How to Deal with Dyslexia at Work

What is Dyslexia?

Neuro-Diversity

In simple terms, dyslexia is merely a learning difference. It is vital to understand that in no way does dyslexia reflect on a person’s intelligence. When the word came about in the late 19th century, its origins can be traced to the German “dys” meaning difficult and the Greek “lexia” meaning speech. Apparently, this could be an amalgamation of the Greek legin meaning “to speak” and the Latin legere “to read”.

Approximately 1 in 10 people within the workforce are dyslexic. However, it is a person’s personal choice if they want to disclose that they are dyslexic. It is a so-called hidden disability, which is covered under the Disability act (1995) and Equality act (2010).

A person with dyslexia may find it difficult to retain information and to write it down with time pressure. It can be a struggle to keep appointments and to transcribe information correctly. Problems with map reading and directions are also common as there is often difficulty in distinguishing left from right.

There are many positives in having dyslexic employees in the workplace, however. Dyslexic employees have an amazing ability for three-dimensional thinking, often clearly seeing the bigger picture, rather than being bogged down by the detail. Dyslexic individuals tend to be holistic thinkers. They spot patterns and find the odd one out. They have good spatial awareness and think in pictures, while also being blessed with a sharper peripheral vision, which within a business manifests in higher creativity.

Having dyslexic employees enables a business to have a more diverse workforce and will encourage a wider variety of thoughts within an ever-changing working landscape. A dyslexic individual within an organisation may come up with unique solutions never considered by others. Great examples of dyslexia in the workforce can be found within GCHQ and NASA.

Dyslexia at work

Many companies are wary of employing people with dyslexia because of some common misconceptions, such as:

  • dyslexic people have low self-esteem
  • dyslexic people are lazy
  • their performance is lower than their colleagues
  • they are easily distracted
  • employing dyslexic people will cost more

While there is no guarantee a dyslexic person will not be lazy or have low self-esteem, for instance, it would not be a result of their dyslexia. Anyone can have these traits and if anything, because they have had to work harder in many cases, dyslexic people can have a much higher work ethic. Contrary to the misconception it is not expensive to hire people with dyslexia and there are many simple ways to provide support. Encouraging dialogue with colleagues and line managers is important. There are simple adjustments to computer settings that can be made and extra time and quiet areas help encourage concentration and focus, while colour-coding and organisation skills can be nurtured.

Support and assistive technologies

There are a wide range of constantly evolving technologies at the disposal of businesses to help support and nurture dyslexic individuals in the workforce. Some tools are free, and others require investment. Speech to text can allow individuals to listen to what they have typed. ‘Natural Reader’ or ‘Balabolka’ are free, for instance. These tools make it easier to spot and correct mistakes before sending work out to others within the workplace or to clients. ‘My Study Bar’ from Call Scotland (https://www.callscotland.org.uk/)  is free and includes colour overlays and rulers on a laptop or desktop computer. Colour overlays with rulers like these help avoid tracking problems. There is also some excellent paid software such as ‘Claro’, providing great assistive technology for a wide range of platforms. Such comprehensive, all-inclusive packages can be controlled by an administrator and kept in the cloud for whoever needs access.

Fonts and Backgrounds

Help can also be found in the form of ‘Access to Work.’ This will enable a person to be assessed within their work area for any recommended reasonable adjustments. This should also include any technology which is required to aid the individuals. Training should also be secured for individuals as they need to be shown how to use the equipment provided and get the most out of it. Training can be provided by Northern Concept. There are many companies who also provide software and equipment for a price. Claro Software, Text Help, Dragon, C-pen, Orcam Technology, Global AutoCorrect and various mind mapping software companies, for instance. Also, coloured overlays, which are inexpensive, can be found on Amazon. Call Scotland provides a range of different apps to support a variety of skills and are available for phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop platforms. Dictation software helps to eliminate spelling and grammatical errors. Some dyslexic individuals suffer from dysgraphia (fear of writing), which this software also helps with. Some dyslexic individuals might already have their own C-Pen or piece of Orcam technology. It could be a reasonable adjustment to allow them to bring in their own equipment to aid them with their work.

Breaking things down

When employing a dyslexic person ask them how their dyslexia is for them. Every dyslexic individual is different, and all can have different strengths and weaknesses, just like anyone else. An employer might not even know that they are dyslexic, especially if there is ingrained subconscious hiding involved. It might be that they start noticing differences once the individual starts in a certain role.

Try and make the language you use as clear and understandable as possible. When you are able to you should provide information in advance to allow time for reading and preparatory work.

Give an employee extra time to learn, as well as extra time to prepare and complete the task at hand.

For challenges with retention give an employee the opportunity to record meetings with either a Dictaphone or audio pen. This means they can return to the recording when taking notes for future reference and to help with any related tasks.

Provide individuals access to highlighters for important documents. This helps them to reference important information to return to at a later date. Also coloured Post It Notes are really useful when it comes to enhancing organisation. These can be moved around and replaced as workloads and projects evolve.

Training in how to put deadlines on Google calendars is recommended. This way individuals can see when they need to complete tasks and plan for the week or weeks ahead. Alarms can be set to help with meeting deadlines and avoiding missed meetings.

Bibliography

7 Tips for working with dyslexia. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021, from Touch-type Read and Spell (TTRS): https://www.readandspell.com/working-with-dyslexia

Dyslexia at Work: 10 Ways Employers Can Help. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021, from Undercover Recruiter: https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/dyslexia-at-work/

Dyslexia in the Workplace, Coping Tips and Strategies. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021, from www.beatingdyslexia.com: https://www.beatingdyslexia.com/dyslexia-in-the-workplace.html

Myth V Fact. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021

7 Tips for working with dyslexia. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021, from Touch-type Read and Spell (TTRS): https://www.readandspell.com/working-with-dyslexia

Dyslexia at Work: 10 Ways Employers Can Help. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021, from Undercover Recruiter: https://theundercoverrecruiter.com/dyslexia-at-work/

Dyslexia in the Workplace, Coping Tips and Strategies. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021, from www.beatingdyslexia.com: https://www.beatingdyslexia.com/dyslexia-in-the-workplace.html

Myth V Fact. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021

Overlapping symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved 9 1, 2021

Previous

The Return of The Pesky OU Student

"If this only helps one person it will have all been worth it"