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Where we go wrong when we talk about dyslexia

Colleagues in a meeting

By Sam Buckley

This Dyslexia Awareness Week (2 October – 7 October) the most useful action for employers to take might be to avoid concentrating on dyslexia itself.

As with other conditions, it’s far more useful to explore how an employee can be enabled to interview or complete their job to the best of their ability than to focus on specific conditions or symptoms.

There are many preconceptions around dyslexia that need to be challenged if employers hope to recruit and retain a diverse pool of talented workers. Interestingly, Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity’s list of myths associated with the condition could just as easily read as a list of misconceptions that would be barriers to someone with dyslexia in the workplace.

These myths include:

  • That dyslexia is a visual problem
  • That people with dyslexia are unable to read
  • That dyslexia limits academic performance

Man working on a computer at a desk

Assumptions that dyslexia is linked to visual problems, being unable to read, and intelligence have all been proven to be false.  Instead, there are a very wide range of traits associated with dyslexia that vary from person to person. In many people, the condition is not apparent, and may not affect the way a colleague works in any noticeable way or at all.

The best approach, then, is not to focus on the condition but the person, equipping employees and job candidates to perform at their best. Being open to adjusting various aspects either of recruitment and interview processes or the way an employee works means being open to the widest, most diverse range of talented people. It also means removing barriers for every person within this wide talent pool, whether they have a disability or long-term condition or not.

Indeed, a lot of the work we’ve done recently, such as the ‘Square holes for square pegs’ model on autism and neurodiverse conditions written by our Disability Trainer Daniel Wiles, is about making minor changes to workplaces and processes that play directly to the strengths of a diverse workforce. Specifically, this is about acknowledging that conditions such as dyslexia can present unique personal strengths – it’s just about approaching these conditions in the right way.

You can find out more about how workplace adjustments can help colleagues with various conditions in our podcast with Dr Nasser Siabi of Microlink or in our featured article by Nuance Communications on how speech-to-text software helps various employees.

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