As Dyslexia Awareness Week is just around the corner, I have put together these top ten tips from by experience of supporting staff and organisations with dyslexia.
Dyslexia is often spoken about in the educational context and is often diagnosed at school or university. Support for dyslexic pupils and students is more commonplace now, however, the majority of staff I supported when working at Imperial College London were in their forties or fifties. Not being supported and knowing what could have enabled you to thrive is a difficult road to travel. Dyslexia can often feel and look very different in the workplace.
1. Understand dyslexia in the workplace
Dyslexia for many adults extends beyond what is often referred to as difficulties with reading and writing. Dyslexia can include a number of ‘processing differences’ and can be affect speed of processing, organisation, communication and memory. Being aware of this as an employer and an organisation is the first step to starting the journey.
2. Raise awareness
Raising awareness to enable staff to understand how dyslexia in the workplace impacts on people. This includes the positive aspects, as well as barriers that are often in place and can be removed. Dyslexia Awareness week which takes place from 2 to 8 October is a great way to do this. You could ask a local dyslexia organisation, or the British Dyslexia Association to have a stall or give a talk about dyslexia related to the workplace.
3. Organise training
My experience is, once you have raised awareness staff will be very interested in finding out more. Organising high-quality succinct training sessions is the next step in the journey. Training could include an overview of Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs), how they interlink, what dyslexia in the workplace looks like and how to support staff. It doesn’t have to be too long either, a 90 minute session can do a lot to educate people.
4. Have a process to support staff who come forward
Once you have put the three steps above into place, it is likely that staff will begin to come forward for support. This is a real milestone, as it demonstrates that all the ground work is paying off. However, it is essential to have a robust process of support in place. This will vary from organisation to organisation, but working with your disabled staff network, affinity group or employee resource group will be essential. Support options include Access to Work, clinical psychologists, specialist coaching and workplace needs assessors. A workplace needs assessment is essential for a staff member to know about the options available to them. It also provides clear practical recommendations based on their specific needs.
5. Support line managers
As part of the workplace needs assessment, the assessor should ideally meet with the line manager too. This ensures line managers have the time to ask any questions and find out how they support the team member in an appropriate and best way possible.
6. Ensure a timely process for workplace adjustments
It’s great to know what you need, but nothing more frustrating than not having the equipment and recommendations put in place in a timely fashion. Ideally the turn-around should be two weeks. Adjustments are not usually expensive or time consuming, especially when you consider the increased productivity and outputs from the staff member.
7. Review what’s working well
As with any member of staff talk about what’s working well at regular 1-2-1s. In addition to finding out about equipment that may need updating and how the support process has helped or what may need adjusting further. Encourage managers not to shy away from the subject, but to embrace positive conversations following support being put into place.
8. Draw on lived experience
Give staff who have been supported an opportunity to speak about the journey they have had and how it has empowered them in their role, if they feel they would like to. This could be at a team or divisional meeting or at an event. This aids understanding and encourages other staff to come forward for support.
9. Link to your organisations’ strategic mission for talent development and retention
Dyslexia is a strength and famous dyslexics such as Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Jamie Oliver and Richard Branson have used their strengths to create glittering careers. Realising dyslexic potential and how this can impact positively makes business sense. Make it part of you the talent management strategy and business as usual. You will reap the rewards and so will staff members.
10. Become a Dyslexia Champion TM
Dyslexia Champions TM are guidance beacons for neurodivergence in the workplace. Dyslexia Champions TM are employees who contribute towards a dyslexia/neuro-divergence friendly workplace culture and their training equips them to signpost individuals to appropriate workplace related support as well as them being able to provide guidance to line managers on how best to support neuro-divergent staff members. The Dyslexia Champions TM Programme is a two-day training programme (with additional online elements) which also has and OCN Level 2 qualification endorsed by the British Dyslexia Association.
Janette Beetham and Leyla Okhai have co-authored a paper in the Open Journal of Social Sciences. You can read the full paper here: https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=76910
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