Dyspraxia in the Workplace
Help and guidance for job seekers and employees
Dyspraxia, or Developmental Co-ordination Disorder, is a recognised medical disorder, which impairs the organisation of movement. It is also associated with problems of language, perception and thought. It affects about 10 per cent of the population – 2 to 4 per cent seriously.
Many adults who have dyspraxia experience few problems in the workplace and have developed their own strategies for working effectively. They are often determined, persistent, hard working and highly motivated. In many ways adults with dyspraxia are similar to those with dyslexia. They are often creative and original thinkers as well as strategic problem solvers. However some people with dyspraxia find it hard to achieve their true potential and may need extra support at work.
People with dyspraxia may have difficulties when looking for work, or at work. These may include:
Choosing what job to do
- Having the confidence and organisation to apply for posts
- Operating computers
- Keyboard skills
- Using office equipment such as photocopiers and staplers
- Organising their workload
- Communication – such as following oral instructions and taking part in discussions
- Handwriting and general writing skills
- Memory and concentration
However, there are steps that both people with dyspraxia and their employers can take – to help them in seeking work or to make their working life better. This leaflet outlines some of those steps.
Job seekers – Planning for the world of work
Choosing a career is a difficult process for everybody. You need to be patient and flexible; and to keep your options open.
You can get extra support from your Special Needs Careers Advisors at your Local Careers Service, or your Disability Service Team at main Job Centres, where there will be a Disability Employment Advisor and sometimes an Employment Service Occupational Psychologist
Make a list of all available sources of information, such as the Internet, local and national newspapers, Job Centres and job agencies specialising in disabled people (see list at end)
- Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses
- Choose a field and/or type of job that fits with those strengths and weaknesses – and that you would enjoy. Consider your hobbies and the skills you have gained from them as potential leads into jobs
- Be prepared if necessary to take small steps at first towards achieving your goal. You may need to complete a course of study or training first
- Be realistic – if you are too ambitious you may be unsuccessful
- You may get the opportunity to do a job on a voluntary basis first. This can be very helpful
- Think about what adaptations you may need because of your co-ordination problems
- Only apply for posts that you really want. There is no point wasting time and money on applying for a job that is not suited to you
- Jobs that can be suited to those with dyspraxia include caring for the young and elderly, for people with learning difficulties and for animals
- It may be possible to turn hobbies into jobs – for example, photography or writing
- Of course, some people who have dyspraxia are very good at the jobs that can cause problems to others with dyspraxia, e.g. working with computers. We are all different!
Applying for a job
When you have planned, prepared and made your choice, the next step is to apply for a job.
- Prepare your typed CV. Get as much help as you can, for example, by getting someone to assist you in drafting your covering letter. In some cases, you will able to get somebody to hand-write the letter for you.
- Consider seeking help from your local Careers Service or Job Centre
- If possible, download the application form into your computer and type your answers. Otherwise, photocopy the application form and write it out in rough first, to ensure you send in a neat and well-presented form.
When you have planned, prepared and made your choice, the next step is to apply for a job.
- Ask somebody to give you a mock interview
- Make a list of likely questions that you will be asked
- Think of an interesting question you can ask about the company/work at the interview
- Plan your route to the interview in advance ñ perhaps even have a trial run to make sure that you arrive on time
- Choose the clothes you are going to wear for the interview well in advance. Do not wear anything brand-new. You need to be comfortable and smart.
Should you tell your potential employer about your dyspraxia?
Each personís circumstances are unique: only you will have an idea of how your dyspraxia is likely to affect your ability to do the job. If your dyspraxia is only mild, for example, it may not affect your ability to do that particular job. If you do disclose, however, do so in a positive way and point out your strengths.
The Disability Discrimination Act
The provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act cover those people whose ability to carry out normal day to day activities is adversely affected by a physical or mental impairment on a long-term basis. Under the terms of the Act, an employer must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled employees’ needs.
If you feel that your dyspraxia falls into the definition as described in the Act, it is best to let your employer know before you start the job that you may need extra support. Be prepared to educate your employer about dyspraxia, to ask for the support to which you are entitled – and be ready with information about dyspraxia. The Dyspraxia Foundation publishes a leaflet, Dyspraxia in the Workplace for Employers. (See at the end of this leaflet for details.)
Strategies at work
Time management: Before you start work, plan what you have to do that day and prioritise your tasks. Use visual aids such as mind maps, flow charts, and spider diagrams. Ask your employer to help you with planning and prioritising and at the same time make clear (tactfully!) that you would prefer them not to ‘hover over’ you and that you find being put under pressure difficult. Ask your employer to give you plenty of advance warning of deadlines.
Organisation: Organise your workload into urgent and non-urgent piles. Break down tasks and projects into manageable chunks. Think of large projects as a series of small tasks with a beginning and an end. Reward yourself when you have finished a task. Make sure that you take regular breaks to maximise your productivity and concentration.
Instructions: Write down instructions clearly and keep them for safe reference. Ask your employer to take time to clarify instructions if necessary. At meetings, use a tape recorder to help you to remember what you have to do.
Operating office machines: When you use a computer, make sure that you sit in comfortable position. It may be possible to use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Slowing down the mouse can help, as can using keyboard shortcuts, if you find the mouse particularly difficult to manipulate. Keep clear instructions on how to operate photocopiers, fax machines, printers etc. Pin the instructions up next to these machines – then they can serve as a memory jogger for other people too.
Written work: Use your word processor’s grammar- and spell-checks and consider asking someone to proof-read your work. If appropriate, ask for speech recognition software and proof-reading programs such as textHELP! Make use of templates. Your employer may be willing to send you on a course to improve your writing skills.
Coping with distraction: You could look into the possibility of flexi-time – coming in early or leaving late. A partition round your desk or wearing headphones can also help to reduce distractions.
Attitude: Try to be as calm and positive as possible. You might want to think about using basic mind and body relaxation exercises to help you to reduce your stress levels and thus improve your overall performance. Assertiveness training may help you to communicate more effectively at work. It is important to show your employer that you have many strengths; and that you want to do a good job and can achieve this, with the right support.
Disability Rights UK (Was RADAR)
12 City Forum
250 City Road
Telephone: 020 7250 3222
We now also have a variety of Help lines within Disability Rights UK that provide information on a variety of issues, please direct people to the following numbers as appropriate. All of our telephone helplines carry Advice Quality Standard accreditation.
Disabled Students Helpline
Equality Advisory Support Service
Independent Living Advice Line
Member Organisations Welfare Rights Advice Service
Tribunal Support Unit
Business Disability Forum (Was Employers’ Forum on Disability)
60 Gainsford Street
Telephone: 020 7403 3020
Information and advice
Training and events
Mind (National Association for Mental Health) – Tel: 020 8519 21122 (HQ)
Granta House, 14-19 Broadway, Stratford, E15 4BQ. May be able to help with supported employment. Visit their website at www.mind.org.uk
Shaw Trust – Tel: 01255 716350
Shaw House, Empson Square, Whitehorse Business Park, Trowbridge, Wilts.
Training and employment for disabled people. Visit their website at www.shaw-trust.org.uk
Dyspraxia Foundation – Helpline 01462 454986
8 West Alley, Hitchin, Herts, SG5 1EG
Adult Computer list email@example.com