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Supporting Employees to Work Through: Dyslexia

Sunday 2nd October marks the start of Dyslexia Awareness Week which this year is accompanied by the hashtag #positivedyslexia if you want to get involved on social media. The week of events coincides with World Dyslexia Day on Thursday 5th October and aims to cover a number of different themes including how workplaces can make reasonable adjustments for individuals with this particular condition.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia means you have difficulty with words, causing problems when reading, writing or spelling. While it can certainly influence how we learn, and those who suffer may require additional help at school or in work, it is not related to intelligence as some people think.

It’s estimated that dyslexia effects as much as 10% of the population to varying degrees and no one person’s experience is the same as another’s. Being dyslexic does not mean you can’t be successful either and, with the right support, many people have found ways to thrive and prosper. There have been notable dyslexics over the years, including Director Steven Spielberg, artist Pablo Picasso, and entrepreneur Richard Branson to name just a few.

Dyslexia usually becomes apparent early on in development and symptoms can include:

  • Poor spelling that doesn’t get better with practice.
  • Putting certain letters the wrong way round, for example confusing b with d.
  • Having trouble with instructions that are written down as opposed to those that are given verbally.

This can often put children at a disadvantage at school when they are trying to learn but this is something that is thankfully beginning to change along with better awareness and support. Those with dyslexia can also have strengths in other areas, despite their disability, including in problem solving and creative thinking.

  • Dyslexia is not an illness and there is no ‘cure’. With the right support, however, individuals can cope with the hurdles they need to overcome and play a significant and beneficial part in any workplace.
  • Dyslexia doesn’t care about gender, age, ethnicity or level of intelligence.
  • Levels of dyslexia vary from person to person – it’s thought that about 4% of sufferers have severe difficulties.

The Benefits of a Dyslexia Friendly Workplace

As with any disability, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against someone because they have dyslexia. That includes in the workplace itself, when recruiting for a post or when developing and promoting employees. Irrespective of this, making sure you undertake reasonable adjustments for any employee who has dyslexia can unleash a huge amount of potential, something that is obviously beneficial not only for the individual but the business too.

  • A dyslexia friendly workplace ensures that your employees work more efficiently which can ultimately benefit your customers and clients.
  • It gives you the chance to understand what your workforce strengths are and how things can be improved to be more inclusive.
  • Staff with dyslexia who are actively encouraged to train and progress are more likely to be engaged and have a better sense of wellbeing.
  • Making the necessary adjustments is not as difficult as many businesses think and can help cut stress, improve sickness and absence levels and promote greater efficiency.

What are Reasonable Adjustments?

Not everyone with dyslexia struggles at work but, when it does happen, a few simple changes here and there can make a significant difference. Most employers don’t know how to properly diagnose a condition such as dyslexia, nor have an idea of how to deal with it in the workplace. Putting in the reasonable adjustments which are not only required by law but also to release all the potential an individual may well have is key.

Using an occupational health team can certainly help in this respect. They can carry out the kind of testing which gives employers an understanding the situation and how they can implement the changes which improve things. Measures may include explaining verbally to an individual rather than through written material, introducing assistive technology that allows people to do their job better and working to create dyslexia-friendly systems.

In the past there was often a culture that worked against someone with dyslexia – they were viewed as performing poorly or not being as intelligent as the rest of the workforce. This largely came, from a lack of understanding, something which can have an impact on the individual but also damage the business itself. Finding out more about dyslexia helps enormously and encouraging a culture of acceptance among all staff should be a major part of any reasonable adjustments nowadays.

DAW 2017 Dyslexia gives us all an opportunity to get involved and learn more about this common condition. For businesses, it provides the chance to start a conversation with employees and to begin developing a more positive approach to dyslexia for the future. Not every person who suffers from dyslexia is going to be the next Richard Branson but finding ways to release all that potential will certainly benefit the individual as well as any business.

Dyslexia Resources:

British Dyslexia Association

Dyslexia Help

Dyslexia Action

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