What are Learning Disabilities?
Learning disabilities (LDs) are a number of neurological disorders that affect information acquisition, organization, retention and understanding. Those who have LDs may have difficulties in one or more areas including reading, writing, speaking, memory, reasoning and mathematics. Since LDs are invisible, it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. It is important to recognize that learning disabilities are not synonymous with low intelligence, or lack of motivation.
Challenges of Learning Disabilities
There is a common misconception that LDs only occurs in children who will “grow out of it” when they become adults. LDs can occur at any point across the lifespan and are often lifelong. Those who are undiagnosed as children will go on to develop skills differently in adulthood. Many adults attempt to hide their LD by “faking it”, but this can create feelings of inauthenticity, inadequacy and perpetuate fears of failure. Some adults are unaware that they even have an LD and can be confused as to why they struggle with things uncommon amongst their peers. Learning disabilities can impact many aspects of adult life, including academics, stress, social relationships, emotional well-being. However, this article will be focused on its implications in the workplace.
Learning Disabilities at Work
When it comes to employment, a person with an LD can have a difficult time finding a job and keeping it. Impaired social skills can make networking difficult. Even filling out an application could be a challenge for someone who struggles with reading and writing. Poor organization and time-management skills can impair job performance. For those who are undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to roadblocks for career advancement. Learning disabilities are very individualized, thus the consequences and challenges are unique. Factors to consider include the individual, their job role, and job responsibilities.
The Importance of Disclosure
In those adults diagnosed with an LD, the biggest challenge is lack of disclosure. Most of those with LD choose to not disclose in their workplace for a number of reasons. Some feel that their LD has no effect on their work. Many feel that they will be discriminated against or face stigma from their employers and colleagues. They feel inadequate to their peers, and that their LD would jeopardize their employment. Remember, it is completely your choice whether or not to disclose your LD at work. However, it does make it easier to communicate with your employer and request workplace accommodation. Even if you make the choice not to disclose your LD, you can still benefit from working with a therapist.
Assessment, Management and Accommodation
If an LD is appropriately assessed and managed, it can set a person up for success. By focusing on strengths and finding ways to work around difficulties, individuals with LD can perform at their full potential. Those with an LD can possess unique positive strengths. Some of these include creativity, resourcefulness, adaptability, empathy and skills equal or better in non-disability areas. To address LD-related difficulties, it is important to get a professional assessment and commit to therapeutic intervention. By working with a therapist, a person can better manage their LD. They will be able to assess your needs, teach coping skills and explore possible workplace accommodation. The accommodation(s) allows those with an LD to perform their best at work.
Whenever possible, those with LD should consider working in a role that emphasizes their strengths and limits their weaknesses. With that being said, there can be aspects that are challenging. There are many accommodation options available based on your needs. An example is compensation strategies. These strategies work with your strength. For example, if you struggle with reading, you can use your listening skill instead. You may opt to listen to an audiobook or use assistive technology to read out loud for you. Assistive technologies are tools, programs or devices that can help with reading, writing, spelling, organization and/or math. Some other examples of accommodations can include changes in the working environment, flexible hours, longer timelines, eliminating non-essential tasks.
You can learn more about the different types of accommodations by referring to this article.
Learning disabilities are disorders that can affect reading, writing, speaking, memory, reasoning and mathematics
Learning disabilities is not lower intelligence or lack of motivation
Learning disabilities do not only occur in childhood. LDs can emerge and affect individuals throughout the lifespan.
Learning disabilities can create significant issues in the workplace.
Assessment, support and accommodation in the workplace are essential.
When addressed and managed those with disabilities can be successful and perform to their best ability.
Do you or someone you know, struggle with a learning disability? Have you noticed it affecting your work? Are you not sure if workplace accommodations can help? Do not hesitate to reach out. We are always here to support you.
Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC)
Learning Disability Association Alberta - Calgary Resources