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For employers

It is estimated that ten per cent of the population have dyslexia.

Therefore, it is more than likely that you will have dyslexic employees within your organisation. Also, a number of them may not know it as they have not been identified.

Dyslexic adults may find it hard to find a job because of their dyslexia difficulties and may not even tell the employer of their difficulties, because of their bad experience at school or in other jobs.

They often have low self-esteem and lack confidence, especially if their difficulties were not recognised before and they were deemed laze or stupid.

Dyslexia is not just a difficulty with reading, it is more than that. Since the severity of dyslexia varies, so do the strategies that help dyslexic people overcome their problems in employment.

That is why it is important to treat each dyslexic person as an individual, what works for one may not necessary work for another. They may have difficulty with reading, spelling, writing, short-term memory, time keeping and organisational skills. Nevertheless, dyslexic people also have real strengths including problem solving skills, practical tasks and enhanced creativity.

They can be strong in the areas of design, art, music, architecture and engineering. Also, many of the difficulties can be overcome with the right support. Here are a few suggestions on how you can support a dyslexic person in the workplace, which can also be beneficial for all employees.

Employers: Helpful Hints:

General difficulty with reading:

  • Give verbal and written instructions making it brief and clear.
  • Making sure that these instructions are understood by asking the dyslexic employee to repeat it.
  • Highlight the most important points in documents.
  • Use voice mail as opposed to written memos; however both ways may be more helpful for some dyslexics.
  • Use speech to text software, for example, "Dragon Naturally Speaking".
  • Supply/use a reading machine - or allocate someone else to read aloud.
  • Provide information on coloured paper, (find out which colour helps the person to read best).
  • Set up a computer screen with a coloured background to documents, (find out which colour helps the person to read best).
  • Make all company reference documents available in a plain, sans-serif font such as Arial, in point size 12 at least some times it need to be larger and on coloured paper.
  • Wherever possible, also offer these alternative formats via an intranet that your staff can access easily.
  • Ensure all notes, handouts etc are circulated electronically two to three days prior to meetings, which gives dyslexic employees the chance to read them though.

Difficulty with reading and writing:

  • Be supportive, show understanding and give encouragement when appropriate.
  • Allow plenty of time to read and complete the task.
  • Examine other ways of giving information to avoid reading it, for example, record it or have someone to read it.
  • Discuss the material with the employee, giving summaries and/or key points.
  • Utilise information prepared in other formats, for example audio or videotape, drawings, diagrams and flowcharts.
  • Use tape recorders.
  • Use speech to text software.

Spelling and grammar errors:

  • Proof read work or have someone to be a "buddy" to do it.
  • Instant spell checker on all computers are practical, but software like "Claro Read" and "Text Help" are more dyslexia friendly.
  • Franklin handheld spell checkers are also useful.

Verbal Communication

Difficulty remembering and following verbal instructions:

  • Give instructions one at a time and/or write them down.
  • Communicate instructions slowly and clearly in a quiet location making sure it is understood.
  • Write down important information making sure it can be read.
  • Demonstrate and supervise tasks and projects, (may have to do it more than once).
  • Encourage the person to take notes and then check them.
  • Ask instructions to be repeated back, to confirm that the instruction has been understood correctly.
  • Write a memo outlining a plan of action.
  • Use a tape recorder or dictaphone to record important instructions.
  • Back up multiple instructions in writing or with diagrams.

Difficulty with hidden meanings in conversation:

  • Give clear concise and direct instructions; do not hint or make assumptions that you have been understood.

Time and Work Planning

Concentration difficulties/distractions:

  • Make sure the workplace is quiet and away from distractions, for example away from doors, busy phones, loud machinery.
  • Allocate a private workspace if possible.
  • Where feasible allow an employee to work from home occasionally.
  • Provide a quiet working environment for a dyslexic employee by allocating libraries, file rooms, private offices and other enclosed areas when others are not using them.

Coping with interruptions:

  • Use a "do not disturb" sign when specific tasks require intense concentration.
  • Encourage co-workers not to disturb the person unless absolutely necessary.
  • When interrupting, allow the person to pause and write down what they are doing to refer to when resuming work.
  • Employees can use headphones to block out distractions.
  • Ensure that each task is completed before starting another.
  • Encourage outgoing rather than incoming calls. Offer training in how to use the telephone effectively, for example jotting down key points before making the call.

Remembering appointments and deadlines:

  • Remind the person of important deadlines and review priorities regularly.
  • Hang a wall planner that visually highlights daily/monthly appointments, deadlines, tasks, and projects.
  • Supply an alarm watch.
  • Encourage the employee to use the daily calendar and alarm features on their computer and/or mobile phone.

Organisation of property:

  • Ensure that work areas are organised, neat and tidy.
  • Keep items where they can be clearly seen, for example shelves and bulletin boards.
  • Ensure the team returns important items to the same place each time.
  • Colour code items.
  • Ensure work areas are well lit.

Organising workflow:

  • Supply and use a wall planner.
  • Prioritise important tasks.
  • Create a daily, dated "To Do" list.
  • Use diaries, calendars, computers and mobile phone.
  • Write a layout for regular tasks with appropriate prompts, for example for meetings or taking notes.
  • Allow extra time.
  • Build planning time into each day.

General difficulties

Reversing numbers:

  • Encourage the person to say the numbers out loud, write them down or press the calculator keys and check the figures have been understood.
  • Supply a talking calculator.

Directional difficulties:

  • Always try to use the same route.
  • Show the route and visible landmarks.
  • Give time to practice going from one place to another.
  • Supply detailed maps.

Short term memory problems especially names, numbers and lists:

  • Use mnemonic devices and acronyms.
  • Organise details on paper so that they can be referred to easily using diagrams and flowcharts.
  • Check back understanding.
  • Use multi-sensory learning techniques such as reading material onto a tape machine and then playing it back whilst re-reading.
  • Use computer software; sometimes well developed programme menus and help features are useful.
  • Use a calculator.

You may also like to consider:

  • Provide all employees with dyslexia awareness training.
  • Be aware that some dyslexic employees may appear very confident, but in fact they may be covering up the stress they may be experiencing.
  • Do not regard dyslexic people as a 'problem'
  • Concentrate on their strengths and do not force them to do things against their will.
  • Try to tailor the job to suit the person.

Copyright & Source: www.bda-dyslexia.org.uk

Dyslexia Jersey does not endorse any of the equipment; these are only suggestions.  

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