Let's celebrate dyslexia

My husband is dyslexic. My future sister in law is dyslexic. A number of old school friends are dyslexic. They all have one thing in common, being immensely creative and innovative. They have a great way of looking at the world! And according to the statistics they are probably more intelligent.

Dyslexia, in literal terms, means difficulty with words. It is believed that almost 10% of the UK population suffer from dyslexia, although many people may never officially be diagnosed. About 70% of children who are diagnosed with dyslexia are placed in special education for learning disabilities, and yet people with dyslexia are usually more creative and have a higher IQ.

Individuals who have dyslexia will be affected differently, but often have difficulties in some of these areas:

  • Reading

  • Writing

  • Spelling

  • Working memory and short-term memory

  • Expressing thoughts

  • Differentiating right from left

  • Organisation

As such, dyslexics can sometimes struggle at work, particularly with more administrative and paperwork based roles, depending on the level of support that they have. Many employers are unfortunately in the dark about the variations of dyslexia and the fact that it is covered by the Equality Act. In addition to this many employers seem unaware that they have a duty to make adjustments to support dyslexic employees.

So, why would an employer want a dyslexic employee? Well according to the British Dyslexia Association, individuals with dyslexia are generally:

  • Innovative thinkers

  • Excellent trouble shooters

  • Good problem solvers

  • Creative in numerous ways

  • Lateral thinkers

And let’s not forget the high IQ!

Those individuals with dyslexia are also found to be empathetic, intuitive and persistent. Not a bad set of traits for a potential candidate. Many hugely successful people have dyslexia, Richard Branson being the most obvious. But Steve Jobs was dyslexic, and Walt Disney, and so was Thomas Edison.

So as a business how can you support employees who are dyslexic and what sort of reasonable adjustments might you consider making:

  • Providing screen reading software

  • Providing a reading pen

  • Supplying information on coloured paper, which dyslexics often find much easier to read

  • Setting up a computer screen with a coloured background

  • Using speech to text software

  • Asking someone else to take minutes at a meeting as this is something which may put a dyslexic employee under a degree of stress

  • Providing information in various formats, including audio, video, diagrams and flowcharts

  • Encouraging frequent breaks and avoiding all day computer work

  • Making sure that instructions are clear and concise and that an employee has understood them

  • If possible allowing an employee to work occasionally from home

  • Making sure that the workspace is a free from distractions as possible, and that it is well lit and clutter free

  • Using a wall planner to visually highlight appointments, tasks and projects

  • Encouraging employees to use a calendar, whether online or not

If you know an employee is dyslexic why not instigate a discussion with them today, and try to better understand how you might support them.

By embracing and supporting the diversity of our people we can nurture innovation, better understand our customers and ultimately gain competitive advantage. In addition, you will widen the skillset of the business and foster more positive employer branding. What’s not to like?

#dyslexia #diversity

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