Help and guidance for job seekers and employees
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Dyspraxia in the Workplace
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 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 in 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 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 be 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 to 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 and 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 person’s 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.
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 a 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 proofread your work. If appropriate, ask for speech recognition software and proofreading 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 around 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
12 City Forum, 250 City Road, London, EC1V 8AF
Call: 020 7250 3222
Business Disability Forum
(Was Employers’ Forum on Disability)
Nutmeg House, 60 Gainsford Street, London SE1 2NY
Call: 020 7403 3020
National Association for Mental Health
Granta House, 14-19 Broadway, Stratford, E15 4BQ.
May be able to help with supported employment.
Call: 020 8519 2112 (HQ)
Shaw House, Empson Square, Whitehorse Business Park, Trowbridge, Wilts.
Training and employment for disabled people.
Call: 01255 716350
Access to work
What is Access to Work?
Access to Work (AtW) is a government scheme to help provide effective adjustments to workplaces so that they are more effective for individuals who have disabilities. The scheme is run by Jobcentre Plus part of the Department of Work and Pensions.
The help can include equipment, training, skills coaching, staff awareness training, help with travel to and from work, and even additional support from another person at work. If you know what would help you that could be provided after discussion, but most people have a workplace assessment from a specialist to advise what might work best.
The assessment and advice are free and there is often a further grant to help pay for adjustments. The grants are graded based on the size of the business and how long the individual has been in the job. It is good to get an application in as soon as you start a new job.
AtW does not replace the normal responsibilities of the employer to implement Health and Safety regulations or replace the responsibilities required by the Disability provisions of the Equality Act.
For further details see https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work
The Equality Act (2010)
The Equality Act brought together legislation regarding racial discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination and importantly for people with dyspraxia disability discrimination (DDA 1995). It uses the term “protected characteristic” to distinguish those who have additional rights under this legislation. The important area for people with dyspraxia is the “disability” characteristic. Many people with dyspraxia prefer to use the words difference or diversity rather than the sometimes-negative view of disability, but in the law matching the definition is important.
The disability provisions of the Equality Act cover those people whose ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities is substantially adversely affected by a physical or mental impairment on a long-term basis. Although there is often some question if individuals meet this definition, the Dyspraxia Foundation considers people with a formal diagnosis are most likely to do so. At the same time, a formal diagnosis is not essential as the act considers how people are affected on a daily basis and the difficulty they have rather than the cause.
The Act covers several areas of potential discrimination for all the protected characteristics. The disability provisions add the requirement to make reasonable adjustments for people. Adjustments are expected in education, service provision and employment.
Under the terms of the Act, an employer must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled employees’ needs, where their disability brings a substantial disadvantage.
If you feel that your dyspraxia falls into the definition as described in the Act, it is best to let your employer know 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 to explain what helps you. The Dyspraxia Foundation publishes a number of resources to help with that communication and may be able to provide training. If you are unsure of what might help then it may be useful to obtain a workplace assessment to provide ideas.
External links Equality Act https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance
More on Reasonable adjustments https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/multipage-guide/employment-workplace-adjustments