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How to manage dyslexia at work

  • 5 Min Read

Dyslexia is predicted to affect approximately 10% of the British population, according to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA). Subsequently, around 2.9 million workers are living with this learning difficulty, meaning it’s incredibly likely that a current or future employee will be dyslexic.

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Understandably, revealing a learning difficulty can be a daunting prospect in the workplace and this anxiety can prevent those with dyslexia asking for help. This means behaviours can occasionally be misunderstood as a lack of ability, dedication and inattention. But, those with dyslexia bring as many strengths and qualities to a business, as non-sufferers do, which means it’s incredibly important to encourage people to speak up about it.

Most commonly, symptoms of dyslexia include struggling to formulate thoughts quickly enough to participate in conversations, to confusing words within sentences and letters within words. Not only that, but struggling to schedule work, meeting deadlines and being able to recollect and record information are frequent signs of dyslexia.

Recognising these signs and encouraging an open conversation about dyslexia, will ensure that those living with it, can reach their full potential and enjoy work, whilst feeling fully supported by their employers. To facilitate this, the wellbeing experts at CABA offer 10 ways in which leaders can support employees with dyslexia:

  1. Set up a mentoring scheme

This ensures that the workforce feel more comfortable talking about learning difficulties in the workplace, with the hope being to subtly encourage those that are struggling to come forward and ask for help. A mentoring programme can offer a range of tailored advice and support for anyone who may be suffering with anxiety, mental health or any other form of learning difficulty in the workplace, not just dyslexia.

  1. Diagnostic Assessment

To be able to best support your team member, diagnostic assessments would be truly valuable in understanding their specific needs. These can be arranged via the BDA.

  1. Create dyslexia friendly content

If you recognise that an employee has dyslexia, small changes can be made to help employees navigate through work content. This may mean using an easily readable font such as Arial or Comic Sans, as it’s important that you don’t use small fonts or italic which can cause letters to appear more crowded. It may also be useful to use headings to create structure and to avoid background patterns or pictures that could easily be a distraction from the text.

  1. Adapt your communication style

It’s worthwhile asking your team member their preferred method of communication. This is because if the individual is a visual learner you could work using a mind map or flow chart, to best get across important points. Remember, everyone works differently, so ask the individual what works best, to ensure you get the most out of them.

  1. Training services

To help employers support staff members who may experience work based learning difficulties, The Dyslexia Association offers a range of services to ensure that both parties are mutually benefitting. So, ensure you set aside enough budget to invest in resources to help aid people with dyslexia.

  1. Assistive technology

There are a number of technological devices that can make work life easier for those with dyslexia. For example, speech recognition software allows speech to be converted into text, and vice versa – cutting out the task of reading and writing which can often take much longer for a dyslexic employee.

  1. Raise awareness

Symptoms associated with dyslexia can seem like a hindrance at work, however, if harnessed correctly they can be extremely beneficial to any business. Why not run a dyslexia awareness course for all staff, using a qualified and experienced dyslexia specialist who has experience training in the work environment? This will help to clarify any misconceptions about dyslexia and help to make all employees feel comfortable in dealing with it.

  1. Alternative workspace

Loud and busy environments can make it hard for dyslexic workers to concentrate, so to help them, it can be beneficial to offer alternative work environments. For example, allowing these employees to use a meeting room, to help them focus when they really need to. If this is not possible, then providing headphones or earplugs can be a useful alternative.

  1. Encourage the use of calendars and alarms 

Dyslexics can benefit from seeing things more visually, so using calendars and alarms can help to track time in a more visual way. In turn, this will help employees stay on schedule, and help them to plan their day and week.  Also, the use of diary invites and desk calendars, can be used to remind them of important deadlines.

  1. Specialist stationery

Finally, traditional stationery is not always suitable for dyslexics. For example, black text on white paper can be problematic as the whiteness can be dazzling and make it harder to read. So, paper of softer tones like yellow or pink may be preferable. As well as thicker pens, like gel pens which allow a team member to better understand their writing.

Organisations need to accept that everyone works differently and must look to adapt to individual needs – because those with dyslexia will range in their abilities. It’s important that employers create an unrestricted and honest environment to allow their employees to talk freely about dyslexia and other learning difficulties. This will be desirable to both the individual and the whole organisation, because after all, employees are better able to perform and be more productive when they have the correct support.

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