Drew Sansing | 17/09/2023
With Dyslexia being the most common type of specific learning disability, it’s crucial to understand how dyslexic employees can be better accommodated in the workplace. A recent study offers insights into the experiences and perspectives of managers and employers about dyslexic employees in Australian workplaces.
Dyslexia is a neurological condition primarily affecting reading, writing, and spelling abilities. It's important to emphasize that dyslexia is not indicative of intelligence but is rather a distinct learning style. Dyslexic individuals often have strengths in areas such as problem-solving, spatial understanding, and holistic thinking.
After conducting extensive qualitative interviews with four managers (three females and one male), several key themes emerged about the perceptions and treatment of dyslexic employees:
Impact on Performance: All managers believed that dyslexia could prevent workers from being able to execute their responsibilities effectively. Errors in spelling and grammar were reported and additional time was needed for reading and writing tasks.
Self-Disclosure of Dyslexia: Most employees did not disclose that they had dyslexia until after their manager pointed out performance problems. Other times the disclosure occurred only after the employee passed their probationary period or just earned a positive performance review. Employees were concerned about discrimination. Even after such disclosure, workplaces had not been adjusted to be more inclusive.
Awareness and Understanding: Many managers lacked a comprehensive understanding of dyslexia and how to support their dyslexic employees. This lack of understanding could be why employees are hesitant to disclose their dyslexia. Managers felt that there should be increased understanding about strengths and weaknesses of dyslexic employees and how to reduce stigma about it in the workplace.
Workplace Policies and Procedures: Workplace policies and procedures can lead to unintentional discrimination and exclusion. Examples include onboarding processes that involve large amounts of reading and interviews that require online testing that includes reading and writing tasks.
Inclusive Leadership: Even without formal workplace policies in place to help neurodiverse workers, dyslexic employees could still thrive under the guidance of an inclusive leader. Managers can provide the necessary accommodations such as more frequent check-ins, a buddy system, and\ extended time for assignments.
Training and Development: No workplaces in the study had specific training programs to address dyslexia. Managers expressed a desire for more resources to better support their dyslexic team members. They felt that Australian resources seemed more directed to helping children than adults.
Recommendations for Workplaces
For workplaces to become truly inclusive for dyslexic employees, several steps are recommended:
Educate Managers and Teams: Initiate awareness campaigns and training sessions that focus on understanding dyslexia and its impact in the workplace.
Foster Open Communication: Encourage an environment where dyslexic employees feel safe discussing their needs and challenges without fear of judgment.
Regular Check-ins: Managers should regularly check in with dyslexic employees to ensure they have the necessary support and accommodations.
Collaborate with Advocacy Groups: Engage with organizations dedicated to supporting adults with dyslexia to gain insights and best practices.
While Australia has made strides in creating inclusive workplaces, there's still significant room for improvement concerning dyslexic employees. By understanding, valuing, and supporting the unique strengths and needs of dyslexic workers, companies can foster a truly inclusive environment, benefiting both the organization and its employees. These insights from managers provide a roadmap for achieving this goal, and it's imperative for Australian businesses to rise to the challenge.
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