DYSLEXIA IN EMPLOYMENT
The common understanding of Dyslexia is that it is a condition which causes difficulty with reading, writing and spelling; 'children who get their letters back to front'. Early attempts to describe the condition did focus on its implications for written language skills, particularly reading, but the modern understanding is much broader, it is a ‘different way of thinking’. Dyslexia is for life and the constitutional difference which caused problems with reading, writing and spelling persists into adulthood. Because of the lack of understanding it may cause self-esteem problems.
What is Dyslexia?
People with Dyslexia have a differently organized brain structure and therefore have a different way of thinking learning and organizing their thoughts, people with Dyslexia are usually ‘visually deaf’. This may cause a variety of 'symptoms', and the particular selection and severity to which each is affected will vary from person to person. The condition is independent of intelligence but those in whom it is most easily recognised are those who range from average intelligence to those who are exceptionally bright.</p>
Studies have shown that 1 in 10 of the population will be affected to some degree and that 1 in 25 will need help for their difficulties at some stage in their life.
Types of difficulties
The most common is in perceived short term memory, whether visual or auditory. It is this, which makes it difficult for the Dyslexic to learn the correspondence between the written symbol and spoken word. Language represents a memorized code and written symbols that are the code for spoken sounds. Sequencing is often another weakness. Besides affecting spelling - getting the letters in the right order - it also has a bearing on planning and organization. Reading for information is often not a problem, though reading aloud is very difficult for some people with Dyslexia.
In the identification of Dyslexia, 'incongruity' is the keyword. A discrepancy may be observed between academic achievement and real life performance in practical problem solving and verbal skills. The Dyslexic person will often have an aversion to writing notes, reports, or, in fact, anything at all. They may have difficulties with organization, or may be 'super-organized' as a compensating strategy. Invariably their overview capabilities are exceptional, but verbalizing what they can see may be difficult Note: The Dyslexic adult will often have developed excellent coping strategies and avoidance techniques and may be quite difficult to identify. Dyslexic adults will often refuse promotion, even if the job is well within their capabilities, if the new post requires more literacy skills.
The Employer's role
Dyslexia is best thought of as an alternative or different learning style. By using methods which suit their specific learning style, Dyslexics can overcome many of their problems. See (www.vidyslexiaassociation.com ) A good employer will bear in mind the incidence of Dyslexia and that several of their employees may be Dyslexic. There will be those whose problems are obvious in that they relate to basic literacy skills but there will be those whose difficulties only manifest themselves subtly. There is much that an employer can do to make it possible for the Dyslexic person to carry out his job efficiently with identified ‘Reasonable Adjustments’.
VIDA can help!
Training and induction courses, interviews and all presentations need not rely heavily on the written word. Multi-sensory (hearing, seeing, saying, doing) aids should be used where at all possible. Internally produced policies, procedures and factual data can be kept to a minimum and produced with good indexing for easy retrieval. This is recognized as a good practice. Pictograms and CD’s can be used wherever possible for instructions and information.
The Dyslexic adult in employment will have developed resilience and inventiveness and 'lateral thinking' to survive but are also superb problem solvers. This creativeness is of value to an employer and may be more profitably used for problem solving for the company, rather than that of avoiding written tasks. Remember Dyslexia is a ‘different way of thinking’; most think in pictures not words and are ‘visually deaf’.
- Understand that Dyslexics think in a totally different way --- in thoughts and pictures -- not words
- Identify a ‘Single Learning Style’ for recall
- It is their speed of thought which effects concentration & focusing
- Dyslexic’s are very fast learners and thinkers
- Establish good sight and hearing
- Do not use medical terminology it compounds their notion of failure
- Establish their true abilities
Dyslexics attributes include;-
- EXCELLENT OVERVIEW CAPABILITIES
- SPEED OF THOUGHT
- MULTIPLE PERCEPTIONS
- EXCELLENT INTUATIVE SKILLS
- GOOD INTER AND INTRA PERSONAL SKILLS
- EXCELLENT SUPERVISORY AND MANAGEMENT MATERIAL
- VERY GOOD PROBLEM SOLVERS
Dyslexia and an Inclusive Culture in the Workplace
- Disseminate a written disability policy including Dyslexia (and where appropriate a Disability Equality Scheme) and clear procedures throughout the organisation.
- Review organisational policies and procedures to avoid direct or indirect discrimination.
- Develop consultation initiatives to increase feedback from disabled staff regarding policies and new developments.
- Ensure opportunities for individuals to request support for disabilities, including at job application and interview stages.
- Make information more accessible by publishing it in alternative formats, for example, audio files, or large print.
- Consider the opportunities to work with specialist disability advisors and suppliers such as VIDA , in addition to identifying funding sources, Incorporate dyslexia-friendly IT adjustments; for example, consider the opportunities to provide software and assistive technology tools.
Disability & Dyslexia -Awareness Training
- Provide Dyslexia awareness training for all staff.
- Integrate disability & dyslexia awareness into staff induction programmes.
- Consider training mentors or buddies for disabled staff.
- Provide one-to-one skills training and coaching initiatives from a dyslexia specialist such as VIDA.
Further ideas to help dyslexia and visual impairment disabilities include:
Develop New Communication Strategies
- Review all communication information, both internal and external, from signage to documents. Consider both printed publications and information featured in electronic media.
- Use a variety of ways to present information, including video, charts, diagrams, and images as well as words on labels and signage.
- Enable staff to have a choice of colored backgrounds and fonts, such as Verdona, on computer screens and colored overlays for published material.
- Adopt a clear house style for all written materials.
- Consider how the use of assistive technology and software can support reading digital information e.g. text-to-speech software that reads information ‘out loud’ from websites, intranets and documents.
- Some people may not have had their dyslexic-type difficulties formally identified or may not realize they are dyslexic. Consider offering dyslexia screening with VIDA.
- Consult individuals about their own preferences for doing tasks in the most suitable way and at the right pace. Where necessary, make adjustments to work allocation, such as creating an environment with minimal background noise and interruptions.
- Enable the use of assistive technology to help with a range of skills. For example:
- a digital recorder for messages and meetings;
- text-to-speech software and also speech-recognition software;
- portable spell checkers and grammar-checking software;
- personal organizers, mobile phones, sat-nav. etc.
- Consider one-to-one support consultancy from a VIDA to develop an ‘individual workplace strategy’ with the most appropriate adjustments for the specific needs of the individual in the context of their role.