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Eleanor Howes

Dyspraxia Foundation

General Manager

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A new workplace approach to dyspraxia

Image 3 Dyspraxia in the workplace

The Dyspraxia Foundation is the only charity dedicated solely to helping those living with dyspraxia; a condition that impacts on the lives of children and adults on a daily basis. The charity supports an adult group answering queries, producing factsheets, organising events and facilitating an adult Facebook page. A recent award from the Big Lottery Fund has enabled the charity to launch a dedicated helpline service on 01462 454986, Monday – Friday (9am-5pm) or by email [email protected].

Working with Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is generally recognised to be an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement and may have associated problems with language, perception and thought. It is estimated to affect between 5 – 10% of the population and it is therefore very likely that people who have dyspraxia will be working within many organisations and companies across the UK.

Adults with dyspraxia are often determined, hardworking and highly motivated. They develop their own strategies for working effectively. In many ways, people who have dyspraxia are similar to those who have dyslexia: they are often creative and original thinkers as well as strategic problem solvers.

However, there is little doubt (based on academic research and the anecdotal evidence we regularly hear from those who call our specialist helpline) that many adults with dyspraxia will experience prejudice in the workplace (in terms of responsibility given or eligibility for promotion etc) and that’s assuming they have actually been able to “navigate the maze” of successfully applying, and being appointed, for a job.

With these and other issues in mind, the Dyspraxia Foundation has developed guidelines to raise awareness amongst employers and to provide support to employees.

How can employers help?

  • Make sure instructions are concise and wherever possible provide timetables, mnemonics and mind maps as these help people with dyspraxia to prioritise their work and meet deadlines. They should be encouraged to write instructions down clearly and to keep them for easy reference.
  • Employees who have dyspraxia respond well to routines. They benefit from provision of a structured timetable and the opportunity for training in time-management. Have a clock in view and encourage awareness of time.
  • People with dyspraxia should be encouraged to break down their work into manageable chunks and to use different coloured folders for different tasks to help with organisation. Allowing regular breaks can improve productivity.
  • Almost all office IT packages now have grammar and spell checks can be of great use, as can speech recognition and proof reading programmes. Templates can be used for detailed work such as reports and provide a framework for writing.
  • The person’s position at the work station / computer should also be taken into account. Ergonomics keyboards can be of great benefit to all employees as can changing or slowing down the mouse. Keyboard short cuts can also be used as an alternative to the mouse.
  • If employees with dyspraxia use machines such as fax machines and photocopiers, keep a list of the operating procedures nearby. This is helpful for all employees.
  • It may be possible to arrange for employees with dyspraxia to come in early or to stay late, to reduce distraction. Perhaps they can have a partition around their desk, own room or allow them to wear earphones to reduce distractions.
  • Encourage your workers who have dyspraxia to approach tasks in a calm and positive manner.
  • If affected by the glare of black text on white paper, the employee  may wish to use a coloured overlay when reading documents or change the background colour of his screen
  • Listening to music through headphones can create a “personal space” and help with focus
  • Provide frequent, regularly scheduled breaks and encourage the individual to take some fresh air (exercise, Yoga, T’ai-Chi or a short walk may be helpful)

Above all, employers need to ensure that their employees with dyspraxia have the opportunity to develop their strengths and are given appropriate support to minimise the impact of their symptoms. 

By definition people with dyspraxia may have a specific area of difficulty, therefore they also have strengths and these areas provide the productive opportunity to exploit the hidden asset. Many have good auditory skills such as an ability to learn languages, music, produce creative writing or poetry; traits shown by actor Daniel Radcliffe and singer & songwriter, Florence Welch, both of whom have dyspraxia.

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Eleanor Howes

General Manager

Read more from Eleanor Howes
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