Dyslexia, working memory and the impact on workplace learning development.
Memory is crucial for learning to take place. Poor working memory is a factor in dyslexia and is part of the reason that dyslexia is classed as a specific learning disability in many countries. Holding on to the detail of an idea or the wording of a sentence, until it can be written down completely is a well recognised issue affecting dyslexic people.
However working memory issues are not confined to the thought process required to produce a piece of writing, as verbal working memory also plays a big part in learning. It has long been recognised by dyslexia specialists that the vast majority of dyslexic people have difficulties with verbal short term memory. This means that trainers, coaches and mentors who rely on verbal delivery for their key nuggets of advice, need to think about the requirements of some of their dyslexic clients more closely.
If this is news to you then here are two useful tips to get you thinking and moving in the right direction:
1. Don’t assume you have the full picture.
Just because none of your trainees have come forward to say they have dyslexia, do not assume this is correct. Many will not say so because:
- they have never been given appropriate support before, so will not see any benefit from telling you in advance;
- they may be unaware that they have dyslexia, or other processing differences, as schools are still poor at spotting all bar the most obvious cases. The older the trainees, the more likely this is;
- they don’t want any attention drawn to their difficulties.
One in ten of the general population in the UK are dyslexic. However dyslexia is not evenly distributed throughout the working world. 1 in 5 entrepreneurs were found to be dyslexic in a study by Prof. Julie Logan of Cass Business School. And figures derived from student support received at university allow dyslexia researchers to estimate that between 40% - 60% of those in who work in a visual medium such as designers, architects and engineers could be dyslexic. This compares with figures of 4% found in middle management roles. So depending on what area of business you work in, between 4 and 60% of your clients could be dyslexic.
2. Take note! Or rather don’t… Dictation and making notes during a training session could be problematic for those with verbal memory difficulties. Some notes may be taken, but they are likely to be disjointed and may make little sense once the learner is in a different environment.
You may want to consider alternative ways of providing information, even the asides that exemplify your topic. Audio or video recording could be part of your solution.
So if you want to satisfy the learning needs for 100% of your clients then it is clear that you have to support the needs of the 4 – 60% who may be dyslexic, whether they let you know about it or not…
Jan writes, trains and speaks on training and dyslexia for businesses and organisations. She specialises in training workplace learning development staff to deliver in a fully inclusive manner.
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