A Ross Duncan Interview

It takes one to know one!
“I vaguely remember reading something about Judge Dhir talking about glass ceilings and how this can act as barrier either for yourself or by others who don’t think you have what it takes to be successful. But Judge Dhir is a good example of someone who as a child was only thought suitable to be a hairdresser, but has crossed many barriers other than being dyslexic to carve a success out of being an established judge.
In my own way, as someone who was subjected to unspeakable ridicule at home and at school, there wasn’t even an exit or open door where I could leave. But forty years on from a statement that was made on parent’s night that I was a ‘dreamer’, my mother would still, up until recently, perpetuate this. But on a home visit, I spoke to an elderly lady, a couple of doors down, where I wistfully said, that I was dyslexic. That elderly lady happened to be the same school teacher who described me as a ‘dreamer’!
But of course, “dyslexia wasn’t heard of at that time”. Everything the teachers says is correct and you didn’t question it. This was the reaction my parents would have most likely have deemed as appropriate at the time.
In my early 40s I discovered that I was indeed dyslexic – I didn’t think I was. My wife in her favour stuck by me and my difficulties and took on extra roles that I couldn’t handle myself. I couldn’t find any support or understanding to help me. It’s OK being a child with dyslexia because there is now a level of support and understanding that wasn’t available when I was growing up. But how do you support someone in their 40s?
My GP prescribed CBT, to my horror my counselor was herself dyslexic!
So, for nearly ten years I have thrown myself into writing and contributing articles to magazines interviewing famous people with dyslexia to raise awareness and quell the myths about dyslexia. Would you believe it my latest published article is about Judge Dhir!

Being a Judge in The Royal Courts of Justice one would expect a person in such a lofty position to be already publicly scrutinised, but what happens if the same person happened to be judged at at a young age and thought at the time only suitable to become a hairdresser.

Anuja Ravindar Dhir grew up in a loving and supportive family in Dundee and although her school may have tried to persuade her not to think so highly of herself her family wanted her to be a well-rounded individual and to enjoy school more than how well she did with exams. This approach from her parents was to give her confidence and meant that she had confidence in herself. Growing up, much of her inspiration came from her father, Professor Ravindra Dhir, who was strong, humble and principled. He had an incredible ethic for working hard and for not letting anything hold him back,as well as a resilience to make a difference. Her father also kept a watch for eye on her when se was studying English and Scottish Law at Dundee University, where has a lecturer in Civil Engineering. Her view was that people should follow their own path to find out what they are good at.

But as is so common of a generation, dyslexia wasn’t ‘picked’ at school and hadn’t crossed her mind until her two children was diagnosed as well. Her opinion about schools now is that they are becoming better at dealing with dyslexia and where there is properly staffed learning support provided they don’t make  children feel less able. They now provide the support framework to give encouragement and practical help to children with dyslexia to help them reach their full potential. This of course only highlights the importance of early diagnosis.

But to reach the Bar and to eventually become member of the Bar requires a lot of determination and resilience, particularly as Judge Dhir was eventually to be the first non-white judge at the Old Bailey. Add to this the fact that during much of the journey to get where she is now she wan’t actually aware that she had dyslexia and only found until in her 40s. She didn’t, however, have an uphill struggle to get success as you might have expected but found law interesting and stimulating. When practicing for the Bar she soon came to realize that soft skills matter in the workplace and it was easy to forget her experiences at school as the emphasis at the time was more about passing exams. She believes that people are becoming much more informed about dyslexia and understanding the condition, which is only a positive thing as this gives better access and opportunities to many professions, including law. Since becoming a barrister in 1989, there have been two significant changes related to equality and diversity. One is the introduction of child friendly policies to enable mothers to come back to work and the other has led to the professions being more accessible to people regardless of gender, race and social background. Judges in England are appointed on merit by an independent commission and Judge Dhir hopes that this will encourage others to apply.