Dyslexia

The objective of this guide is to raise awareness of dyslexia at work so that people with dyslexia can fully exploit their capacities in the service of their professional ambitions.

This guide is intended for people with dyslexia and employers.

I. Dyslexia in the professional world

Dyslexia, what is it?

According to the French Federation of Dys, theDyslexia is a specific, long-lasting learning disability of written language. The main symptom is a deficit in phonological awareness which manifests itself in difficulty in manipulating the sounds that make up the words. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulty reading correctly and fluently, decoding text and spelling.

It can be the cause of poor reading comprehension (with repercussions on the acquisition of vocabulary and academic knowledge). The severity, intensity and expression of the disorder vary among individuals whose intelligence is preserved.

Dyslexia is accompanied by difficulties:

short and long-term memorization,

– auditory and visual discrimination,

analysis and sequential memory (go in order),

acquisition of the automatisms of the written language,

– attention.

People with dyslexia are often slower and more fatigable because of the efforts they make to compensate for their difficulties.

Tips for integrating dyslexia into the world of work

The professional world has its own codes which can complicate everyday life for people with dyslexia. Here are some tips that can make your day-to-day life easier.

Even dyslexia involves a difference and difficulties in everyday life. It doesn’t mean that we are less capable. We are capable in a different way. Self-love is key because you can’t change who we are, but you can change the way you value yourself. It also implies that you should not underestimate yourself in choosing your job, even if it means extra effort on your part.

Work organization

– Promote a fixed working environment. You can insist on having meetings at fixed times, especially for recurring meetings.

– Set time slots for interruptions, meetings and tasks requiring concentration. This allows you to better control your day and better concentrate.

– Explain to your interlocutors that emergencies have a real impact on your work, your fatigue and that they can have an impact on your ability to return work on time.

– Have fixed time slots for 3 main types of tasks

  1. to respond to emails, chats and potential calls.
  2. to be available for meetings
  3. to focus on your tasks

Meetings :

  1. Ask to be notified in advance if you need to intervene in a meeting in order to prepare for the oral and to have time to prepare written support, if necessary.
  2. Ask to have the agenda and participants before a meeting. If there are any documents, you can also request to receive them in advance to prepare.
  3. Ask for a debriefing after each meeting.
  4. Point out that writing a report can be a complicated exercise for a person with dyslexia, which takes a lot of time and energy and makes it difficult to concentrate on other tasks. If you have to do this, your employer should understand that it will take more time and energy than someone who is not dyslexic.
  5. Offer to record the meeting so that you can come back to it later

Tools to facilitate the performance of certain tasks :

  1. Use spelling and grammar correction tools (for example, Merci-app in French, Grammarly in English).
  2. Use text-to-speech tools that read written texts aloud (email, presentation, etc.).
  3. Use speech-to-text tools to write down what you say orally.
  4. Use mind-mapping tools to structure your ideas

    Integration

    – If you wish, you can request the provision of a welcome booklet with the main reference contacts within the company (for equipment, for the works council), and the main acronyms and expressions used. You can specify that this will allow you to better locate yourself and better understand the specific communication to the company.

    – If you wish, you can ask to have a referent within your team in order to be able to regularly discuss your tasks in general and your feelings as well as your needs related to your dyslexia.

    Communication

    – Specify that you prefer not to be interrupted during a meeting as it may take extra effort to resume your presentation.

    – Specify that synthetic and visual written communication facilitates your understanding. Example: Put important words in bold and write in FALC: Ease of Reading and CThis simplifies the written text and makes it easier to understand, especially for people with dyslexia. More details here.

    – Specify that handwritten written communication or written communication with Frenglish or acronyms may be more complicated for you than simple and typed written communication.

    Many people with dyslexia have had to find solutions that may be specific to them. It is always best to ask the person concerned what they need, because everyone is different. Here are some tips that can give you some initial leads.

     Work organization

    – Avoid unwanted interruptions (Chat, unscheduled calls, face-to-face questions when the person is concentrated). If necessary, define a time slot each day when the employee may be called upon unexpectedly.

    – Favor a fixed working environment: fixed time slots for meetings, fixed time slots for the tasks to be performed, arrival and departure from fixed work as far as possible.

    – Clarify contingencies and emergencies. These pushes to change the organization of the day and require additional concentration for the dyslexic person.

    – Avoid asking the dyslexic employee to take the meeting report or document summaries. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.

    Meetings:

    1. Send the meeting agenda and list of participants in advance. If documents are presented, it is also best to send them in advance
    2.  If the dyslexic employee needs to intervene, you can notify them in advance.

    3. Send a report of the meeting to the dyslexic collaborator. This helps prevent short-term memory oversights. It is often quite tedious for a person with dyslexia to write up reports. If it is necessary for her to write it, she should be given the necessary time.
    4. Ask at the start of the meeting if it is possible to record in case the dyslexic person needs to refer to specific passages after the meeting.

    Suggest the use of tools that make everyday life easier:

    1. Spelling and grammar correction tools (for example, Merci-app in French, Grammarly in English).
    2. Text-to-speech tools that read written texts aloud (email, presentation, etc.).
    3. Speech-to-text tools to transcribe in writing what is dictated orally.
    4. Mind-mapping tools to structure ideas.

    Integration

    – Provide a welcome booklet with the main reference contacts within the company (for equipment, for the works council), and explaining the main acronyms and expressions used.

    – Assign a reference colleague within the team to facilitate communication. 

    – It is important to listen to a dyslexic employee. The more confident he feels, the more he will be able to communicate about his disorder and his needs so that the work goes as well as possible.

    Communication

    – Allow the necessary time to write written notes. If spelling is important, consider providing spelling correction software.

    – When written communication is necessary, it is necessary to favor a typed text (and not handwritten). We must prefer a simple and clear writing rather than abbreviations, Frenglish etc. Write in Ease of Reading and Cunderstand and favor the Arial size 14 font, this makes it easier for people with dyslexia to understand. More details here

    – Avoid interrupting the dyslexic employee during a meeting. The resumption of the thread of his ideas implies an increased concentration leading to additional fatigue.

    – Promote synthetic written communication.

    Dyslexia and Recognition as Disabled Workers

    What is recognition as a disabled worker?

    Dyslexia is recognized as a handicap by the House of Handicapped Persons (MDPH). Thus, a person who stutters is eligible for the Recognition as a Disabled Worker (RQTH). The RQTH is the administrative recognition of disability. Do not hesitate to apply for RQTH if you think it could be of benefit to you.

    What are the advantages?

    RQTH is not mandatory. However, it is important because it allows:

    – to benefit from schedule arrangements for medical and therapeutic appointments.

    – to benefit from advantages during recruitment within certain companies. Companies are subject to a quota of 6% of employees with an RQTH. Certain recruitment policies are advantageous for people with RQTH in order to reach these quotas.

    – benefit from the implementation of workstation arrangements as recommended by occupational medicine

    – to access services and financial aid from AGEFIPH (The state body in charge of disabled people in a private structure) or FIFPH (The state body in charge of disabled people in a public structure)

    – to benefit from special rules in the event of termination of an employment contract, such as doubling the length of the notice of dismissal.

    – access to rehabilitation and vocational training courses in the event of incapacity for your former profession.

    How to apply for his RQTH? To apply for his RQTH, you must complete a file to send to the departmental MDPH. The file is detailed here .

    When is it possible to request RQTH? RQTH’s application is a big step. It recognizes the handicap administratively. It is not always easy to apply for RQTH. Some people with dyslexia will consider themselves to be disabled, others will not. The advantage of RQTH is that it protects and encourages companies to adapt the work environment to the individual’s needs.

    The other difficulty is that disability can be seen as something personal that some people do not want to share with the whole company. It is important to note that the RQTH is CONFIDENTIAL. It is possible to share it only with the occupational physician, who will do what is necessary to adapt the position. There is no obligation to speak to the disability manager of the company or to human resources, even if this can help to have a daily follow-up.

    Dyslexia is recognized as a handicap by the MDPH (House of Handicapped Persons). Thus, a person with dyslexia is eligible for the RQTH (Recognition as a Disabled Worker), which counts people with dyslexia in the quota of 6% of people with disabilities. The person can also request their RQTH when they are employed in your company. The request takes a maximum of 6 months.

    Possible arrangements to help the dyslexic person

    Each person with dyslexia has their preferences and has been able to implement certain coping mechanisms. Here are some tips for possible accommodations, but keep in mind that the most consistent accommodations will be those you define with the dyslexic person.

    – When there is a customer contact , the interlocutor (s) can be warned upstream if the dyslexic person so wishes.

    – Favor an organization of the fixed week in its operation (team meeting, regular points always at the same time).

    – Give more time to complete writing and drafting tasks.

    – Provide a place conducive to concentration (with a minimum of visual and sound distractions).

    – Favor short oral communications over written communications (report, return from work by email, appointment planning).

    – Provide tools to facilitate written communication: writing assistance software, spell checking software (easy to use with integration into Word, Google Doc, etc.), software that write from dictation, reading software from written text.

    II. Interviews and dyslexia

    The interview is an exercise with multiple challenges, for the candidate and for the company. When disability comes into play, assessment and decision making become more complex. The candidate, for his part, is apprehensive that his dyslexia is blocking him opportunities.

    Before the interview

    The interview is a complicated exercise, because it is an exercise where the way in which one interacts with the recruiter is important. However, you are quite capable of shining during this exercise!

    Whether or not to declare dyslexia

    The declaration of dyslexia (in the CV, in the cover letter) is your right before or during the interview. There is no obligation. Declaring your dylexia in the CV or cover letter allows recruiters to make the necessary adjustments from the interview. The declaration before the interview allows you to be frank about your dyslexia and not to have to overcompensate to hide or limit your dyslexia.

    If you don’t mention dyslexia in your CV or cover letter, you can mention it when Human Resources contacts you to schedule the interview.

    The main downside is that dyslexia is still poorly understood, and there is still a lot of misconception. The purpose of this page is to limit prejudices. The advantage of talking about dyeslexia before the interview is that it allows the company to schedule extra time for you if needed, and interview formats can be adapted. Talking about it also allows you to be less focused on the stuttering, because the recruiter will already be aware of it, so they will be less surprised.

    You will find here our guide to the declaration of disability in the business world.

    Prepare for your interview

    – Prepare a one-page file in 14 Arial font (minimum or more) where you write down the main information you want to highlight. This will serve as a reminder. Below, you will find different subjects that may be present in the sheet.

    Ask about

    – Find out about the company (what are its activities? What are the latest news?)

    – Learn about the job you are interviewing for. If available, you can read the job description and learn about the skills required and the tasks to be done.

    Request information

    – Ask recruiters what dress code is required. If the requested outfit does not make you comfortable, you can ask to put on an outfit that makes you comfortable.

    – Ask recruiters with whom you will be interviewing. You can then find out about your contacts upstream (by looking on LinkedIn in particular).

    – Ask recruiters what is the format of the interview. (Interview with a person, case study, group interview, access plan, etc.). This will allow you to prepare yourself as well as possible. You can specify that group interviews are not the best format for you. For example, you can specify that reading / synthesizing document exercises or psychometric tests may put you at a disadvantage. solutions may be to change the format or to have more time.

    Prepare what you are going to say about yourself

    The recruiter may ask you to introduce yourself and ask you questions about your motivations, strengths and skills, and past experiences.

    Introduce yourself: You can give your first name, your last name, say what studies you have done and speak in 1 sentence (20 to 30 words maximum) about one of your passions

    Motivations : List a maximum of 3 reasons for your motivation. It is important to develop your motivations in 2 short sentences. These sentences can answer the question “why this motivation”)

    Strengths and skills : You can list your 3 main strengths for this position. It can be your skills (in code, graphics, math etc.) or your personality traits (courageous, persevering etc.). You can illustrate these strengths with an example each time

    Past experiences : The employer will ask you to present 1 or 2 experiences that you have had. This can be professional, associative, sports or student experiences (university project). For each experience you can

    1. Describe what you did
    2. Describe the result of what you did
    3. Describe what you have learned and learned from your work.

      Talk about your dyslexia during the interview

      Talking about your dyslexia is very personal. Being able to talk about it with a recruiter can:

      1. Create a bond with the recruiter. You share something very personal. You share part of your vulnerability. It’s something that touches people and creates a bond beyond the interview
      2. Help recruiters understand you better and understand autism.

      When to talk about it? :

      At the start of the interview or at the end of the interview

      How to talk about it? :

      – Factually: say what it means for you in terms of skills and difficulties

      – Positively: say it factually, adding a sentence about what autism brings to you. Autism allows you to develop a lot of skills that can be very useful in the world of work.

      In an interview, it is often difficult to get past a difference such as dyslexia. If the person has been interviewed, it means that they have a profile that meets your expectations. Despite all the skills listed on a CV, we tend to favor applicants without disabilities over different applicants.

      First of all, specify to the candidate that if he has a handicap, he can share it upstream. This is important so that the interview is adapted and the recruiter can prepare and obtain information.

      – If you know beforehand that the candidate is dyslexic:

      1. Pay attention to the format of the interviews (interviews where there is a case to be read with limited time or tests with a written text are less suitable for people with dyslexia). Solutions may be to send these texts in advance, or to print them in larger fonts. Standard psychometric or multiple choice tests can discriminate against people with dyslexia. These tests contain a lot of written or abstract content that can impact the person with dyslexia. Solutions are to allocate additional time (25% more is reasonable) or to perform these tests in the form of oral case studies (the most appropriate).
      2. Reserve a room with minimal noise and distraction.
      3. Tell the interviewer to read the section below “during the interview”.
      4. Communicate to the candidate the different stages of the interview (oral, test) and ask him if he needs any adjustments.
      5. Use simple sentences without acronyms to talk about the organization of the interview.

      Here are some avenues to prepare before the interview to judge the candidate as objectively as possible:

      – Before taking into account the candidate ‘s dyslexia , does he have the necessary skills for the position ?

      – Can we adapt the position to his dyslexia? ? See the layout section.

      – Can the tasks be done differently? Certain tasks of the position could be performed just as well by the dyslexic person if an approach corresponding to his specificities is permitted.

      – Are the skills limited by dyslexia offset by those that dyslexia develops ? During the interview, ask positive questions about dyslexia (the biggest wins with dyslexia, what dyslexia can bring). This will have a benefit for you, because you will be able to understand dyslexia as something other than a constraint, and for the candidate, it will be able to put him in confidence and reassure him.

      During the interview

      General advice

      – Be at the interview 10 minutes early.

      – Put your phone on silent.

      Maintenance tips

      – Do not rush to answer a question, take your time. If necessary, say you need a few more seconds. The most important thing is that you are satisfied with your answer.

      – Keep a piece of paper where you write down the main information you get during your interview. This way, you will be sure to have the information you need during the rest of the interview. Write only a few words and in large numbers so that you can read it easily.

      – Have a one-page Arial 14 or more font checklist with the main information on your professional and educational background, so as not to have a “blackout”.

      – If you don’t understand a question, don’t panic. Ask the other person to repeat it.

      – If there is a stage of the interview that seems complicated to you with your dyslexia (a written test, a computer test with text to read, a text to be read quickly), do not hesitate to mention it and to request another format or more time (at least 25%). Even though this is difficult to ask, it is very important to do so because the quality of your interview depends on it.

        Remember that the most important thing is not your dyslexia, but your skills and what you say.

        – If you want to think less about your dyslexia during the interview, you can talk to your interviewer so that they are not surprised and so that you can continue the interview without trying to compensate.

        Take an interest in what his disability has allowed him to do. The adventures lived are a gold mine to get to know the person and discover all his skills. Be careful, some people will be less open on this subject, in this case, respect their restraint.

        Remember to be transparent with your interlocutor. If he tells you about his dyslexia, be honest about your position on it. If you have any doubts, ask the candidate for examples of similar situations to those he will encounter during the job.

        If you think the person is dyslexic but dare not say so, you can ask if the person has RQTH, you can put the person at ease and show that disability is not a taboo. However, it is not allowed to ask a person if they have a specific disability.

        Do not base your impression on dyslexia, but on the whole exchange with the person .

        Allow notes to be taken during the interview. This will allow candidates to remember key elements of the interview.

        Psychometric or multiple question tests can be discriminatory. It is preferable to perform another type of test.

        – Avoid questions that are too complex or with several sub-questions. Prefer concise and explicit questions.

        – If there is a written rendering, accept ideas or a visual rendering rather than a full and structured text.

        – Repeat the question if necessary.

        – Give the candidate time to understand and answer the question.

        – Give the candidate time to understand and answer the question.

        III. Dyslexia and labor

        Daily work is made up of professional tasks and all formal and informal exchanges between colleagues. Dyslexia can thus prove to be a real challenge, both for colleagues and for the person themselves.

        Work integration

        Dyslexia can require strong daily compensations which tire and take a significant part of the energy. Your difference can be felt, which is why it is important to explain why you are different. Saying it verbally is complicated because we share something (very) personal with a stranger.

        For advice on everyday work, see the section of part one.

        Inform about your dyslexia

        – You can inform your company about your dyslexia through different channels (written or oral) and through different people (human resources, manager, colleague, etc.).

        – You can inform one of your colleagues, your manager or a human resources person in writing (Chat, Mail). You can explain in 3 lines what this means for you and share this page.

        – If you don’t want to share it with your entire team, you can first talk to one of your colleagues, a manager or someone from human resources.

        During a first meeting, at the start of the exchange, you can indicate that you are a dyslexic person. You can take 2 short examples with a concrete situation (1 sentence for each) that explain what dyslexia involves.

        – Talk about the positive aspect of your dyslexia: there can be a positive contribution if people with dyslexia do the things that make them different and in which they are more efficient. Indeed, it can be a real asset in business. You can take a real life example where you have achieved something because of your dyslexia.

        – You can ask for accommodations that make you comfortable

        Team awareness

        Some people will come to work with you every day. Giving them precise information about dyslexia and above all, your dyslexia, will allow them to better understand your difference and facilitate daily collaboration. To educate your team, you can:

        – Share this page.

        – Make a presentation to your team. It can be done by someone from the outside, by someone from the company, or by yourself if you wish.

        Assert yourself at work:

        The world of work is demanding. Dyslexia involves thriving in this world with a difference. You shouldn’t hesitate to say what makes you uncomfortable or ask for what you want, because if you don’t, no one will do it for you. It is true that it is often quite complicated, but you should not hesitate because it is your right.

        – Some tasks may not be assigned to a person with dyslexia because colleagues may find that these will be more complicated. If you want to do these tasks, ask your manager clearly.

        – If you wish to speak but you cannot take it, come forward, either in the meeting chat or orally, even if it means interrupting the meeting for a short time.

        Dyslexia can surprise the uninformed. It can also have an impact on social life, which should not be forgotten. If the person with dyslexia interacts in a different way, it may be related to their dyslexia. It may be important to take this into account when working as a team.

        For advice on everyday work, see the section of part one.

        Team awareness

        – Allow the dyslexic person to talk about their dyslexia and what it means for them, if they wish. Not everyone is comfortable in this situation.

        – Distribute the first informative part of this guide to all team members.

        Integration

        – Provide a welcome booklet with the main reference contacts within the company (for equipment, for the works council), and the main acronyms and expressions used.

        – Assign a reference colleague within the team to facilitate communication.

        – It is important to listen to a dyslexic employee. The more confident he feels, the more he will be able to communicate about his disorder and his needs so that the work goes as well as possible.

        Communication

        – Allow the necessary time to write written notes. If spelling is important, consider providing spelling correction software.

        – When written communication is necessary, a typed text (and not handwritten) should be preferred. It is necessary to privilege a simple and clear writing rather than abbreviations, Frenglish etc.

        – Avoid interrupting the dyslexic employee during a meeting. The resumption of the thread of the ideas implies an increased concentration causing additional fatigue.

        – Avoid asking the dyslexic employee to take the meeting report. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.

        – Promote synthetic written communication.

        Evolve at work

        Finding a job and integrating into the professional world are the first steps in a great adventure. There are several key steps that follow:

        • Validate the trial period
        • Be evaluated on the work done
        • Being promoted

        Working with a person with dyslexia is working with a person who has specific needs. These specific needs do not change the skills and work capacities of the person in any way, they only require a little more flexibility. Many tips and arrangements were offered in the first part. The issue is that people with dyslexia can be assessed at key stages in a fair way. Thus, it is conceivable to achieve less on certain aspects (in particular the interpersonal aspects) but more on other aspects (in particular the technical aspects).

        Highlight skills

        Dyslexia is often seen as a constraint. We often forget to see the constructive aspect of dyslexia. The daily challenges cannot be denied. These daily challenges and these different ways of understanding the world, forge and develop unsuspected skills:

        Creativity : Dyslexics, because of their difficulties with written communication, sometimes look for ways out. This translates into the ability to have ideas outside the box (Craig McCraw, one of the people behind the idea of the cell phone when no one believed it, is dyslexic) or a strong imagination (Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso were dyslexic).

        Empathy : People with dyslexia have a very good ability to understand their interlocutors (their emotions, their non-verbal language). This ability is key because it allows you to better understand the needs of your interlocutor. In our ever-running watch, these are details that we can ignore but which can allow us to fully understand the people on the same team, the (implicit) needs of a client or a manager.

        Have an overview : People with dyslexia have the ability to abstract themselves from a particular situation in order to gain an overview. Nowadays, many projects require great effort and sometimes make you forget the general objective of the project and the steps after these projects. Having the big picture is an essential ability to steer large business projects in the right direction.

        Visuospatial skills : Dyslexic people have facilities for all tasks which require visualization in space (eg: analyzing 3-dimensional graphics, graphics, manual tasks). Numerous scientific studies have proven that dyslexics are “excellent” when it comes to recognizing impossible figures, giving coherence to a whole or analyzing problems in several dimensions.

        Problem solving : In connection with visuospatial competence, dyslexics turn out to be brilliant “problem-solvers”. They are able to bring together different elements of the same problem that are apparently separate, but which, when brought together, lead to a real solution to a problem. They are also able to easily spot trends in order to provide ideas and avenues for problem solving.

        Entrepreneurial spirit : Dyslexics are inclined to take initiative. Many dyslexics are brilliant entrepreneurs or people who have built their careers by capitalizing on their different skills (problem solving, big picture, etc.) which facilitate entrepreneurship.

        These skills are not so obvious in reality. They require a welcoming environment where the dyslexic person has their place and where they are not sidelined by their difference.

        The dyslexic person must also dare to face the situations which are difficult for him with his difference in order to show that he is much more than a dyslexic person: it is a person with a unique experience, which allows him to develop skills that are specific to it and out of the ordinary.

        The condition for developing these skills is the acceptance of the difference, whether it is one’s own or that of a colleague. The crucial point is not to limit the responsibilities of the dyslexic person because of his disability. On the contrary, we need him give the opportunity to go further if it wishes, without forcing it.

        Dyslexia at work beyond prejudice

        A person with dyslexia can achieve even the most “unrealistic” dreams. Of course, the path will be more winding, but the difficulties encountered are also part of the richness of dyslexia, of what it brings to the person with dyslexia and to those around him.

        Some people with dyslexia are brilliant scientists, others are business leaders (the founder of Virgin is dyslexic), others are artists (Andy Warhol) or actors. Many dyslexics are among us, and feel limited by their difference, by the way they understand it and how our society represents it.

        By going beyond prejudices, we allow people who are often stigmatized to have the right to dream and achieve their ambitions. People with dyslexia also provide our society with skills that we have overlooked for too long. We focus on what is not possible to do, while we can focus on actions that can be done in a different way.

        Gary Cohn’s story is inspiring.

        Young Gary was suffering from dyslexia and was permanently failing at school. A teacher went so far as to tell his parents that with luck he would become a truck driver.

        Gary Cohn became chairman of Goldman Sachs and then secretary of the US treasury. An incredible journey for a young boy with a disability. Or maybe not that much after all. For him, it is from his dyslexia that he draws his strength and his ability to always go further.

        “The common point that I have found in dyslexics that I know is our ability to face setbacks. We analyze most situations and focus much more on the positive side of the situation than on the negative side. I have thought about it a lot of times because it defines who I am. I won’t be where I am without my dyslexia. I would never have seized this first opportunity ”