As someone with dyslexia I know first-hand how difficult it can be managing it in an office-based job. With so much writing and reading and email sending it can feel a little daunting. Having the right support is what has enabled me to progress. So, from the mouth, or keyboard, of a fellow dyslexic, here are five ways that you can help to support a work colleague with dyslexia.
1: Communication Policies
Dyslexia is primarily all about how people process language. Many of us who have dyslexia struggle to process information that is written down, whilst others struggle to remember what has been said to them. Talk to your colleague and figure out how best they remember things. Do they need it to be written down as well as said to them? Can they keep track of emails or are post it notes better? Those of us with dyslexia often find it difficult to pick out bits of data from large bodies of text, so perhaps giving your colleague a concise post-it note, or an email in bullet points rather than a paragraph will help.
Many people do not realise that trouble concentrating is often associated with dyslexia. It’s hard enough to ignore the random thoughts that crop up in your brain when you’re trying to work let alone ignoring all the sensory input of a busy office. What helps is doing what you can to reduce that excess sensory input, either by having a desk in a quieter area of the office, or perhaps having access to a quiet room when intense concentration is needed. If this isn’t possible then something as simple as having a pair of headphones to hand so that your colleague can block out background noise whilst working can be a great help.
3: Utilise Tech
Assistive technology ranges from the very basic to the very complicated; the right technology can make your colleague’s working life a whole lot easier. This can range from simply installing a high-grade spelling and grammar checker, or using speech to text software to reduce the physical act of writing all together. Many dyslexics also struggle to proof read their work, failing to pick up errors when reading as their brains to not process it. Sadly this often gets mistaken for a lack of care or attention to detail. Text to speech software can drastically improve the quality of one’s work as rather than having to look for those errors on a screen, you can hear them when the body of text is read back to you.
4: Changing the Font
Surprisingly, something as simple as changing the default font on your computer can make reading much easier. Many with dyslexia struggle to read serif fonts, and whilst everyone is different, it is common knowledge that fonts such as Arial and Comic Sans are easier to read. These two are specifically recommended by the British Dyslexia Association, but alternatives include Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, and Trebuchet.
5: Give Us Time
This, in my opinion, is undoubtedly the most important thing to consider when managing or working with someone with dyslexia. Our brains are simply programmed differently. This may make anything from reading, to organising one’s thoughts more difficult, and thus it will take more time. We may have to proof read things multiple times, get easily distracted, or it may simply take us longer to locate information on a page. Whatever the issue may be, stress only makes the symptoms of dyslexia worse, so giving us ample time to complete a task will always make sure that the work at the end of the day is top quality, and not riddled with stress induced mistakes.