Kenny McCloud, the spearhead of Scotland’s Outlook campaign around poverty, recently described his first visit to the job centre to sign on and wrote about how confusing all the form filling was.
But as well as problems with reading, writing and spelling, throw in poor short-term memory, difficulties following instructions and poor organisational skills, and you get a pretty good idea of the issues someone with dyslexia might encounter in this already stressful situation. Not to mention the threat of a benefit sanctions if you don’t turn up at the right time or fill in the forms correctly.
And it doesn’t end with signing on. The next step is applying for jobs.
Evidence shows that people with dyslexia can be fantastic employees – great problem solving skills, above average creativity, visual thinkers and strong interpersonal skills – but some will never get to demonstrate these things.
How many employers will pick the candidate with dyslexia if they are choosing between two otherwise similar people?
‘Should I tell a potential employer that I’m dyslexic?’ This is one of the most common questions we are asked, and one to which there is no simple answer.
We generally advise people that it would be beneficial to say they have dyslexia (and of course never to lie if they are asked). We encourage them to give some examples of things that would help them in the workplace – usually pretty simple things like low cost technology or coloured paper.
But like many things, it’s easy to say and harder to do. Hand on heart, how many employers do you think will pick the candidate with dyslexia if they are choosing between two otherwise similar people? Maybe it’s understandable – although awareness of dyslexia is rising, there are still many misconceptions which lead people to think they would be employing someone who will be a burden. But we know that they could be missing out on someone a bit special.
Okay, if you’re looking for a proof-reader then someone with dyslexia isn’t going to be your obvious choice. But if you’re looking for someone with a highly analytical and logical mind then you could be missing out; (GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, positively seeks out dyslexic employees for these very skills). It might be that taking minutes isn’t their strong point. But doesn’t every good team have different skills and people who work together and complement each other?
Most people with dyslexia find ways around the things they find most difficult. We have numerous examples of individuals who have found an open minded employer and are flourishing at work. But for each of them, there are many others who are stuck in jobs which don’t reflect their abilities or their potential. Isn’t that an oversight?
Dyslexia Scotland works across the country to help the 1 in 10 children and adults with dyslexia, and those who live and work with them, to reach their potential.