showed little empathy and eventually Sam felt they got fed up with her. Sadly, Sam’s newfound confidence was beginning to be eroded again. This led to Sam growing more inward looking and afraid to ask her colleagues for help, resulting in further work errors and increased feelings of isolation.

Unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon. According to the American lawyer David Boies [3] , his experience of having dyslexia and working in a law firm, although not the same as Sam’s, was one of not entirely welcoming. Sam shares his view of the “it’s the work product that people look at, not how the lawyer got there”.

Sam continues to work as a lawyer and has moved on. She is no longer working on civil rights, but is still involved with dyslexia networks and homeless projects.

[1]  https://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/why-neurodiversity-workplace-should-be-embraced

[2] https://www.achieveability.org.uk/files/1275491669/neuro-diversity-diagram.pdf

[3] https://www.law360.com/articles/1071680/david-boies-on-how-dyslexia-shaped-his-practice

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About Ross Duncan

International Ambassador for Dyslexia international freelance volunteer writer
  • Scotland