Adult Dyslexia and ADHD: Effects in the Workplace

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By Ronald D. Davis with Eldon Braun, © 1995, 1998. 

man looking downGovernment statistics show 25,000,000 Americans–one in ten–are functionally illiterate. The primary cause is dyslexia or one of its many variations, such as ADD or dysgraphia.

Today’s educational methods are limited when it comes to teaching basic literacy skills to students who have problems with reading, and writing and math.

The school system is stacked against dyslexics from the start, because they are “real world” thinkers, using mainly pictures and concepts instead of mental sentences. They require special training to master the basics of written language easily.

This doesn’t mean they are stupid. Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein, Edison, Churchill, Walt Disney, Whoopi Goldberg and Greg Louganis were considered “dummies” during their early years of school. They didn’t suffer from learning disability, but teaching disability.

Dyslexics think differently
Many teachers just don’t know the right methods for presenting information in a form dyslexic and ADD children can assimilate. As a result, these children may be warehoused in “special ed” classes. The subsequent loss of self-esteem triggers the syndrome that makes dyslexia worse. Stress, confusion and heavy concentration only increase perceptual and attention problems. The harder a dyslexic struggles, the more difficult reading becomes.

Many “learning disabled” people become highly successful once they escape school. They think they have a knack for doing something without realizing that it stems from the same cause as dyslexia — their ability to mentally combine imaginary and real world images in a creative or intuitive way. This talent can play havoc with reading and writing, but it is highly useful for the arts, engineering, sports, strategy, salesmanship, and invention.

No matter how talented they are, adult dyslexics are often secretive and defensive. They write down inverted phone numbers and financial figures. They can spend an hour trying to decipher a memo. They hide their illiteracy and get other people to read and write for them — a subterfuge invented to get by in school. Many get headaches from trying to read accurately. The loss of productivity is difficult to estimate, but is obviously enormous.

How employers can help
  • Employers can easily adapt the workplace to help reading disabled people to work more efficiently. Give instructions orally or dictate them onto tape or voice mail. Have someone read things to them, or get a voice synthesizer for the computer and let it read the memos. Dyslexics are usually good with computers. Many can read more easily from a screen than from paper, and can compose presentable letters and reports with a spell-checker — a godsend for anyone who sometimes misspells words.
  • brainstorming sketchIn the office, don’t give written “tests” as they were dealt out in school, or ask a dyslexic to fill out complex forms. Those who haven’t had remedial training are at a disadvantage, but they do have accurate, detailed memories. Question them orally or let them dictate answers so someone else can else can fill out the forms. If you must give written tests, be sure to allow extra time and a distraction free environment.
  • People with attention deficit problems often do better if they have a number of different tasks going at once. They may appear distracted or scattered, but are actually better at juggling several tasks than concentrating on one thing.
  • Let dyslexics know you understand their language difficulties are not caused by stupidity.
  • Encourage them to seek remedial help in basic language skills and provide incentives. In my experience, dyslexics who are motivated can achieve basic business literacy rapidly when their unique needs are taken into account. I have described the best techniques I discovered  in the last few chapters of The Gift of Dyslexia. A basic Davis Dyslexic Correction program can be completed in a week’s time.

Dyslexic employees are some of the smartest, most imaginative and highly motivated people in your workgroup — and your company’s management. Instead of penalizing them for written language deficiencies, profit from their special talents.

Citation Information

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16 comments

  • junior

    I can recall when I was age 7 I am having speech problem, I am age, 49 As I look back on my life, I realize that , I have dyslexia problem. At my age can I get help for my problem.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Yes, Davis Faciitators can work with adults of any age. Ron Davis was 38 years old when he made the discoveries that allowed him to read and led to the development of the Davis program.

  • Kevin C

    Well I’m actually quite amazed I got that onto the screen I have no idea what happened but I was trying to explain the frustration of not only been able to do this. Technology frustrates me been dyslexic but I know how positive it can actually be for me what I was trying to say is anybody out there who would like to give me just to share frustration of dyslexia. I want to thrive on what I do to be able to communicate with other people who are extremely smart intelligent thing way way way outside of the square which is a test possible to achieve anything in life don’t you put your mind to it.

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Kevin, if you are looking for more of a dialogue and communication with other dyslexic adults, you might try our forum at https://www.dyslexiatalk.com/ — you can set up an account for yourself there and use features like private messaging to directly correspond with others. When you get to that page you can click the link that says “Register” to get started.

  • Rob H

    The something shiny effect was a lifetime curse till I learnt to tame it. With the help of my wife I might add. These days, I’m 60+, and I use it to feed my curiosity as a rideshare driver. It has lead to many great conversations and many new business ideas.

    One with I think is important to many of us here to the ability to quickly identify right from left while driving.

    I have had decals made for the front windcreen of my car. If your interested they are available from http://www.theotherleft.org

  • Steph

    This is one of the best articles I have ever read! My husband had recently advanced in his career, and with the advancement came more work and responsibility. He has been able to ‘hide’ his dyslexia and adhd for years because he is such an easy going likeable guy no one every really noticed, or cared. However, now he has more emails he has to write, more forms he has to fill out….meaning I have more emails and forms. He used to get so angry and frustrated with himself, and I unfortunately, would get frustrated too. Thank you for bringing this unique perspective to what he is going through. I dont think I have ever fully understood.

  • Laura

    My questions is this, my son is 19 and dyslexic, he made it through high school and graduated a year ago. Not without low self confidence in his abilities. So how do I get him to get a job when he fears the whole interview process and writing associated with this?

    • Abigail Marshall, DDAI webmaster

      Laura, if your son would like help for his dyslexia, it is not too late. A Davis program could providehim with the help he needs as well as increased self-confidence, but motivation is very important to success. So you might ask him whether he would be interested in exploring this possibility.

    • Kyle

      Not sure if your state has programs like DARS. They help alot with finding the right place to work based on his situation, and they’ll give him an employment specialist to prepare him and even sit in the interview to help with the anxiety.

  • David A

    This the situation I’m in charge for getting tools,I don’t go check in the truck the tool we need and not there because I put it there from last time. Also i dont notice that we didnt have the tool we needed until we arw at the job site!!! I know I should check it all the time! But you think I would learn by now! This happens to me and I don’t even know it’s happening! I need help to stop this!! I have dyslexia and adhd! Thanks for your time! Dave

    • Jess

      I have the exact same problem, and it completely frustrates me all the time, different industry but same issue….a very simple way would be to take a picture or draw a pic of each tool (I realise this could be time consuming but worth it) and then make a visual list of all your tools

      laminate the list and stick it inside you van, get a pen and when the tool is there tick the picture, when you take the tool out the van rub off the tick,

      then you’ll always know what’s in you van!

  • S.T. Artiger

    I suggest going to the counselor and requesting tested for dyslexia. Then the school will help you set up compensation methods to get through. Such as a spell checker and extra time or verbal testing

  • Gerry L

    I find it very difficult trying to tell people that sometimes I can’t speel properly. I get very bad headaches because of it . I.m using a spell checker to write to you. But when I have exams they don’t let me use my phone for the spell checker so I don’t pass many exams

    • David A

      Ya it stops me from like writing a book or a screenplay but I can’t spell or my grammar is really bad! My wife write alot of my stuff!

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