Sometimes it’s easy to feel that “we’re nearly there” in terms of supporting dyslexic students. There’s Load to Learn rolling out to secondary schools, there’s the wonderful TechDis voices for post 16 learners in England (and Stuart/Heather in Scotland and Geraint/Gwyneth in Wales). There is an e-books revolution in FE and HE, there are free text to speech tools and services as well as free content creation tools like Xerte / Xenith. Surely it’s only a matter of time till the threads are drawn together by the learning providers and we can all retire?

 

Not necessarily. This week, the Dyslexia Association organised a seminar on dyslexia in the workplace. It was about the issues faced by dyslexic people when they hit the workplace. A wide range of different organisations contributed to a tightly timed schedule. These are some highlights.

  1. This is a live issue with government and a number of opportunities exist over the next few months to influence
  2. Dyslexic people get far more support in education than they do in the workplace. The workplace can be a very difficult environment for dyslexic people because
    1. they lack access to diagnostic testing to “prove” their dyslexia,
    2. even if they get testing the results do not necessarily provide any work related solutions.
    3. difficulties with organisation, time management short-term memory, distractibility and functional skills may be more limiting than literacy
    4. if line managers are not appropriately aware, reasonable adjustments are unlikely to be made. Dyslexics are vulnerable to being perceived as under-performing. This can lead to disciplinary action.
    5. dyslexic entrepreneur are often undermined by difficulties in getting things down on paper and under confidence. Mentoring results in less anxiety and more confidence.
  3. The proportion of Helpdesk calls from dyslexic adult enquirers is significantly rising – up to 50% of all calls for some dyslexia charities.
  4. If dyslexia issues are not identified early and supported effectively, they can quickly become mental health issues.
  5. Access to Work spending on dyslexic employees is only 2 to 3% of the total spend, despite dyslexic employees being numerically one of the largest groups.

 

These are significant challenges but there was good news as well. For example:

  1. Awareness of the issues is growing. Disclosure in the workplace is still a difficulty but disclosures in higher education are increasing (100% increase in 2 years for Middlesex University). The TSSA (Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association) union is setting up training for 60 members/reps to become Neurodiversity Support Advisors.
  2. A wider range of advice and guidance is now available – for example the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit from Dyslexia Scotland
    or www.skillsrocket.com from Lexxic with a range of supporting handouts with video introductions. Guidance is even available for the justice system via “Fairness and Courts Tribunals handbook” and the “Equal Treatment Bench Book”.
  3. Many free technology tools provide support for literacy issues, organisation and time management issues. The JISC TechDis Toolbox illustrates many. The free JISC TechDis voices are licensed for all work-based learning settings in England.

 

So “are we there yet?”

No, certainly not. But perhaps we are moving in the right direction. And although we would never claim that technology is the answer all problems, there is no doubt that learners who come through education confident in using a range of tools to support their dyslexia will take that same confidence into the workplace.

 

3 Responses to Are we there yet? Dyslexia in the workplace

  1. Diana Ward says:

    Yes, I would reinforce your last paragraph, teaching dyslexia students the tools that are available through technology, should enable them to use these in the workplace where appropriate. This also requires them to feel confident in informing their employers, not only that they are dyslexic, but there are also some great technological tools which can assist.

  2. Jayne Franks says:

    Interesting point there about the potential for dyslexic issues to develop into mental health issues. I wonder… how much of that may be due to dyslexia itself… and how much may be due to the attitude of others towards dyslexic people? For both myself, and many other dyslexics I know, we have developed attitudes of low self-esteem and low self-worth which are actually much more disabling than dyslexia itself.

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