A Day in the Life of an Employee With Dyslexia

By Tara Drinks
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Meet Lori, a junior marketing assistant who has dyslexia. Her challenges with reading and spelling affect almost every aspect of her day. Lori worries that others might not be able to see past her dyslexia to appreciate her creative, out-of-the-box thinking.

To see how dyslexia can impact employees in the workplace, take a look at a typical workday for Lori.

7:40 a.m.

Lori left for work early to give herself extra time to run through her presentation for the big client meeting this afternoon. As she waits for the train, she worries about how it will go: “Giving presentations is so stressful,” she thinks to herself. “I hope I won’t misspeak. And I hope the changes I made last night didn’t introduce any typos.”

While her stress levels are rising, Lori hears an announcement over the loudspeaker: Expect lengthy train delays. She scrambles to find a bus schedule but has a hard time reading and processing it under pressure.

She’s losing her extra time to prepare for the afternoon meeting. And to make things worse, her boss will be annoyed if she’s late for this morning’s meeting about the new software system.

Challenges related to dyslexia: 

  • Dealing with stress and anxiety
  • Finding the right word to say
  • Confusing similar-looking letters and numbers  

Ways employers can help: 

  • Use employee surveys to monitor stress levels. 
  • Schedule meetings at times that allow for commuting delays.

9:33 a.m.

Lori barely made it to the morning meeting. Afterwards, her manager hands her a folder about the new software system they discussed. The instructions are complicated. Lori tries to focus, but sitting in a loud open work space makes it even harder to get through all the written material. She puts the papers aside and searches for a video tutorial. The only one she can find has a lot of written notes on the screen. At least she can hit the “pause” button to give herself more time to take in the information.

Challenges related to dyslexia: 

  • Following complex instructions
  • Concentrating in a noisy work space
  • Reading at the same speed as others

Ways employers can help: 

  • Provide audio of written materials, or offer electronic versions of documents so employees can use text-to-speech technology.
  • Offer access to noise-canceling headphones or an option for a quiet work space.
  • When possible, break down assignments into sections. Provide suggestions and positive feedback after each one is completed.

11:19 a.m.

The team’s group chat is flowing quickly as they get ready to give their afternoon presentation. The use of informal spelling makes it even harder for Lori to read and respond to the barrage of messages: “OMG typo on p. 4--their not there! thank gawd we caught that. LOL. lori can u fix and reprint for leadership team asap?” Lori is still searching for the error when one of her colleagues gets annoyed: “lori, ur taking 2 long. ill do it 4 u.”

Challenges related to dyslexia: 

  • Spelling
  • Using certain social media (such as fast-paced instant messaging tools)

Ways employers can help: 

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2 p.m.

It’s time for Lori and her team to give their presentation. She knows it’s her job to take notes about what’s discussed during the Q&A session afterwards. But Lori has difficulty with writing. And she’s afraid to ask her team to assign this role to someone else. Lori doesn’t feel comfortable telling them why she writes so slowly and makes spelling mistakes. She’s also nervous that she won’t remember enough to go back and fill in the blanks after the meeting. 

Challenges related to dyslexia: 

  • Writing
  • Fear of being stigmatized 
  • Working memory

Ways employers can help: 

  • Provide a small tape recorder to use as a backup when taking notes. A voice recorder function on a phone can work as well.
  • Have multiple people take notes, and combine them after the meeting.
  • Create an environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing a disability. And make it easy for employees to find out who and how to ask for necessary accommodations.

4:55 p.m. 

It’s taking Lori a long time to transcribe her notes from the presentation. Her manager asked for them by 4 p.m. and now she’s late completing it. She’s dreading having to email her draft to the team.

Proofreading is really hard for her. She uses the spellcheck, but sometimes it can’t tell which word she’s trying to spell—or it autocorrects to the wrong word. And she’s worried that she’s missing words or punctuation.

Challenges related to dyslexia: 

  • Proofreading
  • Using standard spellchecking software

Ways employers can help: 

  • Help employees understand the features of common software that might already be provided to them—dictation functions, for example.
  • Offer additional software for employees who need it, like tools that check grammar and spelling. 

6:11 p.m. 

Lori is exhausted. She feels like she let her colleagues and her manager down today. Her team is heading out to dinner to celebrate their work on today’s presentation. But Lori doesn’t want to go. She has a hard time relaxing around her co-workers in general. And she’s nervous about their impatience with her earlier in the day. Lori makes up an excuse not to go—”I think I’m getting a migraine”—and heads home, hoping there aren’t any train delays.

Challenges related to dyslexia: 

  • Social skills
  • Self-esteem issues 

Ways employers can help: 

  • Offer access to stress-management resources, such as mindfulness apps.
  • Allow for short breaks to help employees decompress from stressful experiences.
  • Offer a variety of employee-bonding activities, like movie nights and community service projects.

About Dyslexia 

Dyslexia is a common learning disability that affects more than just reading and spelling. Anxiety and low self-esteem are common challenges people with dyslexia face. 

It’s important to know that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. And with the right support, employees can thrive at all levels in the workplace, whether they’re a junior assistant like Lori or the head of the company.

There are many ways your company can help employees with dyslexia. Free or low-cost resources and accommodations can increase job engagement and productivity. And the positive effects not only lead to a better work life for employees with dyslexia—they lead to a more inclusive culture for everyone. 

Here are some ways to help employees with dyslexia and other disabilities:

  • Communicate your company’s disability inclusion plan to employees at all levels.
  • Schedule regular check-in meetings between employee and manager. 
  • On top of asking what employees need to thrive in their job, ask what they’re most proud of in their work performance.