Sadly, 'playing the dyslexia card' is a term I've heard on countless occasions in my work supporting adults with learning differences ...... and regardless of how many times I hear it, it still shocks me. I always wonder what the person really knows about dyslexia to make them react in this way towards someone who may be having a really difficult time coping with their day to day tasks. I would like to think that if they really knew how it can affect people's lives they would think twice about using such a cruel and insensitive term.
Sadly, once again today I've heard this term used and this has 'sparked' the writing of this post.
If someone suddenly says they think they may be dyslexic it should be taken seriously. Just because a person has been seen to cope OK in the past it doesn't necessarily mean they have 'come up with' being dyslexic to cover themselves for poor performance.
Managers and colleagues who do not understand dyslexia and the associated learning challenges may indeed see the individual as 'slacking' and using dyslexia as an excuse. However, in my experience, this unfortunate term tends to be used by those who are blinkered in their thinking and really have no idea what dyslexia actually is.
Contrary to what many people may think dyslexia is not simply about difficulties with reading & writing. It can affect these individuals in almost everything they do, day to day, throughout their lives. The dyslexic individual may not actually know how it affects them as this is simply part of who they are. For many people the first sign of them actually experiencing dyslexia associated challenges (or to put it more plainly, having a learning difference) is when they have changes to their job role, their work processes or a change in management. These types of changes put additional demands on short term memory and working memory (which are common problem areas for those with Specific Learning Differences) resulting in them having to put in more time and effort to try to stay 'on top' of their workload. Sadly, without specialist guidance and support from their organisations in acquiring this, individuals can feel increasingly anxious and for many stress is the outcome.
Regardless of whether a manager or colleague is empathetic or not (which one would hope they would be) organisations should definitely take the matter seriously. A few simple adjustments can make a world of difference and in many cases individuals who receive appropriate support and guidance go on to lead very successful and rewarding lives. Raising awareness of dyslexia and other learning differences is increasingly being seen as a priority by those businesses who want to tap into the recognized advantages associated with being more accessible organisations.
In the UK dyslexia is considered to be a 'protected characteristic' under the Equality Act 2010. Which means that if organisations fail to consider dyslexia as a cause of performance problems and do not put in place 'reasonable adjustments' they could be in serious trouble. (Using this 'pointed stick' example is of course not the ideal ....but for some organisations this will be the only way they will change their actions).
Dyslexia affects around 15% of the population overall. Dyslexia does not discriminate, it can be present in any family. It has no bearing on a person's overall ability, gender, ethnicity or language. Low self esteem and confidence issues are common challenges for those with learning differences ........and for many this will have come from less than positive past experiences in education or in the workplace.
People who are supposedly 'playing the dyslexia card' can be at any level in an organisation. Having worked with people employed at all levels (and those running their own businesses) across all sectors, I know that people everywhere and anywhere are at risk of being stereotyped in this way.
Raising awareness of dyslexia and guiding people to understand and embrace learning differences (and neurodiversity) overall is so important. Just as we are all individuals with our own unique qualities, the same can be said of our brains and the sooner we appreciate this the better it will be.
Please share this if you feel it will be useful in raising awareness of learning difference in the workplace and help get rid of the 'dyslexia card' once and for all.