Today I received a heart breaking call from a parent desperately trying to support her son to gain employment.

Following on from my recent post about apprenticeships and lowering the level of literacy and numeracy, I ask, “How can we help young people with dyslexia gain and retain employment?”

Today’s caller told me how their son had recently left college and although they had gained a level 3 qualification in engineering and able to secure a level 1 in literacy and numeracy, they were still unable to retain or gain new employment because of their difficulties with dyslexia, which employers seemed to misunderstand.

The call was initially prompted because the family no longer had a copy of the diagnostic assessment report completed at school a few years earlier and they were advised by the college that they would need a report to show an employer. The college felt that this would help the young person explain their difficulties. The test had been conducted 6 years previously, so although it diagnosed dyslexia and highlights the individual’s areas of strength and difficulties, it is very much unlikely to mean much to the employer and the individual will certainly have gained more skills and strengths since the report was written. I feel the college had referred the person to me with a view to suggesting a recommendation for a further assessment. A further assessment to diagnose isn’t required. Although a person may benefit from a workplace needs assessment report to identify current areas of strength and help to identify where reasonable adjustments could be made.

Dyslexia is considered a disability under the Equality Act of 2010. The BDA state;

Legislation

From October 1st 2010, disability discrimination issues became covered by the Equality Act. This replaced the Disability Act 1995. The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.

 

An employer has a legal duty under The Equality Act 2010 to make appropriate reasonable adjustments to reduce the impact that a disability has on a person’s ability to perform effectively in their role.

Where an individual declares the their employer that they have a diagnosis of dyslexia, reasonable adjustments should be made.

To read more;

Equality Act 2010 legislation

I recently spoke with Amada Hornby, who delivers workplace training on dyslexia and she provides some great tips to employers. One of which is to provide assistive technology and accessibility tools, across the board, for all employees.  By doing so, no one employee should ever feel singled out as requiring reasonable adjustments.  Quite often, accessibility tools will benefit individuals without a diagnosis too.  Amanda pointed out that, too often and individual might tick the box that they have a disability during the interview and selection process, however, if employed, this information may not travel with them into their employment position. Furthermore, employers also need to check with their employee if the reasonable adjustment is working for them and not assume a one-size fits all approach.

In many companies today, HR departments do have an understanding of dyslexia and other learning differences, although that’s not to be assumed even for some of the largest employers, their is still room for improvement; such as updated IT systems etc which can benefit individuals more. Many individuals with dyslexia and poor literacy skills often work harder or longer to cope in the workplace, they may be masking or covering up their difficulties for fear of being ‘found out’ as they may not wish to disclose dyslexia to their employers. This can result in a lot of work place stress and anxiety and may result in long term absences and health difficulties.  In the long term, where employees are not fully supported in the workplace, this can lead to long term absences or employees leaving. This is maladaptive for employees when they have spent time and money training individuals.

Although we can ask individuals to have a workplace needs assessment, what is required is a more informed workplace and an individual who can confidently advocate their areas of support and where reasonable adjustments can be made, to an employer, without any prejudice. An individual should be able to have a reasonable level of expectation that reasonable adjustments can be made and an employer to understand  their needs to ensure a level playing field in the workplace.

Sadly, as we are about to come to the end of 2023, I can’t believe we still have employers unaware of what dyslexia is (and isn’t) and how it can impact individuals in the workplace. There are a number of FREE course which employers can attend and the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) is just one of many.

Take a look at our links to courses & resources

BDA

Made By Dyslexia

Udemy

Other course for employers

Dyslexia Matters

Positive dyslexia

Text help

Resources for employers

AbilityNet

Dyslexia Scotland

Many employers and potential employees are unaware of the government’s Access to Work funding. This can be applied for if you are an employee or self-employed.  If you’re employed you will need the cooperation of an employer, as this may have to be partially funded by them (dependent on business size).  However, I often feel individuals are reluctant to talk to their employer because they feel they are not understood or it shows an element of weakness or vulnerability.

We should remember that even in 2023, not all adults have been diagnosed, especially those who were completing their education in the 1960s,70s & 80s. Therefore, employees in their mid 40s upwards, may be unaware of a specific learning difficult and simply feel they struggle with literacy.

It should be noted that dyslexia is not only a literacy difficulty. The underlying difficulties which can cause dyslexia can be working memory or speed of processing difficulty which can present as characteristics of being disorganised, poor time management, poor communicators or forgetfulness. Some individuals may have found coping strategies which mask literacy difficulties and this may not be the predominant area of difficulty and their difficulties may well be misunderstood. It may come as a surprise to know that some individuals can get as far as university level education before discovering they have dyslexia. The BDA have provided a great resource about dyslexia in adults.

Signs of dyslexia in adults

An example of someone who perhaps has working memory difficulties or struggles to recall information can easily be supported with reasonable adjustments and assistive technology, even if they are not based in an office.

1 – Employers can deliver bite-sized information, 1 or 2 instructions at a time and revisit to give more instructions, check understanding as they go.

2 – If giving verbal instructions, don’t fill instructions with small talk and irrelevant information, be concise so individual can focus on processing and storing the facts and doesn’t have to filter out unimportant information.

3 – Deliver information in a place where there are no distractions which can impact on working memory, the ability to process and store information. Background noise and visual distractions can easily impact on the working memory.  Support verbal information with visual stimulation to help recall and processing.

4 – Write down  email or text instructions, assistive technology can read aloud and later be revisited and repeated to make information accessible at any time.

5 – Use the diary facility on a mobile phone to remind of appointments or record names and address of customer to visit at specific times, time them to alert the employee at a set time for the specific visit.

6 – Use assistive technology such as Orcam reader pens to point and read aloud from a variety of resources.

The BDA have also provided lots of information about how employees can be supported in the workplace;

Reasonable adjustments in the workplace

Finally, Access to Work can fund various methods of support in the workplace,  depending on how dyslexia (or other disabilities) impact the individual. Usually, an assessor will visit the person in the workplace and assess their workplace needs. They can provide funding for such as assistive software, train the person to use the assistive software and even train the employer about understanding what dyslexia is.

Learn more about Access to Work

It’s also important to note that the reasonable adjustments made for any individual should be reviewed as their employment or career changes or as their job title or role changes with their existing employer.

If you feel you know a young person or family who would benefit from this information please feel free to share this article, we hope you will find this useful.

Best wishes

Georgina @ CodeBreakers