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Dyslexia and Dyscalculia

What is dyslexia?

This definition is from the British Dyslexia Association Handbook (2006):

  • Dyslexia is a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process in one or more of reading, spelling and writing. It is a persistent condition.
  • Accompanying weaknesses may be identified in areas of speed of processing, short-term memory, organisation, sequencing, spoken language and motor skills.
  • There may be difficulties with auditory and/or visual perception.
  • It is particularly related to mastering and using written language, which may include alphabetic, numeric and musical notation.

Dyslexia is most usefully understood as occurring on a continuum with no clear cut-off points. In a group of one hundred people, around eight might be diagnosed as dyslexic. And there would be quite a few others who are “not quite” dyslexic but experience many of the same difficulties. And those eight dyslexic people would all have different types and degrees of dyslexia.

Dyslexic people may also have difficulties with other types of information-processing: physical co-ordination, mental arithmetic, concentration and personal organisation. On their own these do not necessarily point to dyslexia.

Many adults have found good ways to cope over the years. But sometimes individuals find their strategies failing following changes to their workload, job role, manager, work team, colleagues or even their home life. If their relied upon strategies stop working, then dyslexic people can be very vulnerable to stress and strain, which may affect their psychological and physical wellbeing.

Who does dyslexia affect?

Dyslexia affects around 8% of the UK population*. It is found in people from all classes, backgrounds and ethnic groups: it can be found in all workers - from bus inspectors or call centre managers to MPs. It affects equal numbers of males and females and is found at all levels of intelligence. As a genetic condition dyslexia runs in families.

*The Rose Review on Dyslexia (2009) 

Could it be dyslexia?

The following is a list of some more common ways in which dyslexia can affect people. If you recognise a number of these signs raise this in confidence with your TSSA Neurodiversity champion or rep as soon as possible.

  • Difficulty with reading aloud
  • Tendency to mispronounce or misread words
  • Slow pace of reading
  • Understanding more easily when listening than when reading
  • Difficulty with spelling
  • Difficulty putting information on paper
  • Difficulty in spotting mistakes made in written work
  • Finding it easier to express thoughts in words than in writing
  • 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 reversing digits

(from Living with Dyslexia published by the Dyslexic Association of Ireland)

How can dyslexia affect people at work?

Sometimes a lifetime of failing at education and learning deters capable people from taking up opportunities at work and developing to their full potential. TSSA members with dyslexia have told us about:

  • failing reading comprehension tests when being assessed for promotion
  • having dyslexia-related mental arithmetic problems on gate work
  • being locked into an endless struggle with admin
  • being disciplined for performance issues in call centres when they were unable to process calls “fast enough”
  • not writing on a flipchart in a union training session because they were afraid of appearing stupid
  • not taking up training or development opportunities because of previous unhappy experiences in learning environments.

Are there any good things about being dyslexic?

Dyslexic people may have the following strengths*:

  • looking for the bigger picture or wider context
  • considering what hasn't been covered so far
  • picking out new ideas from tangential thinking
  • intuitive reasoning and strategic thinking
  • 3D imagination
  • understanding and producing complex ideas using graphs or digarams
  •  the ability to remember events in great detail

* from Doyle & Isaacs, 2012.

 Dyslexia Puzzle Euston