↑ Dyslexia-friendly Colours
← Dyslexia-friendly Colours

Category Archives: Dyslexia Advice

As a dyslexia specialist and assessor, I often get asked what the difference is between a diagnostic assessment and a screening for dyslexia. Both screening and assessment have their value but have distinct differences, so it is important to consider the options and make the right choice to find the answer you are looking for.

There is no blood test or simple, unequivocal or definitive way of determining whether someone is dyslexic or not. Dyslexia is not a medical condition, so ‘diagnosis’ is not strictly to correct word to use. Synonyms such as ‘identification’ or ‘recognition’ might be more useful. However over time the term ‘diagnostic assessment’ has been used in the UK to indicate a set of tests that can allow specialists to conclude that someone is dyslexic.

When deciding to opt for a screening or an assessment, take note of how the terminology can become blurred. The term ‘assessment’ is sometimes used loosely to mean an informal screening, at other times it may refer more accurately to much more extensive testing used in a diagnosis of dyslexia. Assessment and screening are different psychometric processes that vary in the time taken to carry them out and in their cost.

Psychometrics (or psychometry) is a branch of psychology dealing with the design,
administration and interpretation of tests to measure variables in the psychological
state of people such as intelligence, personality traits or aptitude.

The characteristics of screening

On the whole dyslexia screenings are designed to be a simple, relatively quick (often around 45 minutes) and cost effective method to categorise people into groups who are ‘at risk’ of dyslexia with reasonable accuracy.

Screenings use tests designed to reveal a person’s attainment, such as reading and spelling, as well as their ability, for instance in problem solving. While diagnosis is not the main aim of the screening, they may still include tests that are diagnostic in character. For instance some online screening tools analyse aspects of learning like the speed at which a person can process simple visual information and how well they can identify individual sounds within words (known as phonological awareness).

Man on a mountain top

The accuracy of a screening tool varies and there may be ‘false positives’ or ‘false negatives’. ‘False positives’ are those who are predicted by the screening tool to be dyslexic when they are not and ‘false negatives’ are those who are found not to be dyslexic by the screening when in fact they are.

An example of a ‘false negative’ where a dyslexic person may be missed by the screening test, may come from a ‘well-compensated’ person with a less severe version of dyslexia – the screening test may not be subtle enough to pick up their difficulties.

As there will always be cases where correct classification cannot be certain, it means that screening shouldn’t be seen as an alternative for thorough and wide-ranging assessment. Screening tools are best used as a basis for indicating the likely need for further testing or whether specific programmes of action might be helpful to an individual.

After the screening

A short report is issued which gives the likelihood of dyslexia. This often ranges from ‘no signs’ and ‘some signs’ of dyslexia, through to ‘mild’, ‘moderate’ and then ‘severe’ dyslexia. The report is likely to suggest that the profile produced from the results ‘are typical of someone who is…’ rather than making a definite statement. The report should also make recommendations for action to take that may include diagnostic assessment and/or types of teaching and accommodations that should be considered to support the person in their education or work.

Characteristics of diagnostic assessments

Assessment is a much more extensive and multifaceted process by which a diagnosis of dyslexia may be achieved. A battery of different diagnostic tests are used over a number of hours and the tests are administered and results interpreted through the judgement of an experienced and appropriately qualified specialist such as a Chartered Psychologist, an Educational Psychologist or a specialist Teacher/Assessor.

What is important to recognise is that it is the interpretation of the assessor that diagnoses the person and not the tests in themselves. The results allow the professional to come to a conclusion about a person’s strengths and weaknesses across the bank of tests and that conclusion does not rely on any individual test for a diagnosis.

The tests assess difficulties in 3 key areas:

1. Skills in literacy and numeracy (spelling, writing, reading and arithmetic). These tests will help to establish the degree of difficulty a person has in such areas, faulty strategies and skill-gaps.

2. Language, working memory and processing skills known to be associated with dyslexia. These tests focus on identifying the most typical blocks or barriers to learning.

3. General language and cognitive skills (visual problem solving, verbal reasoning and vocabulary) The data from these tests is important because they can reveal if there is a big gap between a person’s ability to explain things in writing and verbally.

Assessors are looking for a pattern of results from the tests from which they can draw conclusions and they may choose to use additional tests if extra evidence is required to make that conclusion. Such a pattern usually shows a marked variation of proficiency across the test-taker’s skills. When compared to the ‘norm’ the dyslexic person’s profile of results will highlight areas of strength and weakness which may not be similar to their peer group at the same stage/age.

After the assessment

Usually the diagnostic assessment is followed up by the preparation of a detailed written report which gives the conclusion of the specialist with regards to the person’s strengths and weaknesses and their conclusion regarding their dyslexic status, a summary of the test findings and a detailed set of recommendations for the types of support thought appropriate for the individual in their education or work. You should be given the opportunity to ask questions about the conclusions reached and to make sure that you have a full understanding of the contents of the report.

So what is your answer, assessment or screening?

The process you choose depends on the reason you are seeking an answer. It may be that you are keen to know if you are dyslexic or not, or it might be that you are looking for support in an education or work setting. Dyslexia is considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, making reasonable adjustment an appropriate action to take. It may be that you are curious about some difficulties you are having or want information that can be passed on so you can get better support from them. Take your time to make your choice and find out what, you, your educational establishment, or employer requires. I hope this blog has helped you to understand the main differences. Good luck with your search for an answer.

Jan Halfpenny is a dyselxia specialist and assessor. She delivers training, workplace needs assessments and tuition for adults in the workplace. She is dyslexic herself and has a wealth of experience of dyslexia and reasonble adjustments

Find out more about dyslexia here
Curious about being dyslexic? See our free dyslexia checklist.
More information on our diagnostic services? Check out our page
For our availability to conduct a diagnostic assessment, please contact us.

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.

Understanding dyslexia

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/

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:

Dyslexia and Architecture

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 Halfpenny

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.

Posted on by
Categories: Dyslexia Advice, Dyslexia and business, Dyslexia and training
Post a comment

Taking into consideration the needs of individuals who have specific learning differences such as dyslexia and dyspraxia can make your training sessions more effective for these groups. Dyslexia and other neurological differences are included as disabilities under the Equality Act 2010 and require specific attention from training staff in order to ensure that the requirements set out in the legislation are adhered to.

At least 10% of the general population is dyslexic, according to the British Dyslexia Association. However dyslexic employees are not found evenly spread among businesses, and could account for as much as 50% of the workforce in creative industries, where design capability is required. Few employers are aware of the numbers of their staff who are dyslexic. Indeed it is common for dyslexic adults to be unaware that they are dyslexic themselves, as schools are still poor at spotting all but the most obvious examples and dyslexia is much misunderstood.

Finding out the correct language to use and types of adjustments to make, is part of the process of inclusion. Here are three simple multi-sensory substitutes which will enable you to be less relient on description:

1. Have you got a product or sample that can be examined?
For a dyslexic person to have strong recall, they want to touch, feel, see and hear what they need to learn about. Dyslexia impacts on the processing and memory of auditory information as well as written.

Dyslexia does not only impact on reading information

2. Can a technique be demonstrated?
People who process speech and the written word less effectively will learn more from acting out or observing a demonstration of what has to happen, rather than an oral or written description.

3. Can photographs, pictures or diagrams be used to express ideas rather than words?
Dyslexic people are often highly visual, creative thinkers who respond more strongly to imagery in the communication of an idea. A visual representation which is then discussed to contextualise the meaning, can be very memorable. 

Using these suggestions will help both dyslexic and non-dyslexic staff to engage better with training, help you provide a more inclusive learning environment and show best practice within your industry.

Let me know how you get on using them.


Jan Halfpenny is a dyslexia consultant, trainer and learning disability specialist. Her company researches into dyslexia in the business environment and develops resources and courses, the first of which is aimed at workplace educators who want to improve their training through effective disability support.

Dyslexia is common among engineersIn the forthcoming EntrepreneurialStrengthsFinder , Gallup Press quotes business guru James Dyson talking about the components of the “magic formula” in business: creativity and innovation.

These are the two words most associated with a particular group of entrepreneurs, which includes Steve Jobs, Lord Sugar, Sir Richard Branson and one in every five entrepreneurs. They are the ones who are dyslexic in their thinking and learning styles: not writing much down, a bit forgetful, sometimes off on a tangent, but  working at the cutting edge of creativity and innovation.

According to research by Prof. Julie Logan of Cass Business School in London, this group start significantly more businesses than their non-dyslexic counterparts, and employ more people too, which make their success vital to the national economy and wider society. Dyslexia, in some way shape or form, is linked to this creative business phenomenon, and backs up Gallup’s assertion that “great entrepreneurs are creative thinkers”.

Like every other vital economic factor, the more we know about dyslexia the more it can become our tool for good. This means understanding how to meet the needs of this group in the workplace. This is doubly important if James Dyson is right about the “magic”: if Merlin announced he was launching a new spell to bring prosperity to Camelot, and you knew he was a bit forgetful or could go off on a tangent, you’d want to check he had his spell book handy, his wand was polished and his cape was back from the dry-cleaners. The same pro-active attention is needed to facilitate dyslexia in entrepreneurs, because they just might possess the real world ‘magic’ the economy beyond Camelot needs to thrive and sustain recovery.

Gallup succinctly describe the interplay between creativity and business success, and when dyslexia is added as a third variable we see that there is a skew towards careers in particular sectors of industry. Chief among these are architecture, design and engineering, where around half of these professionals reflect the creative dyslexic profile. In contrast, less than one in twenty middle managers has reported enhanced creative skills.

This creative bias means that dyslexics are predictably over-represented in self-employment and the creative industries. The main points on this matter have been summarised in our 2012 review of global research into dyslexia and creative entrepreneurship: In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs.

Ironically, Gallup preface one of the enhanced skills of dyslexic entrepreneurs to readers with the phrase “a word of caution”:

“make sure to communicate your ideas and strategies to your team”.

Because dyslexic entrepreneurs in general grow up not responding to their formal education system’s narrow academic demands placed upon them, they have learned to become adept from an early age at engaging in team-building and collaboration in order to achieve practical success. This makes them natural communicators with a breadth of skills for motivating others to action. Talking to other people is generally not a cautious communication strategy for dyslexic entrepreneurs.

Gallup’s next piece of advice is a matter that dyslexic entrepreneurs do indeed have to be cautious about, though:

a “perceived lack of focus may hamper your chances of success”.

Focus is a common challenge for dyslexic entrepreneurs. Dyslexics typically jump from one topic to another in rapid succession, and this can indeed lead to “losing sight of the core” element of their endeavour, or at least be “perceived” to have done so by colleagues. Overcoming this means generating teamwork in order to focus on achieving project success, a further reason why advanced communication skills regularly develop within the ambitious dyslexic entrepreneur.

Gallup’s seven tips for Maximising Your Creative Thinker Talent are essential for all entrepreneurs, regardless of any learning difference. Two of them in particular are prominent matters with entrepreneurs who are dyslexic:

No. 2: “Using measurement to evaluate your ideas” is not a favourite way for dyslexics to get a handle on what is viable or not. The minute detail and nuanced discourse of a close inspection regime runs contrary to the ‘big picture’ thinking that dyslexics tend to engage with best. This is where the successful dyslexic entrepreneurial personality engages its effective delegation skills, bringing in specialists to handle forensic types of tasks and report their significance in the ‘big picture’ scenario.  

No.6: “Mobilise resources to fuel your innovation process” is exactly the type of behaviour that arises as a result of the dyslexic entrepreneur’s superior skills in problem-solving to find solutions, then communicating these ideas and building a team to carry them out.

Although many potential young dyslexic entrepreneurs are capable of deploying these talents, very many of them do not even know that they are dyslexic in general, or that the way they think about doing business is different from 80% of other adults. People can only perform at their very best when they are in full possession of all the relevant information, and Gallup rightly concludes that: “understanding and acknowledging your inherent talents gives you the best chance of success”.

The possession of knowledge and understanding of dyslexia and what to do with it is not just the best chance of success with this group, but the whole key to unlocking it for greater good - without the need for a magic wand.

Jan Halfpenny

Jan is MD and Dyslexia Specialist at Halfpenny Development Ltd, which specialises in products to develop dyslexic advantage in business environments.

The company’s latest product is a short online training course ‘Understanding and Supporting Dyslexia in Business: Trainers, Coaches and Mentors, helping all learning and development staff know how to train dyslexic learners by playing to this group’s learning strengths. 

Posted on by
Categories: Dyslexia Advice, Employment, Employment and dyslelxia
Post a comment

Training and dyslexia

ONS figures on employment in the UK were released today.
This is what they look like with just the word ‘dyslexic’ added:

  • 82,000 more dyslexics are in a job than a year ago;
  • dyslexic employment now stands at 3.06 million;
  • over 200,000 more dyslexic people are in private sector employment since the start of 2010.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said: “The government’s long-term economic plan is to build…a fairer society… [tens of thousands of dyslexic] people are replacing their signing-on book with a wage packet”.

Research indicates that corporations are not yet geared up to facilitate the learning and training needs of this group.

If, as IDS says, the “economic plan is to build a fairer society”, then corporate HR must be knowledgeable about how to improve their dealings with dyslexic staff. Gaining better knowledge and understanding of dyslexia in the workplace would be a good way to start to add value to these 82,000 new wage packets.

Sources: ONS 13/8/14    BDA (10% of adults are dyslexic)

Education guru Sir Ken Robinson made the point again this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: when we learn best we use our brain and our body together – people are not just brains on an unfeeling stick.

Why might this angle be exactly what your dyslexic staff need your HR department to know, and how does HR deploy staff training that’s good for the body as well as the career?

When people learn something of significance they experience physical feelings and emotions more intensely than the mental sensation of committing information to the brain. Just recall that hard puzzle you solved which had been bugging you for ages – didn’t you feel good about it? And when you finally got the hang of that technique you’d been trying to master for years – didn’t you feel proud of yourself? Successful learning is an extreme physical experience more than a menial mental task.

SuccessWhen it comes to training at work, making the physical experiences of learning both positive and motivational can reap corporate rewards. Your dyslexic employees don’t welcome pages of handouts to read in a training session, with no other backup format available. They’d rather exchange eye contact, words and physical gestures with trainers as the standard means of communication in the here and now of the training session, and leave the handouts to be digested in their own time and way later on. They’re looking for movement – that dynamic and multi-sensory physical energy which can be used as the fuel for communicating their ideas, talents and potential to the company.

When dyslexics are communicated with in the ways that work to their strengths, the path is cleared for improving skills, working relationships and the inclusion ethos in the leading corporations of today.

Here are three simple multi-sensory substitutes for your training handouts, which dyslexics are more likely to engage with in company training sessions:

1. Have you got a product or sample they can examine?
They want to touch, feel, see and hear what you’re talking about.

2. Is there a technique that can be demonstrated?
They will get more from acting out or observing what has to happen than being told about it with written words on a page.

3. Are there photographs or pictures they can examine which express the words on your handout?
Dyslexics are highly visual creative thinkers who respond strongly to imagery in communication.

Deploying any of these suggestions will help your dyslexic staff to engage better with training. This can only be good for HR as a body, as well as for each individual dyslexic’s career.

Posted on by
Categories: Dyslexia Advice, Dyslexia and Culture, Bolivia, Hegemony
Post a comment

People see things differently; just a slight twist in perspective can turn a problem into an opportunity to succeed. Take South American stalwarts Bolivia, for example, who have just made the clocks run backwards:

If the clock had been invented in Bolivia the hands would run anti-clockwise, because in the southern hemisphere a sundial’s shadow rotates anti-clockwise, the opposite direction to the light pattern seen in the northern hemisphere. But instead, due to European cultural colonialisation of the country, Bolivian clocks follow the usual clockwise system we are all familiar with.

However, Bolivia has now become self-conscious of the colonial northern hemisphere hegemony they’ve been living under for centuries: as part of their drive for a more authentic local culture, the government has reversed the direction of the clock on the Congress building in La Paz, to reflect local conditions.

Bolivia’s Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told The Seattle Times:

“Why do we have to be obedient? Why can’t we be creative?”

President of Congress Marcelo Elo added: “We have to respect our identity.”

Dyslexic adults have cognitive processing patterns that also give them a distinct identity, in this case it appears in how they process and remember information.

This group is also up against a strong cultural hegemony, which says that in the workplace literacy, numeracy, concentration and organisational skills are the superior talents over physical abilities and practical skills.

The result is that the workplace is geared up for form-filling, keeping tabs on time, handling lots of information and having things and people in the right place at the right time. For a dyslexic worker this is like dealing with a sundial that’s going the wrong way round. It’s a hegemony about work that does not reflect the world that meets the dyslexic’s different processing and memory needs.

As Bolivia’s officials asked: why go along with this system that does not reflect your identity and experience? Why not think about making a change to it that reflects you and your needs?

Making this change in thinking at work is going to take many people working together to create a more inclusive hegemony that reflects the diverse reality of the workplace. This includes leaving behind accepted wisdom of long ago that took no account of differing cognitive abilities in the workforce.

And when this change in thinking comes it must be total: regarding the clocks, Bolivia’s government “is now thinking about modifying all clocks in public institutions” (President of Congress Marcelo Elo). Are Europe’s businesses capable of making the same shift in mindset about dyslexia?

Sources: The Seattle Times 27/6/14; Private Eye No.1371 7/8/14

Dyslexia and transition in the workplaceDyslexia in the workplace

It has long been accepted by dyslexia specialists that it is the 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.

Understanding dyslexia

Dyslexia affects everyone differently and a lot 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 this is something that is new to you,  here are a couple of top tips to move you 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. Help your dyslexic employees 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 dyslelxia 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.

New online dyslexis training for trainers, coaches and mentors: http://www.halfpennydevelopment.co.uk/online-training/

Dyslexia and ArchitectureDyslexia, working memory difficulties and the impact on your training, coaching or mentoring sessions.

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 dyslexicHowever 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 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.

New online dyslexia training course for trainers, coaches and mentors: http://www.halfpennydevelopment.co.uk/online-training/

Quick Self-Test for Meares-Irlen Syndrome

Irlen Syndrome (also referred to at times as Meares-Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Visual Stress) is a perceptual processing disorder.

It is not an optical problem, rather it is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information.

It tends to run in families and is not currently identified by other standardised educational or medical tests.

Do you have a difficulty reading or feel you read inefficiently? Then try this quick test.

Answer the following:                                                                                   

  1. Do you skip words or lines when reading?
                
  2. Do you re-read lines? 
                                           
  3. Do you lose your place when reading?
                      
  4. Are you easily distracted when reading? 
                   
  5. Do you need to take breaks often?  
                            
  6. Do you find it harder to read the longer you read? 
     
  7. Do you get headaches when you read?    
                  
  8. Do your eyes get red and watery?        
                        
  9. Does reading make you tired?  
                                
  10. Do you blink or squint?    
                                          
  11. Do you prefer to read in a dim light?    
                  
  12. Do you read close to the page? 
                             
  13. Do you use your finger or other markers?     
                 
  14. Do you get restless or fidgety when reading?          

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, then you might be experiencing the effects of Meares-Irlen Syndrome, also known as Irlen Syndrome and Sctotopic Sensitivity. It can interfere with your reading efficiency, slowing up the speed at which you take up meaning from text and is associated with headaches, migraines and excessive fatigue.

Make a note of each of the questions you answered YES to and send us an email info@halfpennydevelopment.co.uk with that information. We will get back to you with advice and support.

Screenings are available to ascertain the level of sensitivity and the correct coloured overlays and glasses to rectify the condition. 

What is Meares-Irlen Syndrome? Information from the Irlen Institute.

Details of Irlen screenings and availability: Irlen Scotland; Irlen UK

Knowledge of dyslexia can bring power to your customer service

Knowledge is power, said Francis Bacon four hundred years ago. Today, your customers hold the power to influence your business performance, because they pay for and experience your service and use this knowledge to evaluate your worth. If you give your employees knowledge of your customers and how to serve them to the best of your ability, their power will work for your business.

One area of customer knowledge that staff benefit from learning more about is customers who have dyslexia and co-occurring differences, such as dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Disorder, autism or Auditory Processing Disorder. Understanding how these conditions can influence the experience of many aspects of service provision can help to improve the quality of the services provided.

For example, in the process of providing services your staff may work with customers who may appear to have difficulty understanding or following instructions, particularly if these are complex or require long-term retention of them. This will often be because people with dyslexia or co-occurring differences often face challenges in processing information, particularly when under pressure, or faced with distractions such as loud noise or rapid verbal instructions. These conditions are also characterised by short-term memory difficulties and poor organisational skills, which can make some interactions in a service context confusing and increasingly stressful.

These kind of processing issues in customers are not always obvious to staff who are providing services to them. This makes it important to learn how to adjust services to meet these particular needs, especially because adjustments are required more frequently than you may think, and for several reasons including inclusivity, equality and health & safety.

Here are three main reasons why it is important to equip your customer service staff with the knowledge and understanding of how to adjust your service provision to take account of dyslexia and co-occurring differences.

1.    Many more of your customers are likely to be dyslexic than you may think

10% of adults in the UK are dyslexic, says the British Dyslexia Association and others. This is more than three million adults – how many of them are your customers? Now consider how many of them are not your customers, because your systems are not adjusted to cater for their processing needs? And how many already use your services, but could be making more of them, with the right adjustments made?

So...

Equip your staff with knowledge in order to gain the power to attract new customers through delivering higher quality services.

2. Service providers are required to make adjustments in anticipation of customer needs.

The Equality Act 2010 requires service providers to anticipate the nature of the needs of disabled customers, including those with unseen disabilities such as dyslexia and co-occurring differences. This means that service providers should not wait until a disabled person tries to use their service before making any adjustments, but instead predict what they might reasonably require and adjust their services so that this group can access them without being placed at a disadvantage.

This requirement is important to heed because it covers an enormous key part of the social interaction between service providers and customers – the communication of information and knowledge.

So...

Equip your business with knowledge of how to make service adjustments in order to be inclusive to more of your customers and give your staff the confidence that they are delivering a quality service.

3.   Many people with dyslexia are not aware that they are dyslexic

Society’s understanding of dyslexia is a very recent phenomenon, so many people in this group will not be aware of why they are experiencing difficulties with their short-term memory, information processing and general organisation. Many subtle and hard-to-spot cases of dyslexia are still routinely missed in schools. These  ‘undiagnosed’ dyslexics will experience difficulties in processing the information required to access many services, but may not know why the system does not work for them. This can lead to a decline or absence of their service use.

This lack of service use or comprehension can also confuse service providers, who have no obvious or direct indication from this group of how or why they failed to engage with them, or how they can make adjustments to avoid this situation in the future.

So...

Equip your staff with knowledge of dyslexia and co-occurring differences in order to better understand how to develop more inclusive customer interactions and relationships.

Power can come to your business by equipping your staff with the knowledge of how to serve the 10% or more of your customers who are dyslexic. In many sectors dyslexia is highly over-represented, so adjusting for dyslexia if your clients are engineers, architects, entrepreneurs or work in creative or artistic fields may have an enhanced impact on the success of your venture.

 Knowledge is still power, as Bacon might observe today. 

Francis Bacon

Jan Halfpenny writes, conducts research and trains organisations and individuals on dyslexia and business.  


Why dyslexia support is key for apprenticeships to workPyramids

For many young people an apprenticeship is an increasingly popular vocational alternative to further and higher education. It provides practical  ‘on-the-job’ experience and a wage, with periods of work-related training. With other routes to work becoming more limited, the apprentice route is likely to be a more attractive way for young dyslexic people who wish to stay out of academia to gain experience and qualifications.

The coalition government in the UK has created 257,000 new apprentices, according to figures released in June. The British Dyslexia Association estimate that 10% of the adult population is dyslexic, so because it is likely that more than the average number of apprentices will be dyslexic there are likely to be in excess of 25,700 dyslexic apprentices working in the UK now. This is the same number of workers it took to build the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

Given how important it is to encourage young people into work and provide as many opportunities as possible, just how dyslexia-friendly are apprenticeships? The Equality Act (2010) requires those who provide a service to anticipate the needs of those who process information differently. The British Dyslexia Association report in their magazine Dyslexia Contact (May 2013) that they have been ‘alerted to the many difficulties dyslexic apprentices face when undertaking Functional Skills Testing’, and that ‘these tests present a significant barrier to the career progression of apprentices’.

This means that the UK economy is not taking full advantage of the contribution of the enormous pool of talent and creativity. It needs to be harnessed, but the task of supporting dyslexic individuals on apprenticeships is not straightforward due to two main barriers:

Barrier 1: Knowing who is dyslexic.

Employers and those training in the workplace are unlikely to have a clear idea of who is dyslexic. This is because some individuals will be unaware of their dyslexia, as schools in the UK are not very efficient at picking it up. Other members of staff will be aware of their dyslexia, but not wish to disclose it, perhaps uncertain of any gains to be had.

Barrier 2. Knowing how to respond.

It is clear that there is a lack of awareness training among employment staff on the characteristics of dyslexia and reasonable adjustments which may be made for it. Dyslexia Contact reported this leading to complaints about ‘inappropriate access arrangements’ and ‘out of context questions’ which put dyslexic individuals at a disadvantage when they tried to demonstrate their competence.

So with no clear idea how many workers are dyslexic and who they are, and no informed plan of how to respond, the current arrangements for apprenticeships place barriers in front of dyslexic young people. These could affect their opportunity to shine and be seen to make progress in the same ways that non-dyslexics are able to demonstrate.

There is a way forward: remove the two barriers.
How?

  1. Make it easier for those who do not know they are dyslexic to find out if they are;
  2. Make it easier to disclose dyslexia to others at work;
  3. Upgrade the skills of staff who support apprentices through awareness training, which covers dyslexia, its many accompanying differences, and how to make reasonable adjustments for them.

These steps will bring enormous national economic benefits in terms of better communications and productivity, resulting from an increase in personal confidence and self-esteem among this significant proportion of talented apprentices.

Then we’ll see how long it takes to build a pyramid...       

Jan Halfpenny writes, conducts research and trains organisations and individuals on dyslexia and business.  

Recent research on dyslexic entrepreneurs: In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs

As a dyslexia and business specialist, I meet many people who are supporting young people on apprenticeship programmes or 'get into work' initiatives. They are always keen to ask me for hints and tips that will help young people with their employment skills. 
So here are a few suggestions that answer one of the questions I most frequently get asked:

How do I support a young person with their reading skills?

If you are working in role supporting young people, then you are highly likely to come across someone with reading difficulties as part of dyslexia. The difficulties encountered with dyslexia are not confined to reading, as there are auditory and visual issues as well, however one of the main barriers to learning is not having efficient, confident reading, so it is important to support this aspect. 

Any training programme will require a trainee to be reading material that is out of their area of expertise and interest. It can mean tackling a whole new vocabulary and manner of expression. This can slow down a young person's ability to grasp meaning and can result in them having to re-read passages many times to ensure that they have read accurately and interpreted meaning correctly. So here are a few ideas for you to pass on to them.

5 tips to help you read for information more easily:

Tip 1. Try to read in an environment where you can control noise levels and types of noise. If you read better with music on then there is no need for silence. What is important is that you control the noise/music to suit your needs. This should cut down on distractions.

Tip 2. Read complicated sections out loud. This ensures that you are not skipping words or mis-reading words.

Tip 3. Print out information instead of reading it from a screen. This will allow you to add notes and highlight - actions which help improve memory of complicated contents. Reading from a screen brings distractions from glare, pictures, logos, adverts and pop-ups. If screen glare is an issue then it could be a sign that you have Meares-Irlen Syndrome. If you have to read from a screen then try using Evernote Clearly - it will get rid of all the annoying distractions that litter many websites and allow you to highlight key words.

Tip 4. Use a finger or ruler to stop you reading ahead. This works by narrowing your depth of field and allows you to focus more on one word at a time. You could also cover sections of information that you are not reading with a blank sheet of paper.

Tip 5. Try printing out information on coloured paper rather than white. White paper is known to cause interference in some readers due to their sensitivity to glare. It can make reading uncomfortable after time, contribute to your inattention and slow up your processing of text. If you have such difficulties then it may be an indication of Meares-Irlen Syndrome. This is not dyslexia, but many people with dyslexia (c. 60%) can also have this syndrome. An easy way to tell if you might benefit from using non-white paper is to use the colour changer at the top right hand of this screen. You can change the colour and hue of the background very finely to suit your needs. If you find that changing the colour makes the screen easier to read, then try using a paper of a similar colour. This is only a rough guide - a more reliable indication requires screening for Meares-Irlen Sydrome.

Jan Halfpenny writes, conducts research and trains organisations and individuals on dyslexia and business.  

Recent research on dyslexic entrepreneurs: In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs

Why Identifying Dyslexia in Enterprising Women is Important for Growth

Professor Julie Logan’s research at the University of Bristol in 2001 reported that 1 in 5 of the UK’s entrepreneurs she surveyed was dyslexic (1), twice the rate expected for adults in the UK (2). Women’s Enterprise Scotland estimate that 60,000 women are registered as business owners in Scotland (3), which could equate to as many as 12,000 female dyslexic entrepreneurs, depending on how the term ‘entrepreneur’ is applied.

In 2008 Prof. Logan’s research at Cass Business School in London made business headlines when she reported that entrepreneurs with dyslexia make significantly different decisions compared to non-dyslexic entrepreneurs in two key respects: the number of businesses they choose to set up, and how many people they employ (4). Dyslexic entrepreneurs did significantly more of both. This means that the actions of this group are important for economic growth.

For the economy to harness high value problem-solving skills that dyslexic adults reportedly possess, it has to be possible to approach businesses and professional networks and ask “who is dyslexic, and how can we support you?” But it is at this point that the challenges begin: many women in business will be unaware that they are dyslexic due to under-assessment at school, and therefore unaware of how dyslexia interacts with their business and their support providers.

Findings from a number of studies point to a lack of early identification of dyslexia in UK schools (5). In a study of dyslexic higher education students in1999 nearly half were identified as dyslexic only after they had left school and gone on to university (6). This lack of identification of dyslexia in the school system has far reaching consequences: many dyslexics in adulthood lack a full understanding of their particular weaknesses and strengths. Scottish entrepreneur Michelle Mone commented:

“I felt something was wrong before I was tested...as over the years I have struggled with reading, but as I didn’t realise I was dyslexic, I didn’t get any support at school.” (7)

Like many other adults, Michelle Mone’s dyslexia was discovered only by accident. Dyslexia is now understood to be hereditary (8), and has led to some people being spotted in adulthood as a result of tests done on other family members. Cass Business School (9)found that one third of the dyslexic entrepreneurs they interviewed shared the same experience as Michelle Mone, who only discovered her dyslexia when her son was tested (10).

Michelle Mone

This example illustrates another of the inherent challenges in engaging with dyslexia – its presence is not always obvious or able to be assumed. Not all dyslexics overtly struggle with reading in the way Michelle Mone does, making their recognition even more challenging for themselves, their family and specialists. Learning specialists Dr. Brock Eide and Dr. Fernette Eide suggest that:

“A few, whom we’ve called stealth dyslexics, have problems so subtle or “stealthy” that they evade early detection and often only come to attention later for problems with writing or underperformance.”(11)

It is possible that the majority of “stealth dyslexics” are female. Some studies show no significant gender difference in the general incidence of dyslexia (12), yet schools have been shown to identify significantly more boys than girls as dyslexic at a young age (13). Researchers suggest this may be connected with the different ways young boys and girls tend to interact with teachers at school. In this environment attention and support tends to be engaged when difficulties are presented overtly to teachers, which is more how boys communicate compared to girls, who tend to adopt more private coping strategies and draw less formal attention to their needs (14). A consequence for business is that more dyslexic girls than boys remain outside the support framework at school, and grow in to adults who are unlikely to have been assessed or supported, but still deal with dyslexia every time they process information.

So standing at your networking meeting and getting an answer to your question “who is dyslexic, and how can we support you?” is not going to yield widespread reliable results with present business arrangements. Signs are not recognised at an early enough age and many women learn to cope with dyslexia in adulthood without understanding it or knowing how to take advantage of the creative insights and skills associated with dyslexic thinking. Yet Scotland’s economy needs a full contribution from these entrepreneurs.

Evidence from higher education shows the importance of nurturing and engaging with this group in ways that support their different way of processing information. It is clear that there is a history of under-investment in this area: four years ago 88% of dyslexics surveyed by Business Link said they thought that dyslexia presented barriers to starting a business (15), yet last year the UK government’s Access To Work scheme delivered employment support to approximately just one in every one thousand dyslexic workers in the UK (16). They did not even keep figures on how many dyslexic self-employed people the scheme had helped (17).

Identification of dyslexia can bring a self-awareness otherwise denied. It also leads to the introduction of more dyslexia-friendly ways of working, from which wider society benefits. In higher education a system of support is beginning to be established, but in the business world there are far fewer opportunities for identification and support for dyslexia. This inevitably means that dyslexia in current and potential entrepreneurs is being overlooked instead of recognised and developed. Many women remain unaware of how slight adjustments to their work or perspective can improve their productivity. Others miss knowing that entrepreneurship presents a career structure where their innovative problem-solving skills have been reported to bring significant advantages. The sooner we can ask “who is dyslexic, and how can we support you?” and receive an informed answer, the better for everyone.

© Jan Halfpenny 2012

This article was originally written for Women's Enterprise Scotland. Thanks to all at WES for your support.

Jan Halfpenny writes, speaks andtrains organisations and individuals online and in person on dyslexia and business.  

Find out more about Halfpenny Development's online dyslexia training course.

References:

1. Logan, J., 2001, Entrepreneurial success: A study of the incidence of dyslexia in the entrepreneurial population and the influence of dyslexia on success, University of Bristol

2. British Dyslexia Association, 2012, http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/about-us/

3. Women’s Enterprise Scotland, 2012, www.wescotland.co.uk/about-us 

4. Logan, J., 2008, Are We Teaching Potential Entrepreneurs in the Best Way to Enhance Their Career Success?, Cass Business School London

5. Frey, W., 1990, Schools miss out on dyslexic engineers, IEEE Spectrum Gale Group, 2008, Encyclopedia of Medicine, Gale Group Inc.

 Hanley, J., 1997, Reading and spelling impairments in undergraduate students with developmental dyslexia, Journal of Research in Reading  (1) 20 Wiley 

Logan, J., 2001,Entrepreneurial success: A study of the incidence of dyslexia in the entrepreneurial population and the influence of dyslexia on success, University of  Bristol

6. Singleton, C. H. (Chair), 1999, Dyslexia in Higher Education: Policy, Provision and  Practice, Report of the National Working Party on Dyslexia in Higher Education

7.  Dyslexia Scotland, 2011, Dyslexia and Us: A collection of personal stories, Dyslexia Scotland

8.  Logan, J., & Martin, N., 2012, Unusual Talent: a Study of Successful Leadership and Delegation in Entrepreneurs who have Dyslexia, Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education: vol. 4; Issue 1

9.  British Dyslexia Association, 2012, 

10. Dyslexia Scotland, 2011, Dyslexia and Us: A collection of personal stories, Dyslexia Scotland

11. Eide, B., & Eide, F., 2011, The Dyslexic Advantage, Hay House

12. Shaywitz, S.E., and Shaywitz, B.A., 2001, The Neurobiology of Reading and Dyslexia, National Centre for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy Volume 5, Issue A

13. Shaywitz, S.E., Fletcher, J.M., et al. (1999) Persistence of Dyslexia: The Connecticut longitudinal study at adolescence, Paediatrics, 104; 1351- 9

14. Hales, T., (2005), How can you effectively target boys learning in the classroom?  A small-scale enquiry focusing on how to help boys improve their achievement, Journal of the Cardiff School of Education, Volume 3, September 2005

15. Business Link, 2008, Dyslexia and Start-up Businesses, Business Link

16. DWP Employment Group, 2011, Access To Work Official Statistics July 2011, Department for Work and Pensions

17. DWP, 2012, Response to Access To Work Statistic Enquiry, Disability Employment Analysis Team

Many of the questions I get asked as a neurodiversity specialist come from business support and training providers.

They usually want to find out what they need to know about dyslexia and what they should be doing about it. Here is the information that I make sure they have:

  1. 1 in 5 entrepreneurs in the UK is dyslexic. 
  2. The rate in the general population is 1 in 10.  
  3. Dyslexic adults are particularly drawn to business careers.
  4. Schools under-recognise dyslexia and other neurological differences.
  5. Some business people will be unaware that they are dyslexic.

...and two helpful quotes...

Business Link London (2008) says:

“Dyslexia ...affects an individual’s ability to perform business tasks and processes.  Despite this, it is also associated with creativity and business excellence, especially in the critical areas of creativity and lateral thinking.

Dyslexia is something that training and development organisations should be aware of and endeavour to accommodate. This can be in the form of simple dyslexia-specific guides, workshops and training information.” 

Dyslexia is more than a literacy issue; it is a processing difference that affects the way all information is processed - written, visual and spoken - in terms of speed, attention paid and commitment to memory. This has to be taken into account when presenting information to this group, if you are going to improve your chances of your message being remembered and acted upon.

Further reading and references:

In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs

Business Link London (2008) Dyslexia and Start-up Businesses 

Jan Halfpenny writes, conducts research and trains organisations and individuals on dyslexia and business.  

Research on dyslexic entrepreneurs: In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs

← Dyslexia-friendly Colours