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  • Writer's pictureTeam Toolbot

Life on the Tools: Dealing with Dyslexia as an Electrician

If you stumble over your words when you read and much prefer working with tools, you’re not alone. Sam Horder, electrician and self-confessed book avoider, has the same outlook: he struggles with reading and anything wordy, and would much rather be building stuff in the real world than dealing with text.

We put some questions to Sam to find out what life on the tools is like when you’re a Dyslexic electrician and discovered his advice for anyone else who struggles with this learning condition.

What was it like being Dyslexic in school? 

Well in all honesty I didn't know I had it, so it didn't affect me too much. It wasn't until my early 20s that I spoke to the relevant people who put me in the right direction and that's when I discovered I am Dyslexic.

In school, I was rubbish in English and maths, and anything that dealt with handwriting, but ironically all of my teachers didn't pick up on it.

I'm sure I wasn't the only person but through school, it didn't affect me, I just knew I was better doing things on my hands than I was writing and reading stuff.

When did you get diagnosed with Dyslexia?

Officially I haven't been diagnosed, but I spoke to a person who worked in the disability area and knew more about it than I did. He explained everything to me about how and why he thought I was Dyslexic and from there I saw a doctor who then confirmed that, yes, I am Dyslexic. Because I was already working in the trades, I had found my niche for what I needed to do workwise, so he said it wasn't worth me doing the tests.

Was it a problem to pass your electrical exams?

I sailed through the practical exams but struggled with the theory. So that is the downside to me not being officially tested for Dyslexia. Because I didn't have the piece of paper that said I was Dyslexic, I wasn't able to get any help, I couldn't get any extra time on my exams, and I didn't have somebody with me who could explain things to me properly because one of my issues.

I read things incorrectly, and sometimes in the wrong order. Now and then I take things out of context, so they're written in a way that sometimes I'll read it and I'll think of something completely random, which I think is relevant to that sentence or with that question but in fact, it means something completely different.

So yes, I've struggled a lot with exams on the theory side. I took one or two of the exams twice to get through and I haven't gone for the top qualification that I can currently get for the 2391 simply. After all, I know I'll pass practical stuff because I test my work and I'm qualified to test my own work, but the whole theory side of it and the science, I just can't get it into my head, it doesn't stick.

Did you choose to work on the tools because of Dyslexia?

Yes and no. Originally, I worked as a sound engineer and spent 15 years touring with various bands. Then circumstances with life and the job I was working in changed, and I retrained as an electrician.

A big part of that was because I was working with cabling to a basic level, doing the sound stuff and I had an interest in building things. It seemed like a natural progression. I was lucky enough that my mother-in-law's electrician was looking for a number two, and I managed to get some real-world experience working on the tools with him.

What they teach in college doesn't always translate into the real world. If you are an apprentice or training, definitely try and get hands-on experience because what you learn in college and school compared to the real world is very different.

What's the worst thing that has happened to you because of the Dyslexia?

I don't think I could say there is a worse thing, as I've had it all my life. I didn't know about it until later in life, so I've just learned to live with it, it's just like anything, you just get on with it.

As an electrician how does it affect you on a day-to-day basis?

It doesn't really, I'm so used to doing stuff with my hands, and a lot of the stuff I do is quite repetitive. As with a lot of tradespeople, you do a job two or three times and you know how to do it, you can only find better ways of doing that job.

Reading plans is okay, though I can be a bit slow with doing paperwork. I always have to use the spell check, which will pick up probably 20 spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. So workwise, working with my hands doesn't really bode any bad things towards it.

What is the hardest thing about being dyslexic?

Being able to learn and progress in my career. I find it very difficult to retain or understand the science or all the equations that I need to learn and know to step up to the next qualification.

If you are a dyslexic or you think you are and want to get into the trades and get qualified, speak to the British Association for Dyslexia and they will point you in the right direction.

If you do get diagnosed with  Dyslexia, don't be ashamed of it. A diagnosis will help you with your exams, for example, because you will get the help or extra time. Don't do what I did and just dismiss it. In some ways, I do regret not going down that road.


Thankfully Dyslexia is much easier to diagnose these days, so if you think you have it you can find out more and get support from the British Dyslexia Association

We'd love to know if you're dyslexic and your experiences if you work in the trades. Did this influence your decision to work with tools instead of words? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Watch the recording of this interview here:



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