According to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), dyslexia affects approximately 10% of the British population. Therefore, around 2.9 million workers are living with this learning difficulty, meaning it’s incredibly likely that a current or future employee will be dyslexic.
Understandably, revealing a learning difficulty can be a daunting prospect in the workplace and this anxiety can hold back those with dyslexia from asking for help. This means that their behaviors can occasionally be misunderstood as a lack of ability, dedication, and inattention. However, those with dyslexia can bring as many strengths and qualities to a business, as non-sufferers do, which means it’s incredibly important to encourage people to speak up about it.
Most commonly, symptoms of dyslexia include struggling to formulate thoughts quickly enough to participate in conversations and confusing words within sentences and letters within words. Not only that, but struggling to schedule work, making deadlines and recollecting and recording the contents of meetings and messages are frequent signs of dyslexia.
Recognizing these signs and encouraging an open conversation about dyslexia, will ensure that those living with it, can reach their full potential and enjoy work, whilst feeling fully supported by their employers. To facilitate this, the wellbeing experts at CABA have shared 10 ways in which leaders can support employees with dyslexia:
1. Set up a mentoring scheme
This ensures that the workforce feels more comfortable talking about learning difficulties, with the hope being to subtly encourage those that are struggling to come forward and ask for help. A mentoring program can offer a range of tailored advice and support for anyone who may be suffering from anxiety, mental health or any other form of learning difficulty in the workplace, not just dyslexia.
2. Diagnostic Assessment
To be able to best support your team members, diagnostic assessments would be truly valuable in understanding their specific needs. These can be arranged via the BDA, who could also help to provide advice that may have not been considered previously.
3. Create dyslexia-friendly content
If you recognize that an employee has dyslexia, small changes can be made to help employees navigate through work content. This may mean using an easily readable font such as Arial or Comic Sans, as small or italic fonts can cause letters to appear more crowded. It may also be useful to use headings to create structure and to avoid background patterns or pictures as they could distract from the text.
4. Adapt your communication style
It’s worthwhile asking any dyslexic employees what their preferred method of communication is. This is because if the individual is a visual learner you could work using a mind map or flow chart, to best get across important points. Remember, everyone works differently, so ask the individual what works best, to ensure you get the most out of them.
5. Training services
To help employers support staff members who may experience work-based learning difficulties, The British Dyslexic Association and the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre offer a range of services to ensure that both parties are mutually benefitting. So, ensure you set aside enough budget to invest in resources to help aid people with dyslexia.
6. Assistive technology
There are a number of technological devices that can make work life easier for those with dyslexia. For example, speech recognition software allows speech to be converted into text, and vice versa – cutting out the task of reading and writing which can often take much longer for a dyslexic employee.
7. Raise awareness
Why not run a dyslexia awareness course for all staff, using a qualified and experienced dyslexia specialist who has experience training in the work environment? This will help to clarify any misconceptions about dyslexia and help to make all employees feel comfortable in dealing with it.
8. Alternative workspace
Loud and busy environments can make it hard for dyslexic workers to concentrate, so to help them, it can be beneficial to offer alternative work environments. For example, allowing these employees to use a meeting room, to help them focus when they really need to. If this is not possible, then provide headphones or earplugs as an alternative.
9. Encourage the use of calendars and alarms
Dyslexics can benefit from seeing things more visually, so using calendars and alarms can help to track time in a more visual way. In turn, this will help employees stay on schedule, and help them to plan their day and week. As well as this, the use of diary invites and desk calendars can be used to remind them of important deadlines.
10. Specialist stationery
Black text on white paper can be problematic as the whiteness can be dazzling and make it harder to read. Using paper of softer tones like yellow or pink may be preferable. As well as thicker pens, like gel pens which allow a team member to better understand their writing.
Organizations need to accept that everyone works differently and must look to adapt to individual needs – because those with dyslexia will range in their abilities. It’s important that employers create an unrestricted and honest environment to allow their employees to talk freely about dyslexia and other learning difficulties. This will be desirable to both the individual and the whole organization because after all, employees are better able to perform and be more productive when they have the correct support.
About the author: The CABA provides lifelong support for past and present ICAEW members and their families and are Passionate about health and wellbeing.