Dealing with dyslexia in the workplace

Ten percent of the population is believed to be dyslexic, but the condition is often misunderstood. 

As part of the occupational health and wellbeing solutions that we offer to our clients, we often help to support people with dyslexia in the workplace.

In this blog, we’ll look at what dyslexia is, how it can be diagnosed and some of the ways that employers can support staff with dyslexia.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a neurological difference that can have a significant impact on someone’s education, work and everyday life. 

Its symptoms can range from mild to severe and everyone's experience will be different.

Dyslexia can affect the way that people process and retain information. This will often have an impact on their reading and writing skills.

It usually runs in families and is a life-long condition. However, there are positives to thinking differently. Many dyslexic people show strengths in reasoning, visual arts and creativity.

How is dyslexia diagnosed?

Dyslexia can only be formally diagnosed through a diagnostic assessment carried out by a certified assessor.

However, there are many tools that people with dyslexia can use to offer support and help.

The British Dyslexia Association website has a great advice section with information for children, adults, educators and employers.

Dyslexia in the workplace

Since 10% of the population is believed to be dyslexic, it stands to reason that many people are dealing with it in relation to work.

It’s important that both employers and employees are aware of the support that should be made available to any staff with dyslexia.

Dyslexia screening and checklists

Many people will have their own ways of coping with dyslexic difficulties.

In the workplace, these difficulties often become unmanageable when someone experiences significant change, such as dealing with a new role or manager.

If dyslexia is suspected to be the cause of difficulties in the workplace, employers can use online screeners and checklists to highlight some of the factors that might indicate dyslexic differences.

However, dyslexia can only be formally identified through a Diagnostic Assessment.

What is a diagnostic assessment? 

A diagnostic assessment is carried out by a specialist teacher or assessor.

They will usually take up to three hours to complete and will take place in a private room, often in the workplace or the assessor’s office.

After an informal chat, the assessment will include tests on:

  • Reading, writing and spelling
  • Handwriting and fine motor skills
  • Phonological awareness (the ability to think about thinking)
  • Speed of processing and memory
  • Speech and language 
  • Auditory processing (the ability to understand the sounds you hear)

The assessor will calculate the test scores, analyse the results and give a diagnosis in the form of a written report.

Who pays for a diagnostic assessment?

Dyslexia is covered by the Equality Act 2010 and as such employers have a legal duty to ensure employees are not discriminated against.

It’s best practice for employers to offer a diagnostic assessment for employees that may be dyslexic. 

However, smaller organisations may not be able to fully fund the assessment and could ask the employee to contribute to the costs.

In order to meet the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments to the workplace so that staff can carry out their role to a satisfactory standard.

But a diagnostic assessment is not the only way to assess this. Employers can also undertake a workplace needs assessment.

What is a workplace needs assessment?

A workplace needs assessment will help to determine any reasonable adjustments that might be needed to support an employee with dyslexic differences.

The changes can be suggested by either the employer or the member of staff. 

They will depend on the employee's difficulties, their job role, the resources they use and the practicality of the changes.

Many of them will be simple and inexpensive changes that are easy to implement.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

Here are a few suggestions of some of the areas where reasonable adjustments can help to overcome dyslexic difficulties.

Difficulties with reading and writing

  • Give verbal as well as written instructions
  • Use voicemail rather than written memos
  • Allow plenty of time to read and complete a task
  • Present information in other formats e.g. audio, video, drawings, and diagrams
  • Include a spell checker on all computers

Difficulties with computer work

  • Change the background colour of any screens
  • Supply anti-glare screen filters
  • Allow frequent breaks, at least every hour

Difficulties with verbal communication

  • Give instructions one at a time, slowly and clearly without distractions
  • Write down important information or encourage the employee to take notes
  • Provide a digital recorder to record presentations/training

Difficulties with concentration

  • Make sure there is a quiet space available away from distractions
  • Allow an employee to work from home occasionally, if possible
  • Use a “do not disturb” sign when tasks require intense concentration

Difficulties with organising work

  • Create a daily “To Do” list
  • Use and share diaries
  • Build planning time into each day

Supporting staff with dyslexic difficulties

Dyslexic workers may find themselves becoming stressed by changes, such as a new job description, way of working or manager.

This stress can make dyslexic difficulties more pronounced, leading to performance issues.

It’s important that employers are aware of these difficulties and make changes to support their staff.

It ’s been found that when dyslexia is well supported at work, dyslexic difficulties are likely to be less pronounced and good performance maintained.

If you’d like to find out how our occupational health services can help to support employees with dyslexia, contact the team at Fusion now.

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Categories: EmployeesHealth & WellbeingMental HealthOccupational HealthSupport

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