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Living with DyslexiaInformation for Adults with Dyslexia
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Dyslexia Association of IrelandSuffolk Chambers1 Suffolk Street, Dublin 2Tel. 01 6790276Website: www.dyslexia.ie
Discovering that I am dyslexic ... set
me on a road to new and unimagined
Anne HughesMary BallRosie BissettWyn McCormack
Living with DyslexiaInformation for Adults with Dyslexia
ISBN 0-9532427-4-9D A I. . .
SSOCIATION OF IRELAND
Everyone Learns Differen
Living with DyslexiaInformation for Adults with Dyslexia
Discovering that I am dyslexic ... set
me on a road to new and unimagined
Anne HughesMary BallRosie BissettWyn McCormack
Copyright Dyslexia Association of Ireland, 2009.
ISBN 0-9532427-4-9ISBN 978-0-9532427-4-0
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced ortransmitted in any form or by any means without the permission of thepublishers. Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure theaccuracy of the information provided, no liability whatsoever will beaccepted by the authors or publishers for any error in or omissionfrom this book.
Written by Anne Hughes, with contributions from Mary Ball, Rosie Bissettand Wyn McCormack.
The Dyslexia Association of Ireland acknowledges with gratitude,funding from the Department of Community, Rural and GaeltachtAffairs which has made the production of this booklet possible.
Published by Tower Press and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland.Printed by Wood PrintCraft.
D A I. . .
XIAASSOCIATION OF IRELAND
Everyone Learns Different
Breaking Free from the Lie by Don Mullan 11
Chapter 1: What is Dyslexia? 17
Chapter 2: Dyslexia/Specific Learning Disability. 27
Chapter 3: Psycho-educational Assessment. 35
Chapter 4: Taking Action. 43
Chapter 5: Understanding Dyslexia. 53
Chapter 6: Dyslexia in the Workplace, includingself-help strategies. 61
Chapter 7: Dyslexia the Human Factor. 83
Chapter 8: How Employers can Help. 93
Chapter 9: Computers and Assistive Technology 105
Appendix A: The Dyslexia Association of Ireland. 119
Appendix B: References and Resources. 121
AcknowledgementsThe authors would like to thank all those adults withdyslexia who, over the years, have asked the questionsthat this booklet seeks to answer. We hope that it willprovide enough information to get adults with dyslexiastarted on the quest for further knowledge about thecondition which can make life challenging for them.
We particularly want to thank those brave adults who,having experienced unemployment, have returned tostudy at the Career Paths for Dyslexia training course.They were most helpful at the planning stages of thisbooklet. Their comments, suggestions and insight wereinvaluable. The quotations from material which theycontributed, as well as those from Derry Ann and Sam,demonstrate more clearly than any words of ours justhow dyslexia affects the person. We thank them all fortheir generosity.
Special thanks to Emma Matthews, Mary Wafaie,Sheila Kavanagh, Margaret Doyle, Antoinette OReillyand Cridwynn Rawlings, who have worked for manyyears on the Career Paths course. They shared theirexperience, expertise and first-hand knowledge ofovercoming dyslexia in adulthood.
Many thanks also to Don Mullan, a good friend of theDyslexia Association, for having the courage to speakout so honestly about his own dyslexia, and allowing usto reproduce his story here.
Finally, a debt of thanks is due to all those who haveworked with the Dyslexia Association in a professionalor voluntary capacity over the years. Their efforts haveled to a wider awareness of dyslexia. We hope thisbooklet will contribute to an even greaterunderstanding of how dyslexia affects adults and thetremendous potential that exists to turn a differenceinto an advantage.
IntroductionThis booklet is intended to give relevant information toadults who know that they have dyslexia, to those whothink that they might have, and for those who havenever even considered the possibility.
It is also intended for employers, managers and humanresource personnel. The experience of the DyslexiaAssociation of Ireland over the years has proved thatthe need for such information exists.Despite increased awareness, generated throughmedia coverage, seminars and word of mouth,dyslexia, particularly as it affects adults, is still nottaken seriously enough in this country.There are thousands of Irish adults with dyslexia, manyof whom are unaware that there is a recognisedexplanation for their continuing difficulty with literacy.There are people who have struggled for years withinformation processing difficulties which have seriouslyhindered them at school and at work. There areemployers, supervisors and managers who may neverhave considered that dyslexia impacts on theirworkforce. If they think of dyslexia at all, they probablyconsider it a difficulty of childhood, or of those whonever completed school.
Dyslexia is a complex condition, but its main effect is tomake learning to read, write and spell difficult. Notimpossible, just difficult. It is not caused by lack ofintelligence, lack of effort or any physical or emotionalproblem. It is an inherited condition and so may bepassed on to children or grandchildren. It is morecommon than is generally realised, affecting 6% to 8%of the population.
There are various theories about what causes dyslexia,but all experts agree that it arises from differences inthe brain which affect how the brain processesinformation. It must be stressed that dyslexia is adifference, not a disease or a defect. Yet it is a veryimportant difference, because it has implications formany aspects of the dyslexic persons life. In the pastwhen literacy was neither vital to daily life nor veryvalued, having dyslexia was not a drawback.In the future, it may well be that developments ininformation technology will make literacy, as we knowit, irrelevant. Then, the person with dyslexia will not beat a disadvantage at all. Possibly, with good creative,visual and problem solving skills, they will have adistinct advantage. However, in todays society, peoplewith dyslexia are in an unenviable position. Not only iswork, travel and leisure dominated by the written word,but skill in planning, organisation and timemanagement are more important than ever before.Completing tasks to a time schedule, absorbing newinformation quickly and working under pressure arerequirements of every workplace. None of these comeeasily to the person with dyslexia.
An area which is easily overlooked is the effect whichdyslexia can have on social and family life. Years ofbattling with a world which demands that they engageevery day with the very things they find most difficultcan cause anger and frustration in adults with dyslexia.This can sometimes make them uncomfortable peopleto live or work with and can have implications forpersonal and family relationships.
The number of people involved; those with dyslexia,their families, friends and work colleagues, makes itimperative that a greater understanding is developed ofhow dyslexia affects adults, of the challenges they faceand of the many ways in which these can be overcomeand turned into solid achievement.
The first two chapters of this book provide a basicintroduction to dyslexia and other specific learningdifficulties. Chapter 3 provides information on how toobtain an assessment so that an accurate diagnosis ofthe condition can be made. Chapter 4 lists someoptions for moving forward, while Chapter 5 gives moredetailed information on dyslexia. Chapters 6 and 7 dealwith how dyslexia affects adults socially, while studyingand in the workplace and suggests some strategies forcoping with it. Chapter 8 offers information foremployers. Finally, Chapter 9 provides information onresources and technology. Information on the DyslexiaAssociation is contained in Appendix A, and referencesand resources are listed in Appendix B.
But first a story. Read the very personal account ofhow dyslexia affected one mans life.
Breaking Free From theLie by Don Mullan.From the first day I went to school I was in trouble withreading.
The year was 1961. It was a year that saw Sovietcosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, become the first man inspace and the year when newly elected John F.Kennedy promised the American people that theywould win the race to the moon. It was also the start ofthe decade when scientists and educators began torealise that specific learning disabilities, such asreading complications caused by dyslexia, werentnecessarily linked to a childs IQ.
Unfortunately, for my generation, it would take a coupleof decades more before their discoveries andinnovative recommendations began to filter into theeducation system.
I do not hold any bitterness towards my primary orsecondary school teachers. They were as ignorant astheir pupils about dyslexia and its manifestations. Withlittle awareness teachers engaged in a very flawedassessment process which assumed that readingability was a barometer for measuring a childsintelligence. It was the beginning of a self-fulfillingprophecy that left an indelible mark of self-doubt onpupils who, like me, are dyslexic and which hauntslegions of my generation to this day.
I went to primary school in Derry. It was essentially afilter school, preparing pupils for a horrendous finalexamination called the Eleven-Plus. Those who passedwere given a passport to the more academicallyinclined St. Columbs College, where universitybeckoned. Those who failed were sent to a vocationalsecondary school where expectations led pupilsgenerally towards factory work and the serviceindustries.
From first grade to my final year at primary schoolI fluctuated between the last two rows on the teachersleft. Those to the teachers right were considered to bethe more intelligent and, inevitably, the best readers.As a child I very quickly learned my place in thestratosphere of intellectual giftedness. The systemreligiously adhered to a doctrine of predestination.There were some people born smart and some bornslow. I happened to be in the latter. Thats the way itwas and there wasnt a lot I, or anyone associated withme, could do about it.
I still cringe at the thought of reading out loud beforethe class. Even though I would have spent hours theevening before with my mother learning the assignedhomework pages from our reading book, Dick andDora the words presented themselves as a foreignlanguage when I was in class.
The assumption, of course, was that my readingdifficulties were simply due to a lack of grey matter. Itwas not a system that, unlike today, values theindividuality and uniqueness of the child. School was
not a fun place to be. Learning was a chore, not a joy.Punishment for failure reinforced the low self-esteemthat characterises the dyslexic child. Struggling to readout loud, in the presence of other children, whoappeared to effortlessly excel, simply confirmed onessense of stupidity. Dunce was a word, thrown like arotten egg in the playground, which shattered onesconfidence and splattered ones self-image withnegativity.
I learned in those early days the inherent power ofwords to wound, or heal, especially when uttered by anadult. Teachers should never underestimate how athrow away remark, either negative or positive, canleave an indelible mark. There are two teachers, inparticular, who taught me the nobility and horror of theteaching profession at primary level.
My favourite teacher was Master Flood. He had acompassionate and caring nature which I recall withgratitude and respect almost four decades later. Therewas never a sense of frustration or favouritism.When his eyes engaged you, you knew you werelooking at an adult who liked and valued you. Fortyyears later I do not recall any words spoken by JohnFlood. I only recall kindness.
I had just turned eleven in my final year at PrimarySchool when our class was placed with Master Gwhose task it was to prepare us for the Eleven Plusexamination. We had him for no more than threeweeks but his influence stayed with me for as manydecades. I learned from him that the average
intelligence quotient was measured at 100. In thepre-examination tests I was scoring anaverage of 76-84, reinforcing an already woundedself-image.
After our two or three weeks with Master G he drew upa list of those whom he considered capable of passingthe examination. He duly read it aloud. He then askedif there was anyone else in the class whose name wasnot on the list but who wanted to sit the exam. Iraised my hand.
With fixed gaze he looked at me. Then with a pityingsmirk, he lowered his head and spoke the words,Youve no chance! They were uttered with causticcynicism and the laugher of my classmates, inresponse, indelibly recorded his words in my mind.Those words played over and over and over again,filling me with immense insecurities and self-doubt foralmost thirty years. I still cringe with the memory of thehumiliation they visited upon me at that moment.
Twenty-seven years later, Don Mullan was diagnosedas having dyslexia. Furthermore, a psycho-educationalassessment confirmed that far from being slow, DonsIQ was within the top 5% of the population. Don recalls:
As the implications of the report began to sink in, thewords youve no chance echoed in my head.However, they no longer conjured feelings of self-doubtand despondency, but a volcano of rage. My firstthought was for the teacher who spoke them.
I needed to confront him with the decades of damagehe had done and the potential he had crushed.
Fortunately, Don Mullan overcame his anger. Hefocused his energy instead on coping with his dyslexia.He undertook challenges in his work which he had nothad the courage to tackle previously. Being diagnosedwith dyslexia was akin to the life changing revelation ofSaul on the road to Damascus. He says:
The most liberating insight is knowing that my readingdifficulties, including my perpetual struggle with spellingand grammar, have little to do with intelligence. Mymind works in a different way and, thankfully, I havebeen blessed with a creative imagination that neverleaves me bored.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all havedifferent gifts to share and much to learn. Ive stoppedbeating myself up because I cant do certain thingswhich I see others do with little effort. I have learned tocelebrate the success of others and know thatwhatever success I have achieved is due, in no smallmeasure, to the goodness, support andencouragement of others. Being dyslexic hastaught me that sharing and caring is core to humanhappiness and fulfilment.
So, I am not ashamed to publicly declare that I amdyslexic. I do so in the knowledge that there areprobably legions of my generation who have acceptedthe lie that their reading difficulties are due to a
deficiency in intellectual attributes. I went through myadolescence and early adulthood doubting myintellectual capabilities. Discovering that I am dyslexicdispelled the lie and set me on a road to new andunimagined adventures. I have no doubt that there arethousands of adults who are underachieving and whoare not reaching their full potential because, aschildren, they accepted, as a supreme truth, that lie.
Discovering that I am dyslexic quite literally set me freefrom it.
The full text of Don Mullans biographical pieceBreaking free from the Lie can be found onwww.dyslexia.ie/conference2004.htm.
Don Mullan is the best-selling author ofEyewitness Bloody Sunday.This book was a major catalyst in the re-opening ofthe Bloody Sunday Inquiry by Tony Blair in 1998.The book also inspired the making of theaward-winning film Bloody Sunday which wascoproduced by Mullan.
Don Mullan is a writer and journalist with aninternational reputation. His contribution to humanrights was acknowledged by the InternationalLeague for Human Rights at the United Nations in2002 when he was awarded theirDefenders of Human Dignity Award.
Chapter 1What is Dyslexia?Two adults with dyslexia were asked what dyslexiameans to them.This is what they said:
Sam (Diagnosed with dyslexia in primary school):
Dyslexia would be no big deal if people onlyunderstood it. You can learn to handle it but youmust get help, and you have to keep working atit. The annoying thing for me is how some peoplereact. It can take me longer to get the hang ofsomething new and there are some things, likemaths, that I dont get at all.
Other things I can understand immediately andId say I have a wider knowledge in a lot of areasthan most people. But I can get confused. I canmiss a point or forget something important.
Then people react as if you are the village idiot.It used to make me angry when teachers carriedon as if I was stupid because I found somethingdifficult that other people found easy. As an adultit is much easier because now I wont take thatanymore.
Derry Ann (Diagnosed as an adult):
Dyslexia is part of me. That is what I am. Take itor leave it. It makes me do things differently.It helps me to see things that other people dont.I can find solutions, work my way round situationsand think myself through difficulties. School wasvery hard for me. Reading and spelling were sodifficult. No matter how hard I tried I just could notremember what I had learned. It was an unhappytime, nobody understood and I didnt understandmyself.
Since I was diagnosed as having dyslexia theworld has fallen into place for me and I haveachieved more than I ever thought possiblebecause I now know what caused my difficulties.Now I believe in myself and follow my owninstincts, develop my own strengths and learn bydoing, which is what suits me best.
For Sam and Derry Ann dyslexia is a very personalissue. Problems they experienced were caused not justby their dyslexia, but by the lack of understanding inthe people they met. While awareness of dyslexia hasincreased greatly in recent years, there is still a longway to go until dyslexia is seen not merely as adifficulty, but as a difference. It is a different way ofthinking, a different way of seeing things, a differentway of processing information. Its a differencewhich could, and should, be appreciated for its positiveaspects.
Defining DyslexiaOver the years since dyslexia was first written about,there have been numerous definitions and descriptionsof what it is and how it can be identified. At first it wasdescribed as word blindness, then as strephosymbolia,meaning a twisting of symbols and eventually asdyslexia. The word dyslexia comes from the Greekdus/dys meaning bad or difficult and lexis meaningword, vocabulary or language.
Dyslexia can be written about in terms of how onelearns to read and write; or in terms of subtledifferences in the way the brain responds to the writtenword. These differences make it more than usuallydifficult to learn to read, write and, sometimes, dealwith numbers.
On the other side, it is documented that people withdyslexia can be more advanced in the ways they see,understand and process nonverbal information and canbe very creative and novel in problemsolving.
Dyslexia is an all-embracing term. It describes acomplex of processing activities and abilities whichcome into play when one needs to read and write.These processes and abilities are also likely to affecthow one learns, organises a task and deals with manyeveryday tasks. One lives with dyslexia. As it is not amedical problem it cannot be cured. As it is genetic itdoes not go away. The person with dyslexia can adaptand find new ways to deal with information processing,thus getting around the original difficulties, and oftenexploiting their strengths to do this.
Dyslexia can occur at different degrees of difficulty,mild to severe. Because there are a number of differentindicators there may be different combinations ofdifficulties from person to person: in any group ofpeople with dyslexia there are a range of abilities anddifficulties both within the individual and between theindividuals. Some will have greater difficulty. Some willhave greater ability. Usually the reading and writingdelay is quite unexpected, given the individualsalertness and good ability in other aspects of learning.
When the Task Force on Dyslexia, set up by theMinister for Education and Science, published itsReport in July 2001, it defined dyslexia as follows:
Dyslexia is manifested in a continuum of specificlearning difficulties related to the acquisition ofbasic skills in reading, spelling and/or writing, suchdifficulties being unexpected in relation to anindividuals other abilities and educationalexperiences. Dyslexia can be described at theneurological, cognitive and behavioural levels. It istypically characterised by inefficient informationprocessing, including difficulties in phonologicalprocessing, working memory, rapid naming andautomaticity of basic skills. Difficulties inorganisation, sequencing and motor skills mayalso be present.
Academic definitions of dyslexia generally present it interms of the difficulties it causes. While this approach isoften criticised by people with dyslexia it has to beadmitted that in todays society, which is so dependenton the written word, dyslexia does indeed causeproblems. The most widely recognised are:
Unexpected difficulty with literacy and numeracy. Difficulties in recognising the sound structures of a
language (phonological difficulties). Poor working memory, i.e. retaining information long
enough to be able to do something with it such ascalculate how much change you should get back,connect paragraph with paragraph of what you haveread.
Delay in finding the right word quickly when youneed it, e.g. naming an object/experienceaccurately, or relating the symbols you see on thepage with the word you know in your head.
Delay in becoming automatic in a skill, particularly inthe skills of reading and spelling.
Main Characteristics/Indicators of DyslexiaThe ways in which dyslexia has an impact on day-to-day living tend to change over the years. In primaryschool the focus is on learning to read, write and spell.The main difficulties experienced will be in matchingsounds of words with patterns of letters andremembering which direction letters face. Difficultieswith motor co-ordination, memory and attention willalso be noted.
In secondary school the student must read to learn.The challenge, therefore, is to be able to deal with therange of subjects, the volume of reading and writingrequired and to prepare for and manage timedexaminations.
In adult life reading and writing still present difficultiesbut so do planning, organising, speed of processing,memory and sometimes clumsiness. Slowerprocessing of auditory and visual information, difficultywith working memory, phonological difficulty and poorspelling are aspects of dyslexia which are constant andwhich do not go away when one leaves school. It maystill be hard to read fluently when reading aloud. Mostadults with dyslexia have to use memos andcalculators and a host of strategies to remind them oftasks to be done, names and numbers to beremembered and directions to be followed. Manycontinue to have difficulty attending to a long lectureor speech. Listening and taking notes at the same timemay be very difficult. They can have difficulty inremembering names, addresses or telephonenumbers. Difficulties in managing time and organisingtasks are aspects of work and home life which needconstant attention.
However, the adult with dyslexia may also havedeveloped other learning skills and characteristics thatstand them in good stead. Many adults with dyslexiaare very thorough, because they leave nothing tochance. They plan carefully because they have to beprepared. Having had to work much harder than theirpeers while at school or college, they develop theability to apply themselves to a task and perseveredespite setbacks. Having overcome a lot of difficultiesin acquiring skills which most people learn to doautomatically, or with relative ease, they are more likelyto believe in their own ability to achieve their goals.
Below are lists of indicators which may show that adyslexic difficulty is present. When looking at the listsof indicators, remember the following:
No person will have all the indicators. Many people will have several of the indicators. Some indicators are more common than others. The number of indicators observed does not
indicate whether the dyslexia is mild, moderate orsevere.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses so peoplewho do not have dyslexia will relate to a few of thesigns. People who have dyslexia will tend to relateto a significant number of the following indicators.
Indicators of a possible learning difficulty arisingfrom dyslexia in adults:
Difficulty with reading aloud. Difficulty with reading unfamiliar material. Tendency to mispronounce or misread words. Slow pace of reading. Reading for information only, not for pleasure. Understanding more easily when listening than
when reading. Difficulty with spelling. Finding it hard to visualise words, or remember the
sequence of letters in a word. Difficulty with sentence construction and
punctuation. Difficulty putting information on paper. Difficulty in spotting mistakes made in written work. Finding it easier to express thoughts in words than
in writing. Underachieving at school, particularly in exams. Having immature or ill formed handwriting. Tendency to be clumsy and uncoordinated. Confusing left and right. Finding it hard to remember things in sequence. Difficulty in remembering new information or new
names. Getting phone messages wrong. Confusion with times and dates and appointments. Getting phone numbers wrong by perhaps
Making silly mistakes in calculations. Having good days and bad days. Poor short-term memory. Having close family members with dyslexia.
An adult who suspects that s/he may have dyslexiaand who finds they experience many of thedifficulties listed above, might be well advised toseek a full psycho-educational assessment.(See chapter 3 for further information onassessment.)
Chapter 2Dyslexia/SpecificLearning Disability (SLD)
Many people are confused about the terms used todescribe dyslexia.
Should it more properly be called specific learningdisability, specific learning difficulty, or evenlearning style difference? How do you differentiatebetween dyslexia and the other specific learningdisabilities? And how do you define conditions likedyscalculia?
Specific learning disability is an umbrella term. Sincethe 1990s it has been used to describe a number ofspecific, as distinct from general learning disabilities.Specific difficulties only affect certain aspects oflearning. General learning difficulties affect everyaspect of learning.
Dyslexia is only one specific learning disability.Others are:
Dyscalculia. Dyspraxia. Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without
Hyperactivity). Aspergers Syndrome.
These conditions often carry over into adulthood andhave profound implications for students and workers.While each of these is distinct from the other it isrecognised that a person with dyslexia can also showsigns of inattention, like the person with AttentionDeficit Disorder; or have difficulty with maths, like theperson with dyscalculia; or be clumsy, like the personwith dyspraxia. There does seem to be an overlapbetween the Specific Learning Difficulties in manycases.
DyscalculiaIt is reckoned that over 50% of people with dyslexiahave problems with mathematics. In extreme cases thisdifficulty is called dyscalculia. Dyscalculia results indifficulty with understanding, remembering ormanipulating numbers and number facts. It can alsocause problems with estimating measurements, thepassing of time and spatial reasoning. It cansometimes be true that people who have difficultieswith fairly simple arithmetic do not have any problemswith more abstract mathematical concepts. Dyscalculiais a much less researched disability than dyslexia andit is likely that in the coming years much more will berevealed about the condition.
Sam, who experiences great difficulty with maths,says:Maths means nothing to me. I am not interested. Ican handle money, pay bills and deal with practicalthings. I am fine when sums are even, like 3.50from 5.00 but when its a case of 2.36 and 1.43I get confused. I just cant understand abstractconcepts like algebra. When I see 3x + 2y I justswitch off. Ive never worked out my income tax andthings like that. I just accept my payslip.
For further information read Dealing with Dyscalculia:Sum Hope 2 by Steve Chinn (2007)ISBN 978-0285637986.
DyspraxiaThe aspects of Dyspraxia most likely to causeproblems for adults are lack of fine motor co-ordination(which can result in illegible handwriting), clumsiness,sensitivity to noise and changing light, limitedconcentration and difficulty following instructions.Learning to drive a car, to dance, play a musicalinstrument or to play ball games can all be difficult.Even basic everyday activities like eating neatly,painting finger nails or putting on mascara could beaffected. Many of the workplace problems which arisefrom dyspraxia are very similar to those caused bydyslexia and the two are frequently confused.People with dyspraxia often have dyslexic typedifficulties and the two conditions are very closelylinked. The following books are recommended for thoseseeking more information on dyspraxia:
Developmental Dyspraxia by M. Portwood, 1999,ISBN 978-1853469886.
Living with Dyspraxia by M. Colley, 2006,ISBN 978-1843104520.
The Dyspraxia Association of Ireland also offersinformation, advice and support. Tel. 01 4045530.www.dyspraxiaireland.com.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders(ADD/ADHD)ADD/ADHD describes a condition where the personhas more than usual difficulty maintaining attention forany length of time and is highly distractible,disorganised and forgetful.
A rather weary woman once described herhyperactive husband as being:
Like the Duracell bunny, always on the go,bouncing around the place, full of bright ideasand suggestions but its left to me to pick up thepieces.
The person may take up new ideas very enthusias-tically, but lose interest just as quickly. Routine tasksmay be unattractive and putting things on the longfinger is a way of life. In recent years it has beenacknowledged that ADD can exist with hyperactivity, orwithout it, but in either case the core difficulty is withability to control attention.
A great deal of research has been done in the UnitedStates on this topic.
Dr. Lynn Weiss, author of ADD on the Job identifiesthree types of ADD personality which she calls:Outwardly Expressive; Inwardly Directed andHighly Structured.
The Outwardly Expressive person will be both verballyand physically hyperactive, impulsive and outgoing,taking on huge projects which may never becompleted.
The Inwardly Directed she describes as restlessdreamers who are artistic, creative people, who thinkrather than do. These are the people usually diagnosedas having Attention Deficit Disorder withoutHyperactivity.
The Highly Structured are controlling and hyperfocused. If the structured environment in which theyneed to work is not provided, life becomes difficult foreveryone, but in the right circumstances they workextremely efficiently.
Dr. Weiss offers practical advice for dealing withADD/ADHD in the workplace. She describes it, ineffect, as a double edged sword. Like dyslexia it isgenetic and it results in a different style of thinking.People with ADD can be very creative and intuitive.Those with ADHD can be extremely energetic andproductive if channeled correctly. Both these conditionscan be accommodated in the workplace and utilized togood effect.
For further information read ADD on the Job: MakingYour ADD Work for You by L. Weiss (1996),ISBN 978-0878339174.
Information, advice and support is available from theHADD Family Support Group, Tel. 01 874 8349.www.hadd.ie.
Aspergers SyndromeThe term Aspergers Syndrome came into use asrecently as 1983, in a paper published by Burgoine andWing which describes the features that are consideredto characterise the disability. In the 1940s a Viennesepaediatrician, Hans Asperger, had already identifiedthese, hence the name. Aspergers Syndrome isusually classified under the Autistic SpectrumDisorders.
The following are the core features of AspergersSyndrome:
Lack of empathy. Poor ability to form friendships. One-sided conversations. Intense absorption in a special interest. Poor verbal communication. Odd postures and clumsy movements.
It should be remembered that the presence of any oneor any cluster of these features do not in themselvesindicate Aspergers Disorder, for example, poorcommunication skills, and consequently poor abilityto hold a two-sided conversation, may be caused by alanguage disorder. The only way to get a true diagnosisis to have an appropriate assessment which iswide-ranging and thorough.
People with Aspergers Syndrome are often quiteacademic and may function well in a highly structuredsituation. While school life may suit them, the challengeof the workplace can be greater, particularly if flexibilityand adaptability are required.
For further information read The Asperger SocialGuide by G. Edmonds and D. Worton, 2006,Chapman Educational Publishing.ISBN 978-1412920247.
Information, advice and support is available fromAspire, the Asperger Syndrome Association,Tel. 01 878 0027.www.aspire-irl.org
The only way in which dyslexia can be positivelyidentified in an adult is by carrying out a thoroughpsycho-educational assessment. There are fourstages in a persons quest to have his/her dyslexiaidentified according to McLoughlin, Fitzgibbon andYoung (1994). These are:1. Information gathering.2. Psychological testing and diagnosis.3. Developing an understanding of dyslexia.4. Taking action.
Information GatheringThis can be more difficult than one would imagine.Obviously it is necessary to know about a condition inorder to suspect that one might have it. Many adultswho have dyslexia have never even heard the wordand have no idea of how it affects learning. They are,therefore, unlikely to seek assessment unlessencouraged by someone who knows about thecondition. There is a great deal which can be done tohelp adults with dyslexia, both in terms of formalteaching and self-help techniques. Again, informationabout the possibilities of further action afterassessment needs to be available.
The internet has made information gathering muchsimpler for those of the community who use computers,but many people, particularly those with literacydifficulties are not regular users. The DyslexiaAssociation of Ireland has a free public informationservice. The phone number is 01 6790276 and anyonemay call during normal office hours. The website iswww.dyslexia.ie.
Psychological Testing and DiagnosisThe second step, psychological testing, is moredifficult. Assessment is costly, difficult to obtain and noteveryone believes that it is essential. Psycho-educational assessment is carried out by apsychologist and can range in cost from 400 to 700.There is no state provision for adults, even for thosewho are unemployed or who have a medical card. Itcan also be hard to locate a suitably qualifiedpsychologist and waiting lists tend to be long.
The Dyslexia Association of Ireland has been carryingout assessments for adults for over 30 years. TheAssociation is able to fund some assessments foradults who would otherwise be unable to have anassessment, i.e. people on social welfare or low-income families. This facility depends on funding fromthe Department of Education and Science but thisfunding is not guaranteed from year to year. Therefore,the association also relies heavily on fund raisingto supplement government funding for this purpose.
Is Assessment Necessary?It is important to discover just why a learning difficultyexists, because unless you know the precise nature ofthe problem, it is not going to be possible to deal with iteffectively. Psycho-educational assessment for adultsis about pinpointing the difficulty and advising onremediation. It is not about putting a label on theperson. A diagnosis of lung cancer does not create alabel. Instead it gives medical experts the informationthey need to prescribe suitable treatment. Likewise, adiagnosis of dyslexia enables a person to begin theprocess of dealing with the condition. It is often anenormous relief for adults, who have felt stupid andinadequate all through life, to realise that they have anidentifiable difficulty. In all fairness, adults with dyslexiaare entitled to this knowledge about themselves.Knowledge empowers and knowing about acondition is the first step towards managing it.
The technology now exists to carry out screening andcertain assessment procedures on computer.Screening tests, whether paper or computer based,can be a valuable starting point, but they do notprovide comprehensive information and a basis forfuture action. Computer based assessments, howeversophisticated, lack the human element. The assessingpsychologist needs to take the persons medical andeducational history, as well as other environmentalfactors into account before a reliable conclusion canbe reached. Besides, there will inevitably be manyissues for the newly diagnosed adult to deal with;regret for wasted years, anger at past treatment inschool or at work or fear of the future.
These are best handled in a professional way by atrained psychologist.
Only a psychologist may carry out the necessarypsychometric testing. McLoughlin et al (1994) say:
The accurate diagnosis of dyslexia requires themeasurement of general ability and workingmemory. Any procedure that fails to incorporateappropriate cognitive tests is likely to produce bothfalse positives and false negatives.
The authors add that the appropriate assessment ofintelligence is one of the most crucial factors indiagnosis. This stands to reason. There are manyreasons why adults have literacy difficulties anddyslexia is only one of them. While the effects ofliteracy difficulties are similar, the causes are verydifferent. The results of the International Adult LiteracySurvey, published in 1997, indicated that 25% of Irishadults had pronounced literacy problems. The reasonsfor these difficulties could be early school leaving,irregular school attendance, overcrowded classrooms,lack of family support for learning, low academic abilityor dyslexia. If the latter two factors are confused, asthey often were in the schoolrooms of the past, theresult can be disastrous.
The Assessment ProcessThe reason why a person who suspects they may havedyslexia seeks a psycho-educational assessment is todetermine whether they do indeed have a dyslexic-typedifficulty, the nature and extent of the problem and howthey can be helped to cope. The focus of theassessment, therefore, is on finding out how theperson learns and helping them to use their bestlearning channels. Its aim is positive to put theperson in the driving seat in relation to their own lives.
The psycho-educational assessment begins with areview of the persons family and school history. Areasof difficulty encountered are listed and family incidenceof dyslexia is noted. Some standard tests are used toassess how the individual copes with academiclearning. This is the I.Q. test. It is carried out, not topinpoint a score on a graph, but to look at how theperson tackles different tasks and in the relativestrengths they show. Reading, writing and spellingskills are also looked at, with a view to identifyingproblem areas and suggesting strategies to overcomedifficulties.
A psycho-educational assessment is not an exam. It isnot intended to put the individual under stress and it isnot possible to fail such an assessment. While manypeople approach an assessment with the same anxietyas they would a driving test, others see it as theirchance to find out just why they have found someaspects of learning difficult. The procedure usuallytakes around three hours and will probably includediscussion on the results of the assessment and adviceon future action.
The psychologist should provide an adult with a writtenreport on the findings of the assessment. Sometimesthis report is written in very technical language andmay be difficult to understand. It may be necessary tocontact the psychologist to discuss the actualimplications of the assessment and of the informationcontained in the report. It should be remembered thatan assessment report has to contain precise andtechnical information which will be needed by aneducational institution, or a tutor. It also needs toexplain the findings in a way which can be understoodby the lay person. It is not easy to meet both theseneeds in one document. The adult with dyslexia shouldbe prepared to read the report several times, and togo back to it again over the months or years as theirknowledge of dyslexia grows. A good tip is to look atwhat the report has to say about where the individualsstrengths lie, because these are the key to successfullearning.
Adults who are recently diagnosed may also need totake on board and deal with any feelings of anger orfrustration which the assessment process aroused.Sometimes counselling by an appropriate professionalperson may be necessary.
It is really important that the results and implications ofassessment are fully explained to the individual. Adultswho understand their own profile of learning strengthsand weaknesses will be much more aware of their ownpreferred learning style. Learning styles are explainedin Chapter 5, while self-help strategies are offered inChapter 6.
Knowledge of strengths and personal learning stylescan also help an individual to make the best possiblecareer choice. Ideally one should choose a careerwhich taps into their stronger abilities and aptitudes, asopposed to a career which places huge demands ontheir weaker skills.
Chapter 4Taking Action
It is very important to have a full diagnosis ofdyslexia and to find out just what causes specificdifficulties in the area of literacy. It is equallyimportant to know what can be done to improvematters. Each person will have different learningstrengths and weaknesses. Each personal situationwill differ. Some will have greater difficulty thanothers. Some will have money available with whichto buy specialized teaching help or technology.Some will not. Some employers will beunderstanding of a dyslexic type difficulty andprepared to make adjustments in the workplace.Some will not.
So, what are the possible next steps for an adultdiagnosed with dyslexia?
1. Tuition with a specifically trained teacher.2. Full-time study.3. Understanding how dyslexia affects them.4. Self-help techniques to overcome the difficulties.5. Use of information technology.
Individual TuitionIdeally, an adult with dyslexia should work with aspecifically trained teacher who uses the informationprovided by a thorough psychoeducational assessmentto devise an effective teaching programme.Best results are obtained when teaching is provided onan intensive and consistent basis. Successfully tutoringadults with dyslexia requires considerable skill andtraining. The Dyslexia Association of Ireland maintainsa list of such teachers and this is available to members.Tutors work at all levels. Some will take on studentswith very severe literacy difficulties. Others are quitehappy to work with students engaged in post-graduatestudies. Tutors respond to the individual needs of thestudent and the important thing is to match student andtutor so that a good working relationship develops.Fees are in the range of 35 to 50 per hour. Limitedfunding may be available from the Dyslexia Associationfor those unable to meet these fees, i.e. adults who areon social welfare, or where family income is low.
Tuition may also be obtained through local adultliteracy services, which now have some tutorsexperienced in working with adults with dyslexia.Information can be obtained from the National AdultLiteracy Agency, or from local Vocational EducationCommittees.
Full-time CoursesA full-time course for unemployed adults with dyslexiais sponsored by the Dyslexia Association andadministered by FS. This course, which is the onlyone of its kind in Ireland so far, is located in Celbridge,Co. Kildare. It has been running since 1998 and in thattime has helped hundreds of adults to tacklelong-standing literacy difficulties and move on to workor further study.
A former student, Brendan, writes:
I found the experience of returning to learning tobe very positive and rewarding, and I really relishedthe classroom atmosphere and the variousdiscussions that take place there.This course reintroduced me to learning, helpingme to help myself in finding out where my problemlay.
Brendan is now in full-time third level education.
Ciaran, like many others who attend the Career Pathscourse found school life very difficult. He says it washell on earth. I spent my school days in misery. He leftschool after Junior Cert and apprenticed as a plumber,but his working life had its problems too.
I quickly realised that my dyslexia was not justaffecting my school work but it was affecting medoing my job. I started to find that I had to go backand check everything twice. I found it hard to read
the measuring tape. It was unlucky that I workedfor a big company because I was apprenticed withone person for a while. When they saw that I wasnot up to scratch they would recommend to theboss that I go working with someone else in thecompany.
Ciaran eventually lost his job and was unemployed foralmost a year. He was at rock bottom when heenrolled on the course. Having given up school at age15 he found it strange to be back in a class room witha pen and paper. He persevered and as he says
I started to see a big improvement in literacy andalong with personal development I found myconfidence lifting and I am somewhere for the firsttime where I am not feeling anxious, nervous andall of the other bad feelings that go along withdyslexia. My life is much improved. I will finish mytime in the Career Path centre where I amconcentrating on getting ready for college and Ihope to take a course in Media Studies.
Information about the Career Paths course is availablefrom:
Career Paths Course, Office No. 1, The Mill,Celbridge, Co. Kildare. Tel. 01 627 0805.
Dyslexia Association. Tel. 01 679 0276www.dyslexia.ie
Any FS office. Course Code AT58F.
Further StudyMany adults are motivated to have a psycho-educational assessmentwhen they plan to takefurther courses.Conversely, many adultsdecide to return toeducation when theyhave had an assessmentand become aware oftheir own potential.Whatever the motivation, it is very encouraging to notethe variety of help and support which is now availableto students with dyslexia in further education.
Most colleges and educational bodies now recognisedyslexia as a specific learning disability and putarrangements in place to cater for students. Proof ofthe existence of a specific learning disability, in theform of an up-to-date and comprehensive psycho-educational assessment is usually required. Asprovisions vary from one college or institute to another,it is advisable to contact the Disability SupportOffice of an individual organisation to check whataccommodations are put in place. It may also benecessary for the student to be very active in ensuringthat the support promised is received, as resourcesare limited and sometimes the promised support doesnot translate into help on the ground.
Accommodations provided may include: a more flexibleapproach to entry requirements to a particular course;there may be support available by provision ofspecialised tuition, or by provision of informationtechnology. In many universities and colleges, lecturenotes may be made available, even before the lectureand may be available on internet or intranet afterwards.Extra time may be given when sitting examinations;use of a dictaphone or computer may be allowed; anextension of deadlines for the completion of essays orwritten projects may be negotiated and in some casesexaminers are prepared to consider oral answers tosupplement written answers to examination questions.
Gaining qualificationsFor the adult who wants to gain qualifications which willbe useful in terms of employment, there are manypossibilities. It is possible to study by day or by night oron-line. In order to make an informed decision abouthow worthwhile a course is, it is necessary tounderstand the National Framework of Qualifications(www.nfq.ie). This framework was introduced in 2003. Itis a system of ten levels that incorporates awardsmade for all kinds of learning, wherever it happens.The NFQ, through its ten levels, provides a means ofcomparing and contrasting national and internationaleducation and training qualifications. It makes it easierfor people to explain what qualifications they hold orare studying for. This is very important whenconsidering further learning or applying for a jobabroad. It helps learners to plan their education andtraining and it helps employers to identify thequalifications they require.
School qualifications awarded by the StateExaminations Commission, further education andtraining qualifications awarded by FETAC and highereducation and training qualifications awarded byHETAC, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), otherinstitutes of technology and the universities all slot intothis framework. The levels which might be of interest toadults returning to education are as follows:
Level Examples of courses at this levelLevel 3 Junior Certificate.Level 4 Leaving Certificate and other courses.Level 5 Leaving Certificate and PLCs.Level 6 Higher Certificate Courses in CAO.Level 7 CAO Ordinary Degree.Level 8 CAO Honours Degree.Level 9 Masters Degree.Level 10 Doctorate (PhD).
Choosing CoursesThere are different routes and structures to obtainingnew qualifications. Qualifications can be offered in avariety of ways from distance learning, to eveningcourses to full time courses. Below are a number ofwebsites which might help the person thinking ofreturning to education and learning. Some sites includecareer interest assessment which might be helpful indeciding which course to pursue.
www.nightcourses.comThis site gives a database and search facility to look fora night course.
www.aontas.comThe National Adult Learning Organisation promotes alearning society through the provision of acomprehensive system of adult learning and educationwhich is accessible to and inclusive to all. It providesa list of websites which provide on-line distancelearning among other valuable information.
www.oscail.ieOscail, the National Distance Education Centre ofIreland, offers the opportunity to receive Irish universityqualifications through distance learning.
www.learningpoint.ieThis site is a one stop shop for training anddevelopment for staff and volunteers working incommunity and voluntary organisations in Ireland.
www.eveningcourses.ieWebsite for evening courses.
www.daycourses.ieWebsite for day courses.
www.qualifax.ieThis site is the National Database for third level andfurther education courses in Ireland. Qualifax is a onestop shop for information on courses for guidancecounsellors and students. Included are links tocolleges and other education/training organisations. Itincludes an extensive list of careers as well as thedefinitive calendar of career events and an interestassessment to assist prospective students in makingchoices.
www.ncirl.ieThe website for the National College of Irelandprovided details of distance learning, part-time andevening courses.
www.open.ac.ukThe Open University offers 360 undergraduate andpost-graduate courses and is one of the biggestproviders of distance learning.
www.careersportal.ieThis is an Irish resource dedicated to those who wantto plan their career. The site includes a selfassessment questionnaire, information on popularcareer categories, a database of careers and a coursefinder facility.
www.careerdirections.ieThis site includes a database on careers as well as acareer interest assessment.
www.skillsireland.ieThis is a Government website. It includes advice to theGovernment on the current and future skills needed forthe Irish economy.
Bank of Ireland Millennium Scholars Trust. Thistrust is applied to the creation of scholarships forpeople of talent and ability who due to economiccircumstances or other barriers such as disability, havebeen unable to reach their full potential. This and otherscholarships are available from many colleges.
Chapter 5Understanding DyslexiaThe most positive result of a psycho-educationalassessment for an adult is often the validation which itprovides. Self-esteem and selfconfidence are likely tobe very badly affected by adverse school experiencesand failure to reach potential in the workplace. Apositive assessment often provides the encouragementnecessary to go for job promotion or to take on furtherstudy. Derry Ann is typical of many adults who haddyslexia diagnosed in adulthood. She found theprocess helped her to understand why she hadexperienced learning difficulties. It removed the guiltshe had felt that somehow she had been to blame forher difficulties. It encouraged her to explore her ownpotential.
The first thing Derry Ann did was to learn everythingshe could about dyslexia.
I joined the Dyslexia Association. I read every bitof literature I could find. I attended conferencesand I talked to other people. I was a woman on amission. The more I learned the stronger Ibecame. I felt that now I could hold my head upand say to anyone I have dyslexia, I am notstupid. I realized that I am perfectly entitled tohave my own way of learning. For example, if Iget new equipment I will ask someone to show
me how it works and then Ill practice till I get itright. I know theres no point in sitting down toread a manual of instruction. I dont feel badabout that. I will help anyone else who has aproblem if I can, and I dont mind asking otherpeople for help. I dont try to hide anymore.
How much dyslexia affects a persons life depends onmany factors: the age at which the condition wasdiagnosed, the degree of severity, the ability of theindividual, the type and quality of support received both educational and social, the job or career chosenand even the personality of the individual.
Some people are lucky enough to have had theirdyslexia identified as children and to have receivedsupport through their school years.They have had an opportunity to understand their ownlearning difficulties and to take them into account whenplanning further education or choosing a career. Thefact that they have overcome basic literacy difficultiesand even secured satisfactory results in examinationsdoes not mean that they have been cured of theirdyslexia. Information processing difficulties, poor shortterm memory, auditory processing deficits or hand-eyeco-ordination difficulties do not go away. A person whochose a work area where literacy was not of vitalimportance could find that promotion or changing workpractices require them to read and write a great dealmore. Another could discover that dealing with clientsabroad demands second language skills which werenot acquired at school. Updating computer skills,
learning to use new technology or new equipment,re-training which has to be undertaken in certainsectors of industry, can all be difficult for a person whothought that dyslexia was left behind with schooldays.If the difficulties encountered at school were severe,then the adult may well have a reluctance to re-enter alearning situation. Knowledge of dyslexia and theopportunities which are now available to supportpeople with dyslexia might be the key to further studyor work opportunity.
Living with DyslexiaIf you have recently found out that you have dyslexia orif you are now about to tackle the problem the followingideas might be helpful:
Find out as much as possible about your ownparticular situation. Dyslexia can be mild orsevere. It can affect the academically gifted, theaverage learner or the less able. It can beaccompanied by attention and concentrationproblems, dyspraxia, speech and languagedifficulties and by anxiety conditions. It is veryimportant to be aware of your own profile.The person who can tell you this is thepsychologist who carried out the psycho-educational assessment. Dont be afraid to ask.Its your life. If you were assessed as a child anddid not receive this information then considerhaving a new assessment and asking questionsnow.
One piece of information which your psychologistmay be able to give you relates to your personallearning style. While there are different opinionson the whole question of learning styles, the mostcommonly accepted styles are: Visual; Auditoryand Kinaesthetic. If you identify the learning stylewhich suits you best you will be able to developstrategies to build on your strengths andcompensate for your weaknesses.
Visual Learners like to see things. They tend tothink in pictures and like to have illustrations,
charts, diagrams, graphs, mindmaps and videos when theylearn. It helps to rewrite notes,to put information on indexcards or post-it notes and to
re-create images in their minds.
Auditory Learners think in wordsrather than pictures. They learnbest by listening and benefitfrom taping information andreplaying it. It helps if theydiscuss material to be learnedwith others, participate in classdiscussions, ask questions of theteacher and even try teachingothers. Reading aloud can behelpful when trying to remember information.
Kinaesthetic Learners are the hands-on people.They learn best when they can dosomething. Actually wiring a circuitboard would be much moreinformative than reading a text bookor listening to a lecture about it.When learning from text it helps to
underline important points, use colour to highlightor make notes in the margin. Repeatinginformation while walking can also help.
Take positive action. If you were advised by theassessing psychologist to seek professional helpto improve your literacy, or to support you in furtherstudy, then go ahead. The Dyslexia Association ofIreland keeps a list of qualified teachers who offerindividual tuition to adults with dyslexia. TheDyslexia Association also sponsors a full-timecourse for adults. This is administered by FS.Details of the course can be found in Chapter 4.This course is a very useful means for adults whohave been unemployed or working in the home toupgrade their literacy skills and acquire computertraining.
If you left school without achieving formalqualifications, consider the possibility of goingback into education. There is a wide variety ofchoices from night classes at your local collegeof further education to access courses foruniversity. Have a look at the section GainingQualifications in Chapter 4. As an adult, with lifeexperience and maturity, you may be surprised atyour success.
The Adult Education Guidance Initiative offersinformation, advice and guidance on a one-to-onebasis for adults who wish to return to education.This valuable service is provided by theDepartment of Education and Science and can beaccessed through the National Centre forGuidance in Education, 42-43 Prussia Street,Dublin 7. Phone: 01 8690715.Email: [email protected] Website: www.ncge.ie.
Employers are increasingly becoming aware ofdyslexia. Once you have a diagnosis of dyslexiaand a written report it is worthwhile talking to yoursupervisor or employer to see what supportthey can offer. Have a look at the suggestions inChapter 6 and tell your employer about any thatwould help you.
You may find that the attitude of family andfriends towards you changes now that it has beenestablished that you have dyslexia. They willrealise that there is a good reason for thedifficulties you may have had at school, or in work.You may also find that your own self-esteem risesand you become more confident. This is, perhaps,the most common side effect of receiving adiagnosis of dyslexia. When your confidencereaches the level of being able to say, I havedyslexia, so what? you have made a majorleap forward.
Investigate what modern technology can offer.There is more information on this in Chapter 9.
Be aware that not all of your difficulties may bethe result of dyslexia. There are other hiddenlearning difficulties such as attention deficithyperactivity disorder and dyspraxia. Like dyslexia,these are life long conditions and so may affectadults. It may be necessary to consultprofessionals in these areas also, to get your lifeunder control. Some people, particularly thosewhose learning difficulties caused distress inchildhood, may find that they need professionalcounselling before beginning to tackle the practicaltask of getting help with reading and writing.You need a clear head and no other side issueswhich might hamper learning.
Be realistic about what you can achieve. Dontbeat yourself up if you make mistakes. Everybodydoes. The most important thing is to note themistakes you make and see how you can avoidthem in the future.
Finally, your own attitude towards your dyslexiawill be a very significant factor. If you believethat fate has treated you unfairly and that the worldowes you a living, you are going to make yourproblems worse. If, on the other hand, you decidethat dyslexia is not going to stand in the way ofyour achieving your goals and you are prepared toput in the hard work and use every strategy youknow to get round, through and over the obstaclesin your path, you will get there, as many othershave before you.
Chapter 6Dyslexia in theWorkplace, includingSelf-Help Strategies.
There are certain issues which arise for people withdyslexia in the workplace which do not affect otherworkers. It is very important to be aware of these asthe co-operation of employer and employee canoften resolve issues which, if ignored, ormishandled, can cause immense trouble. ThisChapter discusses dyslexia in the workplace, andincludes many self help strategies to help withreading, writing and remembering.
Disclosure of a Specific Learning DisabilityAdults, particularly young adults who have recentlycompleted their education, may find that the workingenvironment is not as supportive of people withdyslexia as third level institutions are. A great deal ofhelp and support may be provided at third level and it isvery acceptable to declare ones dyslexia. In theworking world the situation is very different. A majordilemma facing young people about to enter theworkforce, as well as adults moving jobs, is whether toinform prospective employers that they have dyslexia.
Very little research has been done on employerawareness of dyslexia in Ireland. What little existsbears out what Gavin Reid, says of the UK:
It has been suggested that employers may be lesssensitive to dyslexic type disabilities than they are toother, more visible disabilities.
Therefore, the job seeker who declares his/her dyslexiaon application for a job is taking a gamble.
It could turn out that the employer or human resourcesmanager is aware of dyslexia and operates a system ofequal opportunity. If the applicant does get the post, itis very probable that support will be provided tofacilitate the employee. If, on the other hand, anapplicant does not declare dyslexia before accepting ajob offer, it could be difficult to request support orfacilities at a later stage.
The biggest fear that job applicants have is that if theydeclare their dyslexia they may never get to theinterview stage, never mind getting a job offer. If anapplicant decides to raise the matter of his/her dyslexiaat interview stage then it is important that they presenttheir situation positively, telling the interviewer just whatthey can do and the qualities they would bring to thejob.
An individual who felt that he or she had beendiscriminated against on the basis of a disability, suchas dyslexia, could consider taking a case to theEquality Tribunal. The Equality Authority can becontacted for informal information and advice on anymatter relating to equality and discrimination. Thephone number of the Equality Authority is 1890245545. The website is www.equality.ie.
Organisation and Time Management at WorkIf one word were to be applied to the adult withdyslexia who is having problems in the workplace, itwould probably be disorganised. Where the wordscould try harder are often used in school reports, theadult equivalent very often is cant get his acttogether. Planning and organising, setting outtimetables, distinguishing between the important andthe urgent, rememberingappointments, passingon telephone messagesfrom memory andmeeting deadlines canbe exceptionally difficultfor many people withdyslexia. Many complainof a tendency to getbogged down, overwhelmed bythe workload and very stressed. There are ways roundthis difficulty and some are outlined below.
Initial Job TrainingThe initial training may be insufficient, in that a dyslexicperson may not have the same learning style as otheremployees. Skilled and well-qualified workers havereported an absence of flexibility in the approach totraining in many firms. Research has indicated that itcan take a person with dyslexia longer to acquire a skillto an automatic level. Once the skill is acquired,performance may be similar or better but in pressuredwork situations this extra time may not be given.Awareness of the skills, as well as the difficulties, ofpeople with dyslexia would help greatly in this area.
Information ProcessingSo many office workers today suffer from informationoverload, that the pressure on people with dyslexia canbe almost unbearable.
Most adults with dyslexia who work in professional orwhite-collar jobs have good reading skills. They mayread quite fluently and have excellent comprehensionbut their reading speed may be slower.They may also need to exercise more care not tomisread a word or phrase. Letters, emails, reports,journals, magazine articles, newspaper reports theamount of reading required to keep abreast ofdevelopments is a major burden and the time it takesoften eats into leisure and family time.
Similarly, when it comes to letter or report writing,editing, checking spelling and grammar, doublechecking figures for reversals and placement errors,managing appointment diaries and recordingtelephone messages, extra time is also needed. Manypeople with dyslexia have problems with clerical speedand accuracy, so care is essential. Sometimes speedmust be sacrificed for accuracy as it can be difficult toensure both.
While the advent of the word processor has made lifeeasier, it has also meant that very few people nowhave personal secretaries. Most people must producetheir own written work. It is no longer sufficient to be agood engineer, one must also be able to write a clearand properly spelled report and perform tasks at highspeed. A worker at a call centre must be able not onlyto do the job but also must complete each task within astated time and meet hourly targets of calls answered.
Self-Help Strategies for Reading, Writing, GettingOrganised and Improving Memory.
It is virtually impossible to find a job which does notrequire some level of reading, writing andremembering, or some use of the computer. Thefollowing section offers some tips which might helppeople with dyslexia in their work. These strategies,and many more, can be developed more fully byworking with a specialist tutor. The topics are alsocovered in greater detail by a number of books andwebsites. Useful resources are:
Making Dyslexia Work for You: A Self-HelpGuide by V. Goodwin and B. Thomson, 2004,David Fulton Publishers. ISBN 978-1843120919.
Dyslexia in the Workplace by D. Bartlett andS. Moody, 2000, Whurr Publishers.ISBN 978-1861561725.
The Mind Map Book: Radiant Thinking by T.Buzan, 2000, BBC Books,ISBN 978-0563537328.
ReadingYou might read for pleasure, say a novel or anewspaper. You can read at your own pace and itdoesnt matter whether you know all the words, orremember all the details.
Reading for work, or study, is another story. It isimportant to get the facts right, to remember therelevant information and understand what the writer issaying. If you have a lot of material to read it makessense to:
Get comfortable have the right light and a quietplace.
Have pencils, highlighters, notebooks and anyother aids you need to hand.
If you need reference books or dictionaries havethem on your desk too. Searching for materialsdamages your concentration.
Never sit down to read a book or document withoutasking yourself just why you are reading and whatinformation you want to get.
Skim through, looking at chapter headings andsummaries.
If an executive summary of a report is included,read it first.
Look for the key ideas and underline with pencil orhighlighter.
Stop from time to time and ask yourself what youhave just read.
Read for 20 30 minutes and then take a shortbreak. It is difficult to concentrate effectively formore than 30 minutes without a break.
Review what you have read by making your ownshort summary.
Pretend you are giving a talk on what you haveread.
Check back to make sure that you have got yourfacts right.
There is a well known method for reading whichencapsulates the above tips and it is easy to rememberbecause it is called SQ3R. This method, which was firstdeveloped by Francis Robinson in the 1960s, has beenused for many years. SQ3R stands for Scan, Questionand 3 Rs Read, Remember, Review.
Scan look through the text quickly for key words,not ignoring any illustrations, diagrams or graphs.Important information is often highlighted in a textbox or in bold or italics.Question ask yourself what information you hopeto get from your reading.Read read the text fully.Remember write down the main points.Review read again to check if you haveremembered correctly.
If you need to remember what you have read in greatdetail, say for an examination, it may help to read aloudand tape the material. Then it can be replayed as oftenas you like at any convenient time.
If you read quite easily but still have problems with newor uncommon words, it might be worth while buying aReading Pen, which will scan a word, say it aloud andexplain what it means. You will find more informationon this pen in Chapter 9.
If you find looking up the meanings of new words in adictionary very time consuming, it could be easier touse the Thesaurus facility on your computer.
If you find that reading black print on a whitebackground causes you visual stress, causes the printto move or gives you a headache, you couldexperiment with colour filters. Using clear plastic sheetsin different colours could filter the light and make printclearer for you. An alternative is to photocopy readingmaterial on to coloured paper. If any of these strategieshelps, then use them.
Some readers with dyslexia find that they skip words orlines and find it hard to keep their place on the page.Use of a bookmark, such as the x-mark(www.xmark.no) may be helpful. This bookmark comesin various colours which may also help to focus thereader on the print.
WritingNext to reading aloud, writing is probably the activitymost disliked by adults with dyslexia. Even when thewriting load would seem to be a minor part of the job itcan make life very difficult. Cindy worked for a time onthe food counter of a pub. She recalls:
I had to write down the orders and the menu onthe blackboard outside. The office crowd wouldcome in, suited and booted, looking down theirnoses at me and giving out when I got the orderswrong, which was quite a lot.
Cindy moved jobs frequently, so that looking for a jobagain actually became a job in itself until she foundher niche in a driving school.
I loved it. The buzz of people coming and going allday, people so stressed about their driving lessonsand their test that they never noticed how I spelttheir names and addresses.Job heaven for a person with dyslexia.
Writing down names and addresses can be tricky forpeople with dyslexia. Phil, a receptionist who hashandled her dyslexic difficulties very well, keeps a notepad on which she asks people to write down theirnames and addresses. She explains that she hasdyslexia and adds with a smile that she would hate toget the name wrong. She says she very rarely gets abad reaction. When on the phone, Phil mentions thatshe has dyslexia and asks callers to spell out theirnames.
Obviously, different types of writing tasks will needdifferent levels of skill, but many can be handled with abit of thought and creativity from the worker andflexibility on the part of management. Many letters,memos, invoices, bills, appointments, orders andacknowledgements can be dealt with by creating atemplate or form letter. Try, wherever possible, to haverelevant words and phrases stored on your computeror written in your personal notebook, so that you can
include them in correspondence. If there are wordswhich you have trouble spelling and which you need inyour work, then these can be added to your personallist.
Writing a report to present to your manager, orsubmitting a thesis at college can be much morechallenging, but there are ways of coping.Perhaps the hardest part is getting started.
Make a PLAN. Do this on paper using indexcards, on computer using software such asInspiration or by making a mind map or diagram.Decide what you want to say.
Set deadlines for yourself. If a report is due onMay 31st you need to work backwards from thatdate and plan when you need to have a firstdraft ready, when you need to begin researchand how much time you can spend each day onthis report.
Allot time for reading and research; time forwriting; time for consultation with relevantothers; time for revision; time for printing andtime for unforeseen events such as computer orprinter breakdown. Write your plan down on atime sheet and stick to it.
Organise your thoughts. Reports or essayshave a recognised format:
1. Introduction tell the reader what you aregoing to say.
2. Discussion set out your point of view.3. Presentation of facts - back up your
argument using examples or quotes.4. Conclusion tell the reader what you
think is the issue.5. Recommendations what do you think
should be done.6. References if you have quoted other
reports or texts, it is important to list them,noting the relevant pages.
A variation of this format will give you a structure onwhich to write your essay or report. When you break ajob down into separate parts it becomes easier. Youcan take one bit at a time. Start with even onesentence for each idea. You can expand on it later.Dont worry about spelling or grammar at this stage.That can be checked later using the spelling andgrammar check on your computer.
If a particular section is hard to write, try talking it out to a friend or on tape. Do remember though, thatwritten language is more formal than spoken language,so you cant simply write as you speak.
The most important thing when writing a report oressay is not to get bogged down in one part. If oneaspect or part of your argument is difficult, go on toanother one. Keep going. Do not write the introductionover and over again until it is perfect, and then find youdont have time for the rest of the report. Many goodwriters leave the introduction to the end: it is the lastthing they write.
Check carefully from time to time that you are stickingto the topic and not going off into other issues.
If your computer has a facility for converting text tovoice, use this to edit your written work. For those witha good ear, it is easier to detect mistakes when youhear them, than when you read from the screen orpaper.
Take extra care with words which the spell checkerwont correct, e.g. their for there or wait for weight.It is a great help to get a friend or colleague to proofread your written work. However, sometimes peoplewith dyslexia place too much pressure on themselvesto have perfect spelling, so remember that everyonemakes mistakes when writing or typing, not just peoplewith dyslexia!
MemoryIt is often said that with dyslexia it is not so much thatpeople learn slowly but that they forget quickly. It is truethat people with dyslexia often struggle to remembernames, dates, and facts. Stress and anxiety can makethis difficulty worse. Most people will recall the panicthey felt as a child being asked a question in mentalarithmetic, or spelling when an immediate responsewas required. The greater the effort made the furtheraway the answer seemed to drift.
Memory is very complex and we have different memoryability for different stimuli. Some people with dyslexiahave very good visual memory and poor auditorymemory, so they will remember information better if it ispresented with diagrams and visual images.Other people with dyslexia may have poor visualmemory and good auditory memory, so they will find iteasier to remember what they hear, rather than whatthey see. People who are more kinaesthetic or activelearners will remember better by practicing and doingan activity, rather than just reading about it or looking atit.
There are two main types of memory relating to thelength of recall, but for facts and figures we usuallyneed two in particular: short-term and long-term.Short-term memory is used when you hold a fact, saya phone number, in your head long enough to use it.By the following day, you no longer recall it, or need torecall it.
Long-term memory has two parts. Episodic memory isused to recall events which happened, e.g. a holidayby the sea as a child. Semantic memory is used toremember facts and details, e.g. your PPS number orthe date of the Battle of Clontarf. The vital one for studyand work is the semantic memory.
There are many ways for getting information intolong-term memory. As a person with dyslexia it isimportant to work out the best way for you. Once a factis in the long-term memory it must also be easilyretrieved. The memory can be like a spare room, orattic, where things are stored in an untidy heap. Ideallyit should be like a filing cabinet where each fact isneatly labelled and can be taken out when needed. Butwe dont live in an ideal world and much time andenergy is spent in trying to recall things which we aresure we know.
The following tips may be helpful for learning andremembering information:
Choose the right time of day when you knowyour memory is at its best. For some its early, forothers its just before bedtime.
Choose the right place comfortable and freefrom distractions.
Link facts to other details you already havestored, or which interest you. For example youmay have enjoyed the film West Side Story.This could be used to help remember the plotand characters in Romeo and Juliet.
Make links for yourself, e.g. your bank PINmight be 2375, you could remember I was 23when I first visited London and my friend Bettylives at 75 Main Street.
Store information in small chunks, it is easierto remember than in large units, e.g. break aphone number into sections rather than trying tolearn it whole.
Use mnemonics, a rhyme or phrase whichhelps you remember something. For exampleremembering the verse 30 days hath November,April, June and September could help you avoidthe embarrassment of making appointments forApril 31st. Make up your own rhymes or phrases.They can be personal, funny or even rude.
It is very hard to remember things which youdont understand so its worth taking some time tomake sure you are fully familiar with what youwant to memorise.
It is easier to remember things which areunusual, so focus on any odd or interestingfeatures.
Attach colours or pictures to information ifthat works for you. You could highlight facts orkey words in different colours and then visualisethe page with the different colours.
Draw a mind map or diagram showing the keyideas; you may find that you can visualise themap and retrieve the information more easily(see Figure 1).
Most importantly revise the information youwant to remember. If you dont, you may forgetmost of it within a few days.
People with dyslexia are often very creative in workingout strategies which work for them. One mathematicsstudent with dyslexia who found formulas hard toremember would revise them just before entering theexamination hall. He would hold them in his memoryuntil he was given his answer papers when he wouldjot them down immediately. He did this before readingthe exam questions so as not to forget or becomeconfused. When he read through the exam questionshe would know which formulas he needed to use andhe would have them to hand.
Mobile phones are a real boon to adults with dyslexia,as names, addresses, phone numbers and other briefdetails can be kept to hand. However, there are somefacts which are almost impossible for people withdyslexia to remember and many people just give uptrying. This applies particularly to multiplication tablesand mathematical formulas. Once school days are overthere is often no reason for most people to have toremember these and calculators, number squares,ready reckoners and slide rules provide an easyanswer. Many mobile phones now include a calculator.
Many people with dyslexia carry their own personalnotebooks where they record information which theyfind hard to remember and which they need often. Thiscan be used to record spellings which are tricky,technical expressions, names and contact details ofcustomers, or lists of things they have to do.
People who have trouble with remembering letters insequence, as in filing or consulting a dictionary ortelephone directory find it useful to keep an index cardwith the letters of the alphabet clearly written onit. This enables them to check quickly whether Jcomes before or after K, a very important piece ofinformation when you are looking for a file in a hurry.
In work and when studying it may be useful to makeyour own list of frequently used words, whether onindex cards or on your computer.
Organisation and Time ManagementMargaret Thatcher, when PrimeMinister of Britain, is reported tohave said Happiness is aticked off list.Many people would agree.Getting things done andfinished with, crossing them offthe list so you dont have toworry about them any more is agreat feeling.
For many workers with dyslexia the reality is that badfeelings can be more common than good ones at theend of the day. Work mounts up, pressure builds frommanagers or colleagues, files go missing, hastilywritten material contains spelling and other mistakesand very hardworking people can appear to becareless or incompetent. A small forest has beendestroyed to produce paper for all the booksand magazine articles on how to organise your life andmanage your time. At the risk of adding to thismountain of information, here are some strategies forgetting organised:
Be like Margaret Thatcher make a list. Better still, make a couple of lists. Write down everything you need to do today for
work. Write down everything you need to do today for
yourself. You could divide your daily diary into two columns,
one for work and one for personal items. Put a red mark beside all the really urgent items,
e.g. if you have to go to a meeting, or take yourchild to the dentist then it has to be done today.This is urgent.
Make sure you know what is urgent for you andwhat is important.
Do not spend time deleting old files on yourcomputer when a report is required for tomorrowsmeeting. That may be important but it is not urgent.
Review your To Do list twice a day at lunchtimeand before going home.
Update your list when a new task arises, otherwiseyou may forget it.
Enjoy crossing off the tasks you completed at theend of the day.
At the end of the day start your new list fortomorrow with the tasks you didnt do today.
Keep a diary with all your appointments. Dont havetwo diaries with some appointments in each. It isnot easy to concentrate on a demanding job atwork if you have an uneasy feeling that its yourturn to collect your child from school but you are notsure.
Get into the habit of checking your diary everymorning, and again at lunch time. It is surprisinghow many people with dyslexia forget aboutappointments.
Put a year planner on your wall in a prominentplace.
Mark in holidays, birthdays and important datessuch as meetings, deadlines for projects etc. on itand look at it often.
Use post-it notes if you find them helpful but try toreserve them for reminding yourself of unusual orvery urgent things. A forest of post-it notes on yourdesk or wall can be confusing rather than helpful.
Try to keep your files and paper under control. Try to get by with three paper trays on your desk,
one labeled Do Today, one labeled Do Soon andone labeled Filing.
Be ruthless about disposing of unwanted paper either file it or bin it.
The filing tray should be emptied every Friday.
It is worthremembering thatsometimes when youfeel overwhelmed withwork it is because youare overwhelmed.The workload is toogreat for any oneperson. People with
dyslexia often feel that any difficulty they encounter istheir fault and that others would cope better. If you findyourself in this situation do talk to a colleague or friendand approach your manager or employer aboutpossibly adjusting your workload.
Chapter 7Dyslexia the humanfactorPeople with dyslexia are, first and foremost, people.They are all unique persons who differ in age, size,height, personality, ability, experience, familybackground and life history. However, they do sharesome common difficulties which arise, in large part,from living in a predominantly non-dyslexicenvironment.
Many people with dyslexia find dealing with the writtenword quite tiring. This is true for children at school andfor adults in the workplace. It has to be acknowledgedand allowances made for it. It is important, therefore,for people with dyslexia to be aware of the role diet,exercise and relaxation can play in how they feel andhow they cope with day to day activities.
A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetablesmakes good sense for anyone, but particularly for aperson under stress. Medical opinion indicates that avaried diet should provide all the nutrients a personneeds without resort to supplements, unlessrecommended by a doctor. Likewise ensuring a goodnights slee