Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects someone’s ability for learning and processing information, specifically affecting reading, writing and spelling. There are many different levels of dyslexia, ranging from manageable spelling difficulty to those who need to attend specialist schools for educational support.

Dyslexia is a very common learning difficulty, with around 1 in 10 people in the UK experiencing some level of it. Different to a learning disability, dyslexia does not affect intelligence; hence, with the proper support, it should have a minimal impact on someone’s ability in the workplace.

The exact cause of dyslexia is unknown, but it is most commonly associated with family genetics and is usually diagnosed in childhood. However, schools have only recently become more accustomed to spotting the signs of dyslexia, meaning that many adults were not diagnosed as children and now live with dyslexia unknowingly. For some, this does not impede their life significantly, but others may be struggling to complete basic tasks at work and in education simply because they do not have the proper learning facilities around them.

Managing dyslexia in the workplace

Dyslexia can manifest in many different ways and can have a knock-on effect on areas outside of reading and writing, such as attention deficit, short-term memory, organisation and time management, and physical coordination. The most common symptoms to affect learning ability include:

  • Problems expressing ideas succinctly in written work. A person may have the right knowledge and ideas but struggle to communicate them clearly through writing.
  • Slow reading and writing
  • Poor spelling
  • Putting letters in the wrong order
  • Struggle to plan and organise
  • Problems digesting written information and directions

If you relate to these symptoms and feel as though you might have dyslexia, you can go for a formal assessment. This is most accessible through a school or university, but if you are out of full-time education you should get in touch with your local dyslexia association, and they can guide you.

With the correct help, somebody with dyslexia can be successful in any role. You may need extra time completing tasks, or different technology (which your employer by law must provide). Still, you shouldn’t feel as if there are any barriers to your career path. Naturally, many people with dyslexia gravitate away from jobs which require a lot of reading and writing, or jobs which involve absorbing large amounts of written information.

Instead, it is reported that people with dyslexia often excel in other areas such as problem-solving, creativity, narrative reasoning, empathy and emotional skills. Some careers which might suit these skills include graphic designers, mechanics and engineers and counsellors and therapists. Or, some people with dyslexia choose to go on to teaching, to help others who have learning difficulties like themselves. The fact that verbal communication is a core element of education is another incentive for going into teaching.

Suppose you are currently employed in a profession that you enjoy but feel like your dyslexia is holding you back. In that case, you should approach your employer to discuss what changes could help you succeed. You shouldn’t feel like you will be judged for asking for extra help, as asking for support to improve your ability and productivity is a sign of dedication and commitment to the job. Dyslexia can be very easily managed and supported in the workplace, and no employee should feel ashamed to ask for the right help.

Advice for employers

If you recognise some of the above symptoms in one of your employees and are worried about their standard of work, you can approach them and enquire as to whether they may have dyslexia. They may disclose to you that they are and, in this case, you can begin to work together to put the proper support in place to assist their work. If they are unsure, you could offer to pay for an assessment.

There are some simple adjustments you can make to the office and work routine of your employees to support dyslexic staff. For example:

Assistive technology

There are many computer programmes and systems which you can install which can help people with dyslexia. Such as text-to-speak functions which enable people to listen to text on a computer instead of reading it, word processing software to help with spelling and grammar, and digital recorders so staff can record meetings and listen back later to take in the information slowly.

Verbal instructions

People with dyslexia sometimes struggle to absorb written instructions so you could ask to see staff to explain something in person instead of sending an email or documents.

Allowing extra time

Dyslexic staff made need longer to complete tasks at work, especially things involving reading and writing. You could set alternative deadlines and allow for more flexible working hours to accommodate for the extra time.

It’s important to remember than dyslexia can manifest differently for different people, so you should talk to your staff directly to see what individual support they need.

For more information, visit our page on learning disabilities. If you would like to see if there is any extra help, you should read our page on funding and search our page for finding local assistance.