What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder with an impairment in reading. Children with dyslexia may also exhibit slow reading speed as well as difficulty with reading comprehension. It is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterised by difficulties in phonological awareness, working memory, and processing speed. Children with dyslexia often find reading and spelling challenging, and they may have weaknesses in their word finding.
The symptoms of dyslexia in adults frequently resemble those in children. However, the range of challenges may increase as children mature, as they embark on new roles with increasing demands. This includes executive functioning issues like difficulty planning activities and poor time management. In addition, adolescents and adults with dyslexia who experience these challenges in their childhood may also develop self-awareness and a negative self-image.
What are some challenges of dyslexia in adults?
Deficits in working memory, which are frequently linked to learning problems, were found to have a significant negative impact on tertiary students’ capacity to develop a range of study skills (Jamieson & Morgan, 2008). In addition to their difficulty with spelling, vocabulary, organization, identifying directions, and time management, it is likely persons with dyslexia would need to spend a lot more time than their peers producing written work (San Jose, 2012). Difficulties in distinguishing directions, organisation and managing time might also cause them to struggle with organising their thoughts and miss important submission deadlines (San Jose, 2012). All these can prove to be detrimental for an adult with dyslexia in tertiary education because there is a high emphasis placed on written work and a need for good time management.
As adults diagnosed with dyslexia have existing difficulties in reading, writing, and processing speed, they may encounter difficulties in terms of basic tasks, such as noting down information accurately or organising files in the correct format (National Council for Special Education, n.d.). Moreover, as these individuals with dyslexia require more time to process information, they may also feel overwhelmed by the incoming information given to them.
- Social and Emotional
A study done by Kong (2012) revealed that themes such as distress, self-doubt, embarrassment, frustration, relief, confidence and motivation were associated with being diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult. The study suggests that students experience embarrassment from being different from their peers. This causes them to shy away from asking for help or disclosing their condition to others. Moreover, feelings of confusion and frustration are apparent as these students are unable to develop proper coping strategies for their poor academic performance, and having to put additional effort towards their academics in order to be on par with their peers.
What are some strategies to support adults with dyslexia?
Though individuals with dyslexia who are working or schooling in an educational setting have access to literacy support, such forms of support or accommodations may not be as readily available for adults in workplaces. As we strive towards advocating for individuals with differences, it is imperative that organisations are committed to building a more inclusive workplace environment.
How can organisations build a more inclusive workplace for individuals with dyslexia?
- Explore the use of assistive technology: Employers can introduce assistive technology, such as text-to-speech software (e.g. Read&Write), mind-mapping software (e.g. MindNode), and spell checkers (e.g. Ginger), to make reading and writing tasks less effortful for individuals with dyslexia. The use of shared calendars can also be helpful for dyslexic individuals to plan and organise their time and workload, as well as allow managers to monitor and check on employees’ progress.
- Reinforcing employees’ competencies: Employers are encouraged to learn more about dyslexia and how this may affect employees’ performance at work. In addition, it would be beneficial to consider employees’ individual strengths and weaknesses, and delegate tasks accordingly to maximise efficiency. For instance, an individual with better oral presentation skills as compared to writing skills may be better suited to host events rather than complete a written report.
- Utilising multiple modes of communication: It may be overwhelming for individuals with dyslexia to follow along presentation slides filled with texts. Including visual elements, such as charts or pictures, is an alternative way to communicate and present information to not just individuals with dyslexia, but also other members of the team.
- Allowing flexibility in the workplace: Considerations for the time taken to complete such tasks by individuals with dyslexia can be factored in when implementing deadlines for tasks that require much reading and writing.
- Cultivating an environment that promotes two-way communication: Communication is an important aspect in every relationship, including an employer-employee one. Regular check-ins and appraisals are some ways to understand how employees are coping with their workload, the challenges they face at work, and the kind of support they would benefit from receiving. Such modes of communication should be open and safe, so that individuals with dyslexia feel comfortable with sharing their concerns without fear of any penalties.
According to the theory of ecological systems (Gu et. al, 2022), individuals build relationships with the social, physical, and physiological environments that they are situated in, which affects the development of an individual. This suggests that workplace environments play a vital role in shaping and motivating employees at work, which consequently affects overall organisational productivity. When employees feel supported and recognised for their contributions at work, it cultivates feelings of dedication and motivation to continuously achieve goals for the company. Building an inclusive and supportive workplace requires the collective effort of all members of an organisation. With joint efforts from the various aspects of society, positive changes can be achieved in building a society that embraces and advocates for individuals with dyslexia.
This article was written by the SpLD Assessment Services Team. Find out more about DAS SpLD Assessments Services.
Ettekal, Andrea & Mahoney, Joseph. (2017). Ecological Systems Theory. 10.4135/9781483385198.n94.
Jamieson, C., & Morgan, E. (2008). Managing dyslexia at university: a resource for students, academic and support staff. Routledge.
Kong, S. Y. (2012). The emotional impact of being recently diagnosed with dyslexia from the perspective of chiropractic students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 36(1), 127–146. https://doi:10.1080/0309877x.2011.606898
National Council for Special Education. (n.d.). Dyslexia in the Workplace. https://www.sess.ie/dyslexia-section/dyslexia-workplace#:~:text=This%20may%20cause%20problems%20taking,if%20working%20to%20a%20deadline
San Jose, A. E. (2012). Linguistic experiences of adult dyslexic learners. UIC Research Journal, 18(1), 1-1. https://doi:10.17158/226
Zhenjing, G., Chupradit, S., Ku, K. Y., Nassani, A. A., & Haffar, M. (2022). Impact of Employees’ Workplace Environment on Employees’ Performance: A Multi-Mediation Model. Frontiers in public health, 10, 890400. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.890400