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dyslexia

Dyslexia – Adolescents and Adults with Dyslexia

Skilled reading is necessary for school achievement in all subject areas. Beyond school, reading proficiency is just as important for job success. As we grow and mature, more and more is expected of all of us. But for individuals with dyslexia, the demands of school and the workplace are especially great.

It is often assumed that students have acquired sufficient decoding, and that their reading struggles are only comprehension related. However, struggling readers with dyslexia may have significant difficulty with word recognition and might not have established skills to identify unfamiliar words. Older students with untreated dyslexia have not benefited from years of reading, and the exposure to various kinds of complex texts. This disadvantage may hold them back with other key aspects of reading such as vocabulary, background knowledge, and comprehension skills. It can also affect their ability to spell and write, making it difficult for them to accurately express their knowledge and ideas.

Factors for School Success

First and foremost, an older student with dyslexia should have skilled instruction in deficit areas of reading and writing as determined by an evaluation. If the student cannot decode or spell efficiently and accurately, he or she will need proficient instruction in these areas to progress to more advanced levels of reading and writing.

In addition to direct instruction, the following considerations may assist in school success:

  • subject area tutors
  • accommodations such as extended time
  • and oral exams;
  • modification of assignments;
  • reduced course load;
  • major course of study in areas of
  • individual strength;
  • small classes; and
  • technology aides such as text readers, smartpen, and spelling and grammar checks.

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Factors for Job Success

Individuals with dyslexia may not be alone when struggling with the reading and writing demands of the workplace. Approximately 40% of high school graduates lack the literacy skills employers seek (Achieve Inc., 2005). An adult with dyslexia may have difficulty with work-training courses, even literacy classes, if these are not presented in ways that accommodate their learning needs.

The more dyslexia-aware and dyslexia-friendly an organisation is, the fewer adjustments are likely to be necessary for individuals.  The following are measures which will support staff with dyslexia, but should also benefit all other staff:

  • Write and speak in plain English. Always give clear, explicit instructions.
  • Make instructions and procedures available in spoken and written forms (e.g. speech followed by a confirming email)
  • Use charts and diagrams to present information
  • Use a dyslexia-friendly house style for all written materials (see Becoming a dyslexia-wise employer, appendix 2 at bdadyslexia.org.uk/)
  • Construct simple, clear, colour-coded filing systems
  • Appropriately-trained, supportive managers and colleagues
  • Forward planning and thinking, resulting in adequate time to perform tasks and minimisation of pressure
  • Make available quiet places to work, with natural daylight
  • Ask individuals about their own styles and preferences in performing tasks
  • Use wall charts to plan and monitor tasks
  • Allow regular breaks, especially from the PC screen e.g. a change of task
  • Cultivate a non-judgmental atmosphere; welcome individual differences

 

Adjustments for individuals

Just like everybody else, each individual with dyslexia will have different needs and strengths, and these will vary according to the particular situation.  This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the following may be helpful in the workplace.

  • Formal assessment – provides legal protection, statement of type of difficulty, recommendations for support, verification of individual’s long-held opinion that “something is wrong” or “I’m not stupid”.
  • Not being singled out, or made to feel different; being treated with confidentiality and sensitivity.
  • Technological aids: computers with spelling and grammar checkers, software (e.g. TextHelp for proofreading; writing planning software; voice recognition software), hand-held spellcheckers, calculators, reading pens, personal organisers, mobile phones, dictaphones, tape recorders, voicemail
  • IT training
  • Learning to touch type where appropriate
  • Workplace support from a qualified dyslexia support worker e.g. to help develop strategies for organisation, time-keeping, managing tasks, writing skills, memory, planning skills, confidence-building.
  • Being allowed to perform tasks in the most suitable way
  • Receiving instructions or long chunks of information in an appropriate way e.g. verbally backed up by written confirmation or vice versa
  • Doing one thing at a time; avoiding multi-tasking; avoiding being interrupted
  • Relaxation strategies e.g. deep breathing
  • Overviews and advance notice of tasks

Adults with dyslexia can succeed in the workplace with training and other written materials in an accessible format, restructured job tasks, and assistive technology, for example, text reading systems, reading pens, speech recognition systems, and portable word processors with spell and grammar checking.

While early intervention is the best way to help students get on track with their reading and writing, it is never too late to help older students and adults make progress and succeed. With proper evaluation and appropriate instruction and accommodations, adolescents and adults can achieve their goals, too, and make their own unique contributions to the workforce and society.

© Copyright The International Dyslexia Association (IDA)