How to support employees with dyslexia

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Even a learning need as common as dyslexia, which affects up to one in 10 people in the UK, is frequently misunderstood and stereotyped.

Perhaps because dyslexia often involves literacy skills the condition has become conflated with being an indicator of intelligence. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

People with varying levels of intelligence can be dyslexic. What is important is how their learning differences are accommodated so they can reach their full potential.


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I was diagnosed with dyslexia at university, which immediately clarified why I had struggled in education before then.

Even in my later life and career, everyday occurrences that many people wouldn’t think twice about present an extra hurdle. To overcome this, I had to better understand my dyslexia and put strategies in place which helped me to manage.

The other key aspect was working with those around me to create a supportive environment where my strengths were utilised and my ‘weaknesses’ were supported.

There is no reason why the same cannot be true for every individual with dyslexia. Conversations about how best to work with others who think and learn differently need to run through the employment process into onboarding and retention.

Strategies and reasonable adjustments to support those in the workplace with dyslexia can be very simple. Actions such as increasing font size, using clear colours, and higher contrast between texts and backgrounds in documents can all be helpful.

For those who may struggle with new vocabulary, a support mechanism may involve providing a glossary of commonly used terms. It’s also good practice for new employees who may be less familiar with the language around their new role.  

Keeping internal emails short and to the point can also be hugely beneficial to those with dyslexia. Onboarding information or the introduction of a new company policy can mean notoriously dense documents.

Giving individuals who struggle with their literacy extra support and time to process and respond to such information is important, and it’s also helpful to keep the information as concise and accessible as possible.

Generally, too, these adjustments can also be beneficial to those without dyslexia.

It’s important to keep in mind that people with dyslexia are perfectly capable at what they do. Avoid patronising, micro-managing and hovering around your colleagues or employees with dyslexia, that kind of stress can make it hard for anyone to work at their best.

Listening and making the right accommodations where necessary is the best way to avoid alienating staff. Companies should celebrate the diversity of their employees’ different ways of thinking and demonstrate that they are willing and able to support the range of needs that they may have.

Technology is currently the best route to increasing support for those with dyslexia and other learning needs. There exists the capability and tools for mapping brain profiles and understanding areas of both strength and weakness.

Since no two brains are alike, cognitive assessments can help onboarding of applicants and employees to understand their cognitive behaviour and subsequently, the best ways to learn and operate.

This leads to a more open and inclusive workplace culture overall and can also ensure employers and employees are better armed with the tools they need to work effectively, improve support structures, and reach their full potential together. 

 

Chris Quickfall is founder and CEO of Cognassist