Thursday, February 14, 2013

Employers: How to Manage Dyslexia in the work place

Dyslexia is a hidden disability that affects 10 per cent of the population. It predominately causes reading and writing difficulties but memory, mathematics, organisation and sequencing skills can also be affected.

If un-addressed, dyslexia can result in underachievement. However, it does not affect intelligence and need not be a barrier to success.

There are many brilliant dyslexic professionals following a wide range of careers. But for those struggling, it is important for an employer to be aware of the ways they can help.

The UK  Equality Act 2010 covers dyslexia so all workplaces need to comply with it if a staff member is dyslexic. This act repeals and replaces the original UK Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

1 Know the signs
Indications of dyslexia in the workplace will reflect the nature of the work and will vary depending on the individual’s difficulties and their severity.

Key indicators might include performance that is not reflective of potential, written documentation that is unexpectedly poor or seems careless, confused memos or messages, deadlines regularly not being met or taking longer to learn new skills.

Have you noticed whether the individual appears forgetful, seems disorganised, has low self-esteem or suffers unduly from stress or anxiety? These are behaviours that may be attributed to dyslexia.

2 Seek confirmation
Many adults do not know that the difficulties they have are the result of dyslexia. If confirmation is required, referral to an occupational psychologist or an expert trained in screening and assessment for dyslexia should be considered.

3 Provide support
Effective support can often be simple and inexpensive. This may include;
  • holding regular one-to-one sessions to reinforce aims and objectives;

    • help with prioritising and organising workloads by using calendars with deadlines clearly marked, diaries or electronic reminders; 
    • allowing regular breaks; 
    • setting realistic objectives and negotiating deadlines; and, if required, 
    • professional training and coaching.

    4 Use technology
    Many products can be incorporated into an office environment,
    • spellcheckers are commonplace, 
    • encourage the use of a dictaphone for note-taking, or 
    • change the set-up of the person’s PC to make it more usable (Consider doing this from both an ergonomic and in terms of operational, as in software default layouts – font size and colour, and the use of a preferred background colour to clarify reading). 
    • Consider investing in Assistive technology such as EasyReader, and /or
    • voice-activated software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and /or 
    • planning software such as Inspiration may also be helpful.
    5 Look at your practices
    Develop dyslexia-friendly practices across the business for recruitment, assessment, training and health and safety.

    Consider how accessible your communications are and provide alternative formats such as large print or audio.

    Plan training sessions and inductions that accommodate extra time or support to ensure retention of information.

    For instance, give the individual training materials in advance or present communications in a more dyslexia-friendly layout. This may include:

    • bullet points;
    • font size of no less than 11pt;
    • sans-serif typefaces such as Arial;
    • left-justified margin;
    • cream or off-white background;
    • increased spacing between lines;
    • important points in bold (not italics).

    6 Consider individual needs
    Do not assume or generalise. Dyslexia is complex and the number, type and severity of difficulties will vary.

    This will also be influenced by the individual’s ability to manage their own dyslexia. Discussions about support strategies should consider fully what the person feels they need. Listen to them. Do not impose on them.

    7 Seek specialist help
    You are not expected to be a dyslexia expert and, given its complexity, it may be wise to discuss specific strategies and adjustments with a specialist.

    If dyslexia is suspected and formal identification is required, contact an occupational psychologist or specialist service provider.

    Avoid New Age alternative therapy 'solutions' and only consider support and assistance from medically or educationally qualified consultants and institutions.

    In the UK, the Citizens Advice Bureaus should be able to point you in the right direction.

    8 Increase awareness
    Encourage better understanding among all staff by including accurate information about dyslexia in internal communications.

    Key Points

    • Dyslexia need not be a barrier to success, and is recognised under the UK Equality Act 2010.
    • Dyslexia is common – an organisation with 50-100 employees could have up to 10 workers who are dyslexic.
    • Adjustments can help to maximise potential.
    • Do not generalise – treat each case individually.

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