It was fantastic this week to log into a lesson with one of my adult learners to be told, “I just made brownies!”
My student was so thrilled to have read and followed a recipe for the first time and it’s fabulous to see progress like this, where individuals suddenly feel confident to have a go at something new which involves reading or spelling. The learner was so pleased to have been able to successfully follow each step of the recipe, something which they had found so difficulty and avoided in the past.
It reminded me of watching Celebrity Masterchef (season 14, 2019) Where Joey Essex appeared. It became very obvious to me that Joey was struggling with some elements of the competition. He’s clearly learned to cook by watching rather than reading recipe books, not that there is anything wrong in that. For me, it was in episode 1 where Joey tried to talk about Michelin Stars that it was evident he’d not heard or stored those words correctly which resulted in him not being able to repeat the words correctly. Watch it here
I felt immediately, it was likely that Joey was dyslexic. I later looked Joey up, to find he had spoken about being dyslexic. Read more here
Joey had also appeared on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and revealed that he struggled to tell the time. This of course is hard for many people to understand that an adult struggles with an everyday function that we all take for granted. Yet there are numerous statistics available to tell us that many young people leave school with extremely poor literacy and numeracy skills which can be a result of dyslexia or dyscalculia. An everyday function of telling the time can impact so much on an individual’s life. It can make them appear tardy and not care about time keeping, they can be late for work and appointments. In the case of cooking, it can have a huge impact on preparing and timing a meal.
I feel Joey was extremely brave to appeared on Masterchef, knowing they would be asked to read a recipe. In episode 2, Joey teamed up with a fellow celebrity where he had to listen to his colleague leading the way, shouting out instructions in a noisy kitchen. This can be a really difficult task, needing time to listen and process verbal instructions without any other information such as step by step pictures to follow. The noisy background makes it had to focus on an individual’s voice. Joey’s team mate got impatient waiting for him to follow the instructions and continued without him. Although his team mate wasn’t to know about Joey having dyslexia and how it impacted him, it’s a real everyday demonstration of the lack of understand which people have regarding dyslexia. This could quite easily be a real place work scenario. Joey was clearly struggling and needed some support from his team mate.
Joe swash, of EastEnders fame, has also spoken about being dyslexic and his satnav error taking him and his mum in the wrong direction. He’s also joined the the 2021 Celebrity Masterchef for season 16. Again, it was noticeable how Joe repeat words such as ‘parmesan’ really wanting to say ‘parma ham’. The technical test was also a challenging writing down the ingredients. He also struggled to know if ‘tsp’ represented a table spoon or a tea spoon. Joe’s workstation (and the floor) was also very messy and people with dyslexia can often struggle with organisational skills.
Masterchef is unfortunately a good example of evaluating people’s skills in a non-dyslexia-friendly way. Often people who do not work within fields which support individuals with learning differences, fail to understand how they may require some differentiation to provide a fair playing field. Something viewed as a simple challenge, often overlooks how those with dyslexia may be placed at a disadvantage. Professor Amanda Kirby is a neurodiversity specialist. She has recently written an article on how to be a ‘neuro-inclusive recruiter’. Read it here
Professor Kirby talks about the benefits of being an inclusive organisation and how to achieve it. Below are some of her top tips.
What can you do?
- Move away from words such as ‘disclosure’ and more about sharing support and training needs to optimize performance.
- Educate your team-The appropriate training, however, will help managers to identify the potential for bias and find ways to reduce its impact in the recruitment and selection process.
- Write inclusive job descriptions– Try to avoid specific terms that could be confusing or have double meanings e.g., flexible, multitasker.
- Widen your candidate search to include neurodiverse groups and wider pools of talent. Contact specialist recruitment companies and approach job fairs where you know they are trying to be neuroinclusive.
- Inclusively design the whole application process from start to finish.
- Prepare for an inclusive interview process – Train your staff so they know how to do this. Provide as much information as possible beforehand about the hiring process -online, offline, before/during, and after the interview
- Involve neurodivergent people in all stages of the hiring process and offer support. Support may be needed for some stages and not others.
- Make shortlisting fair – don’t exclude people for spelling errors or formatting unless that’s important for the job itself.
- Consider the interview environment. Noisy, distracting settings can be uncomfortable for those with specific sensory processing preferences. Choose a quiet location without clutter, harsh lighting, or strong smells.
- Ask all candidates the same questions but make them relevant to the job. If you follow a skills test with an in-person interview, use the same set of interview questions, asked in the same order, for every candidate. Assign weighted scores to the questions and compare candidates side by side.
- Avoid situational judgment tests that may make it harder for someone who cannot ‘imagine a situation’ they have not actually been in.
- Make sure people know how to ask for adjustments before the interview. Let the candidates know about all stages of the hiring process and keep offering them support and repeat this.
- Avoid large groups where possible. Neurodivergent candidates may find elements of social interaction challenging, particularly in a larger group setting with people they don’t know.
- In interviews- Be direct with questions. Avoid metaphors and acronyms. Check for understanding and be prepared to reframe questions if not understood. Allow time for a response.
- Focus on skills – Consider using skills-based methods of assessment and offer work trials to test the skills.
- Set yourself measurable goals if you are seeing how successful you have been – are your hires representative?
- Connect with local organizations and support groups that include neurodivergent candidates and develop a relationship so you can develop a talent pipeline.
One which I would add, is to remove timed tasks, reduce the amount of reading and writing, especially in timed scenarios and ask if it is the best way to evaluate the skills you are looking for.
The Reading Agency website quoted -Students who don’t develop reading skills are less likely to access the national curriculum and 7-10 million adults have low levels of literacy.
Low literacy levels costs UK an estimated £81 billion in lost earnings, increase in welfare spending, impacting the success of the economy as a whole.
The BDA website quotes an estimated 15% population is dyslexic, meaning many employees will have dyslexia and other learning differences. However, this neurodiversity can bring significant assets to an organization, problem solving and creativity etc
Being a dyslexia friendly employer means an organisation can benefit, employees can fulfil their potential. Effective changes don’t have to be expensive and these changes can often be to the benefit of all employees and your clients.
Adults in employment may be eligible for Access to Work funding from the govt.
Yet adults still feel there is a stigma to discussing dyslexia with an employer, they feel it makes them vulnerable. This can affect mental health. Children and adults mental heal can be impacted by dyslexia as it can often impact upon confidence and self-esteem.