Dyslexia is a neurological disability and learning difference. Dyslexia impacts people differently, but primarily affects reading and writing skills. Dyslexia also affects how information is processed and remembered. People with dyslexia may also have impacts on their organisational or memory skills. Dyslexia is estimated to affect 1 in 10 people in the UK.
Signs of Dyslexia at work can look like:
- Erratic or confusing spelling
- Taking longer to read emails or reports
- Avoiding tasks that require reading or writing (i.e. taking notes in meetings)
- Problems with concentrating during long meetings or word-heavy presentations
- Problems with a lot of other noise and distractions
- Difficulty in organising thoughts and ideas in written words quickly
- Forgetful about conversations that have happened or important dates
- Difficulty in planning and time management
- Increased creativity and lateral thinking
Diagnosis and Treatment
Dyslexia cannot be cured. However, dyslexia impacts can be reduced with the right supports and coping strategies. Many people with dyslexia in the workplace will know they have dyslexia and know what works for them. Employers just need to be flexible and accommodate what works for them.
Some adults with dyslexia will not know that they have it. They will experience dyslexia impacts at work or in life, but find ways to hide it. A dyslexia diagnosis is not currently available through the NHS. For older dyslexic workers especially, they may have gone through life avoiding situations where the impacts are most visible. This is why sometimes an employee may show signs of poor performance, but on closer inspection, they may have signs of dyslexia.
There are a few ways to determine whether an employee has dyslexia, or to confirm dyslexia diagnosis that requires reasonable adjustments:
- If they have been assessed already you can ask for the formal diagnosis report.
- If they have not been assessed, you can ask them to undertake a diagnostic assessment with a certified assessor.
- If they have been assessed already, but the assessment is not clear enough for you to provide adequate reasonable adjustments, then you can complete a workplace needs assessment through a British Dyslexia Association approved assessor.
Reasonable Adjustments and Support
Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for dyslexic employees if they know, are aware of, or could ‘reasonably be expected to know’ that the employee has dyslexia. Most employees will know they have dyslexia and tell their employer what reasonable adjustments they need. They often involve simple changes in the way an employer might usually do things.
Some people will not know they have dyslexia or hide this from the employer. So, an employee who shows signs of dyslexia, which can sometimes be interpreted as poor performance, should be asked whether they have any health impacts or disability that may be impacting their performance. This opens a dialogue to find the right support and reasonable adjustments if required. Reasonable adjustments might include:
- Being flexible in your communication styles and options: you might agree to give verbal rather than written instructions; or use voicemail rather than email.
- Make assistive technology available and training on how to use it: screenreaders, reading and dictation software, reading overlays.
- Make sure the work set-up is right: provide earphones for noisy environments, or screens to avoid distractions.
- Adjusting deadlines and time allowed for reading and writing: a good benchmark is a 10 – 25% more time, particularly for new information.
- Emphasising the employee’s skills, rather than their impacts from dyslexia: dyslexia can include increased skills in visual or lateral thinking, and creativity.
- Raise awareness: for the dyslexic employees to be better understood in the workplace, and to make employees feel comfortable with asking for help if they think they might have dyslexia.
British Dyslexia Association (BDA): information and services to support people with dyslexia. BDA provides training to professionals, dyslexia diagnostic assessments, and workplace needs assessments. They also provide a helpline service for people with dyslexia and those who support them (0333 405 4567).
The Dyslexia Association: support and services for people with dyslexia and those who support them. Provides professional advice, dyslexia screening, diagnostic assessments, training and specialist tuition.
Dyslexia Foundation: provides free dyslexia screenings and subsidised rates of assessment costs for people in work and education in the North West of England. Also provides a helpline number (0151 707 1525).