With one in ten people suffering from dyslexia, we offer job-hunting students 10 tips on how to cope
It’s reckoned that one in 10 people may have dyslexia – a neurological, genetic condition that can make reading, writing, spelling and auditory processing difficult. Some ‘typical’ dyslexic signs include poor spelling, mixing up dates and times, and a dislike of reading, especially out loud. Dyslexia was recently described in a report by the Trades Union Congress as the “hidden” disability.
So, it stands to reason that many students who are struggling at university will have undiagnosed dyslexia which may only become apparent when starting a first job. According to Indigo Dyslexia Services, a not-for-profit organisation that provides mentoring support to individuals and employers, the organisational changes or increase in workload means that existing coping strategies can fail.
“Some people may not even realise they have dyslexia,” says Indigo founder Martin Parsonage, who is himself dyslexic and recently graduated with a degree in culture, philosophy and politics. He knows first hand the challenges and discrimination that people face. “Many people have achieved their higher education goals by adopting strategies or avoiding situations where they know they have problems. But once they start a new job, it can create considerable stress as new strategies are needed to cope.”
Martin reckons that mentoring – where one dyslexic person helps another – can be very beneficial in overcoming anxieties about a first job: “Dyslexics often have very poor self esteem and lack self confidence. If diagnosis has come late, a person could have spent years making decisions based on their belief that they were not very bright and as a consequence have never reached their full potential. Sharing experiences and learning new techniques can make a real difference when you start a new job and have a whole set of new challenges to face.”
Employers also have an important role to play, according to Ken Lewis, founder of Dutton Engineering and chairman of the East Mentoring Forum, a networking organisation that provides a forum for organisations and individuals to explore the benefits of mentoring and share best practice.
Ken warns that employers may miss the potential of some candidates if job applications are filtered out on the basis of written English. People with dyslexia can be good lateral thinkers, problem solvers and communicators and often are strong in practical and creative areas such as art, music, design, architecture and engineering.
“I know from my own experiences of having dyslexia, the hurdles that you face in every aspect of your life. Small changes that management can implement in the workplace can make a big difference and these need not be expensive or time consuming to implement. Concentrating on end results rather than how it should be done can be helpful to some people with dyslexia.
“Implementing mentoring in the workplace is invaluable as it offers support, motivation and a huge boost to morale for individuals who may have gone through their life believing that they are no good at so many things,” he says. “Mentoring also provides emotional stability, creativity and the potential to develop leadership abilities.”
Indigo suggests the following 10 strategies to help graduates cope with dyslexia:
1 Use technology. There’s a great deal of software available that can make a huge difference, including voice enabled software, spreadsheets and phonics-based spellcheckers.
2 Find a mentor to help develop coping strategies and build confidence.
3 Invest in a portable speaking dictionary – for example, New Franklin Collegiate.
4 Keep a card in your wallet or purse with your address, telephone number and any other useful information that you may need to write down when filling out forms.
5 Put a whiteboard up at home and write down things you have to remember.
6 When writing reports or letters, break items into mini sections or chapters and use the cut and paste facility on your computer to organise your work.
7 Improve your time management by ensuring that you have a diary or calendar to write down times, appointments and any daily activities.
8Talk to your employer about your dyslexia and suggest ways in which you could tackle tasks in a way that suits you. Don’t forget they are obliged to make allowances under the Disability Discrimination Act.
9 Have a dedicated place at home where you keep keys, wallet and bag etc.
10 Use concept mapping to help stimulate ideas and organise work – for example, Mind Genius.