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Supporting Dyslexia In The Workplace

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What is dyslexia?

The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek ‘dys-’, meaning difficulty with, and ‘-lexia’, meaning words or language.

Dyslexia is a specific difficulty which affects information processing (receiving, holding, retrieving and structuring information) and the speed of processing information. It therefore has an impact on skills such as reading, writing, using symbols and carrying out calculations.

However, although it is a neurological condition, dyslexia shouldn’t be mistaken for in any way limiting an individual’s intelligence. People with dyslexia have their own unique profiles of strengths and weaknesses and the impact of dyslexia on everyone is different.

Rather than only focusing on the potential hurdles, the report ‘A Framework for understanding Dyslexia’ from the Learning and Skills Development Agency and NIACE argues that dyslexic adults may possess, or have developed, positive talents such as: creativity; thinking laterally and making unexpected connections; being able to see the ‘big picture’; visual spatial skills and being able to think easily in 3D, as well as the skills of problem-solving, verbal and social”. They can make invaluable contributions to the workplace on so many, often unexpected, levels.

Unfortunately, dyslexia is all too often left undiagnosed or unsupported in the workplace. This can lead to employees facing performance issues or suffering from work related stress. All of today’s non-discriminatory workplaces should be considering creating an environment where there is not only a wider understanding about dyslexia but also where individuals are supported within their specific role.

How to support people with dyslexia at work

Unum has written a fantastic blog on how to identify common symptoms of dyslexia in employees and also how to provide meaningful support them. Here are some of the most effective ways to support employees with dyslexia in the workplace. 

1) Learn more about what dyslexia is and how it may affect an individual

Knowledge is power. By learning more about what dyslexia actually is, how it affects employees and what effect it can have on an individual you can  provide much better overall support.

There are many different ways that you can learn about dyslexia: one of the best ways is approaching organisations and bodies that deal specifically with the condition, like the British Dyslexia Association (BDA). The BDA can provide free advice to employers about how to support colleagues with dyslexia in the workplace more effectively. 

2) Understand the advantages that individuals with dyslexia bring

Dyslexia isn't just a condition that makes work harder. In some cases, it can actually have particular advantages. 

According to Sir Richard Branson “It is time we lost the stigma about dyslexia. It is not a disadvantage: it is merely a different way of thinking.”

Recent studies have also provided interesting evidence that suggests that those with dyslexia may actually perform better at some tasks than those without the condition. 

3) Identify employees with dyslexic difficulties

Employees are very reluctant to disclose that they are dyslexic, but it will benefit them if they can be encouraged to do so. Developing a culture in which employees know that dyslexia will be viewed positively and that they will be supported and not discriminated against will add hugely to an inclusive working environment.

4) Offer appropriate assessments and support for employees with dyslexia, or those who think they may be dyslexic

An employee may avoid being assessed for dyslexia – there may be a concern about how their results will be received. It is important to ensure they should have no fear of negativity from their managers and colleagues. For information about screening go to dyslexia screening.

5) Make appropriate adjustments.

The law now requires employers to make Reasonable Adjustments to avoid discriminating against people. There are many reasonable ways to make adjustments which will support the individual in your workplace to ensure they achieve their potential. Assistive Technology may help and, as an example, Microsoft’s Office 365 has accessibility built in for users with learning differences such as dyslexia. Read more about reasonable adjustments here.

6) Tell staff about the support you offer.

Raise awareness of the dyslexia support. Inform managers, put information on your intranet, or promote through your employee benefits communication.

“Dyslexic thinking has many benefits. If identified and supported; inspired and encouraged, dyslexics can achieve amazing things” Kate Griggs – Founder, Made By Dyslexia

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