About 10% of the population has some form of dyslexia (Hopkins 2016).
It usually affects someone’s ability to read, spell and decode words by mixing up letters and numbers.
People with dyslexia often excel at tasks involving visual thinking, spotting patterns and the connections between them, learning through storytelling, and reasoning in complex and changing environments.
The term ‘dyslexia’ was first used in 1887 by Rudolf Berlin, a Stuttgart ophthalmologist although dyslexia was first identified in 1881 by the German physician Oswald Berkhan. The word dyslexia is from the German dyslexie, derived from the Greek dys (bad) and lexis (word).
Dyslexia is not a disease and is a generally classified as a reading disorder affecting an individual’s reading and spelling abilities but is not related to intelligence or the ability to learn. There are numerous talented, creative and recognised individuals with dyslexia in all fields of professional life. That said, dyslexia can affect a person’s ability to progress professionally if initially employed for administrative tasks relying on written or computer-based activities and where not supported or recognised as having dyslexia.
Dyslexia is believed to be caused be genetic and environmental factors and is hereditary in some cases. Dyslexia can be found in all cultures despite differences in writing systems and is not limited to alphabetic, letter-based languages (Paterson and Pennington 2012). There is also neurological evidence that dyslexia is associated with dysfunction of the brain’s left hemisphere language networks and implies abnormal white matter development (Paterson and Pennington 2012).
Although dyslexia affects approximately 10% of the population, 4% are affected severely. Dyslexia is the most common of the specific learning difficulties which includes dyspraxia, dyscalculia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and these conditions often overlap. In total, the specific learning difficulties affect approximately 15% of the population to some degree (Dyslexia in the Workplace 2018) and equally affects men and women. It is estimated 30% of children with dyslexia also have ADHD (International Dyslexia Association 2017) and approximately 25% of children with ADHD have dyslexia (Bates n.d.).
Common general characteristics of adults with dyslexia may include the following and can vary from one day to the next and be situation dependant (abridged from LoGuidice 2008):
- Highly intuitive and good at judging the personalities of others
- May have a heightened sense of other people’s emotions and energy
- Frequently have dyslexic children
- Easily distracted/annoyed by noises and other things in environment
- Enjoys video games
- Misspeaks, misuses, or mispronounces words without realising
- May have poor balance or is/was very athletic
- May have excellent recall of experienced events or not remember at all
- May confuse past conversations or be accused of ‘not listening’
- Difficulty remembering names of people without tricks, but remembers faces
- Difficulty remembering verbal instructions or directions
- Poor recall of conversations or sequence of events
- Easily stresses and overwhelmed in certain situations
- Often self-conscious when speaking in a group and may have difficulty getting thoughts out (pause frequently, speak in halting phrases, or leave sentences incomplete which may worsen with stress or distraction)
- Gets lost easily or never forgets a place they’ve been
- Difficulty reading maps
- Extremely disorderly or compulsively orderly
- Confusion, stress, physical health issues, time pressure, and fatigue will significantly increase symptoms
Common career characteristics of adults with dyslexia may include the following (abridged from LoGuidice 2008):
- Employed in job / position that will hide difficulties or not require dealing with problematic areas
- Hides difficulties from co-workers, friends and even family
- Becomes frustrated in ‘planning meetings’ and sequential tasks (already has the answer and how to do it)
- Becomes frustrated or overwhelmed with long forms or sequential processes
- Thrives in careers where visual-spatial / kinaesthetic talents can be realized: For example – Entrepreneurs, engineers, trades, artisans, interior decorating, actors, musicians, police / investigation, athletes and business executives (usually with support staff / assistants)
- May pass up promotions or advancement opportunities that would require more administrative work
- Has difficulty focusing and staying on task (may feel more comfortable managing many different tasks simultaneously)
- Have difficulty with tests (passing standardised tests can be a barrier to career advancement)
- Highly successful / over achiever or considered ‘not working up to potential’. Either way, displays extreme work ethic
- May be a perfectionist and overreact when they make a mistake
- Out-of-the-box thinker or operates with very strict rules for themselves
- Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation and visual aids
Hopkins, C 2016, What you need to know about dyslexia in the workplace, HRM, viewed on 5 August 2019, <https://www.hrmonline.com.au/section/featured/dyslexia-in-the-workplace/>.
International Dyslexia Association 2017, Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and Dyslexia, International Dyslexia Association, viewed 11 September 2019, <https://dyslexiaida.org/attention-deficithyperactivity-disorder-adhd-and-dyslexia/>.
LoGuidice, K 2008, Common Characteristics of Adult Dyslexia, Davis Dyslexia Association International, viewed 11 September 2019, <https://www.dyslexia.com/about-dyslexia/signs-of-dyslexia/common-characteristics-of-adult-dyslexia/>.
Dyslexia in the Workplace 2018, Fit for Work, viewed 11 September 2019, <https://support.fitforwork.org/app/answers/detail/a_id/284/related/1>.
Bates, M n.d., Dyslexia Statistics and Myth Busting, Inspirational, Fun Facts, viewed The Reading Well, 11 September 2019, <https://www.dyslexia-reading-well.com/dyslexia-statistics.html >.
Paterson, R and Pennington, B 2012, Seminar: Developmental Dyslexia, viewed 7 September 2019, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3465717/>.