Dyslexia Series #2/3: There Are Many Ways to Spell Risk

Supplier: Wholesale Safety Storage Australia By: Mike Styles – National Specialist Adult Literacy and Numeracy
06 June, 2019

If there are 10 people in your workplace, the odds are that one of those people is dyslexic.

Case Study: Johns' Story

John is a hardworking and loyal employee. He has been with his employer for 12 years. He is popular with his colleagues and is the go-to person if there is an extra difficult task to complete.

However, John has a dark secret and he is a real risk to his boss.

John has worked in his entry level position ever since he started, and his supervisor just considered that he was not the ambitious sort. John has never sought promotion because he does not want to expose his secret.  

The risk that John poses is that he is dyslexic. Dyslexia is not a bad thing and often bestows some amazing skills and talents on those who have it. John struggles with reading and writing and his spelling is atrocious.

He recently had a near miss accident at work and should have written a near miss report. He didn’t because he didn’t want anybody to know how bad his spelling is. Whenever John has to fill in a form, he takes it home and his wife does it for him. His stock explanation is that “he doesn’t have his glasses with him”.  Like most people with dyslexia John has some amazing compensatory skills but he tends to hide in the shadows out of fear of ridicule. There are lots of Johns' and Joannas' in the workplace. They can be a risk because they struggle to read documents and can put the workplace and themselves at risk because of that.

The sad irony is that there are many simple and inexpensive ways that John can be helped.  Things that would assist John would also assist his workplace and his boss.

What are the odds?

If there are 10 people in your workplace, the odds are that one of those people is dyslexic.  Internationally the rate of occurrence of dyslexia is ten percent.  Dyslexia affects every language, culture and ethnicity, and Australia is not immune.  Sadly, the education system does not pick up on most people with dyslexia and most reach adulthood with the belief that they are intellectually inferior.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While people with dyslexia struggle to read, write and spell words they have a wide range of other talents that are of immense value in the workplace. 

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a neurological condition where the brain is wired differently and processes information differently.  It lasts a life time and is passed from generation to generation. It effects both males and females.  The most obvious symptom is difficulties with text. It is a difference – not a disability.

Special talents.

Richard Branson and Bill Gates got where they are today in part because of the special talents bestowed on them by their dyslexia.  People with dyslexia are often: -

  • Very creative and innovative
  • Very empathetic and collegial
  • Very entrepreneurial
  • Alternative thinkers and great problem solvers
  • Known for seeing patterns and relationships that others do not see.

Tell-tale signs.

There are some tell-tale signs that give a good indication that somebody could be dyslexic. 

  1. Often very clever in conversation, but poor on paper.
  2. Resists reading, writing or spelling in front of any body. Often have excuses like “I do not have my glasses with me”.
  3. Will shy away from other situations where their poor writing and/or spelling will be noticed. In particular, things like answering the phone, taking promotions or going on courses.
  4. Many dyslexic people do not take promotions because they know they will have to read and write emails in positions of responsibility.

Of course, the only way to confirm dyslexia is for the person to take a screening or assessment. 

In the next session we will cover how a workplace can make their workplace safer for people with dyslexia or other learning differences and how a dyslexic friendly workplace can be a more productive place.