Dyslexia, change and the automatic development of skills at work
It has long been accepted by dyslexia specialists that it is the changes or transitions in life which can cause particular stress and difficulty for a dyslexic person. Transition from primary school to secondary and on to university, between jobs and due to promotions make extra demands on us all, so what causes additional stress for dyslexic people? Understanding why this happens is crucial for employers who want to effectively support all their staff in times of transition.
Dyslexia affects everyone differently and variation depends on factors like family background, personality and available employment. According to the British Dyslexia Association:
"Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual's other cognitive abilities."
It is in times of transition that the automatic development of skills that is especially important, as new information, protocols, staff and hierarchies have to be worked with. Learning the new way can take longer for some with dyslexia. If this is not accounted for it can lead to additional stress which in turn can make the processing difficulties more profound.
If all this is something new to you, here are a couple of top tips that can immediately start you moving in the right direction:
1. Don’t assume you have the full picture.
Just because none of your employees 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 employee 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.
2. Support dyslexic employees and they will achieve.
- Find out about dyslexia – make your transition processes more dyslexia friendly.
- Encourage openness about difficulties in the workplace.
- Encourage each employee to find their strengths.
- Have a display of information on dyslexia and other co-occurring differences.
- Consider dyslexia training for human resource and training staff, if not all.
Jan Halfpenny is a dyslexia specialist who works
as a consultant and a provider of training, consultation
and online training in dyslexia for businesses and organisations.
She writes and delivers talks on dyslexia, entrepreneurship and effective support.
Online dyslexia training for trainers, coaches and mentors: http://www.halfpennydevelopment.co.uk/online-training/