Dyslexia in adults and Career Opportunities

Dr. Gilda Palti
Dyslexia is generally perceived as an educational problem, affecting the individual’s ability to learn to read, write and spell. It is mainly viewed as a childhood disorder. However, dyslexia continues throughout life, and dyslexic individuals continue to experience problems in living, learning and working. There are also a large number of undiagnosed adult dyslexics who face problems of life adjustment without knowing that they are bright enough to achieve. It is common for dyslexic adults to be faced with emotional and social difficulties, which make success harder to achieve. 
As a direct consequence of cognitive inefficiencies a dyslexic individual will have more difficulty acquiring certain skills than a non-dyslexic individual of similar intelligence. Most notably, dyslexic individuals take longer to develop literacy skills and expend more time and energy in the process, than non-dyslexic individuals. They have difficulties with remembering facts, figures, sequences of instructions, messages and names. Many dyslexic individuals lack organisational skills. Because of poor concept of time, they are frequently late for meetings and appointments. They can also have trouble following and keeping track of what is said in a conversation, lecture or interview (primary symptoms).
In addition to the above primary symptoms and as a consequence, dyslexic individuals may develop some secondary symptoms, such as low self-esteem, lack of confidence, negativity and poor motivation. These problems can, in turn, lead to isolation, stress disorders and depression, and affect the dyslexic individual’s life in general and working opportunities in particular. 
To enable a dyslexic adult achieve his potential, it is first necessary to administer a full psychological and occupational assessment. Formal diagnosis of dyslexia involves psychological testing, careful observation and clinical judgement. It should be carried out by a psychologist specialised in this area because it requires the interpretation of tests that are available only to qualified psychologists, as well as the exercise of judgements that require psychological understanding and knowledge.
The issues that are involved in the occupational counselling of dyslexic people include some that are specifically related to dyslexia, and others which are applicable to career counselling generally. Many dyslexic individuals may have decided to avoid certain areas of work, or focused on certain occupations, as a result of their dyslexia. Often such decisions are based on assumptions that are not well founded in fact. Thus, in carrying out occupational counselling of dyslexic individuals, it is important to take into account expressed preferences for certain types of jobs, knowledge of their interests, skills, abilities and experience. Efficient use of this information can result in a successful match between job and the individual’s knowledge, skills and abilities which might otherwise have been missed.
Essentially, dyslexic individuals should pursue occupations and careers for which they are appropriately equipped in terms of their abilities, aptitudes and interests. Helping dyslexic individuals to identify their abilities and to understand their inefficiencies is an important aspect of vocational guidance work, particularly when dealing with those who have reached a transition point in their life. 
It is important to make dyslexic individuals aware of the difficulties that might arise as a consequence of their condition and to provide advice on how they could overcome them. Further, it is important to make them aware of the possibility of their dyslexia adding to normal occupational stress and fatigue. 
An efficient career guidance to dyslexic adults may involve the application of Yost and Corbishley’s (1987) decision-making model and the use of the information obtained from the formal assessment of the individual’s cognitive profile. Thus the following steps may serve as a guideline:
  • Initial assessment: Cognitive, Educational and Occupational.
  • Self-understanding: How the individual’s dyslexia affects his career opportunities
  • Making sense of obtained data: Finding strengths and weaknesses.
  • Generating Alternatives: Using the reference to the jobs identified in occupational tests.
  • Making a choice.
  • Making plans
  • Implementing plans: Organising an action plan. 
In addition to the above, for successful adaptation, coping strategies should be taught and developed. These skills could best be developed in individual or small group sessions.
The purpose of this intervention model is to help the dyslexic adult make the best career choice, while making efficient use of all the information obtained from the occupational and psychological assessments. 
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