Learning Disabilities & the Workplace Jenna Knight January 25, 2012
What is a Learning DisabilityA learning disability is one of a group of neurological disorders that affect the brain’sability to receive, process, store, and respond to information. Learning disabilities canaffect a person’s ability in the areas of listening, speaking, reading, writing, andmathematics.
Types of Learning DisabilitiesDyslexia• Reads slowly and painfully; reads below the expected level• Has trouble with spelling• May have difficulty with handwriting• Exhibits difficulty recalling known words; has poor memory skills• May also experience difficulty with math computations• Has difficulty organizing and managing timeDyspraxia• Trouble with speech control – volume, pitch, and articulation. This can cause severe social awkwardness and unwillingness to attempt social interactions.• Extreme sensitivity to light, touch, space, taste, smells• Very clumsy, poor coordination
Types of Learning DisabilitiesDyscalculia• Has difficulty learning math concepts beyond the basic math facts• Has poor ability to budget or balance a checkbook, make change, handle money• Has difficulty sequencing information or events• Has trouble with time concepts such as sticking to a schedule or estimating time• Has difficulty understanding concepts related to time such as days, weeks, months, seasons, quarters, etc.• Has difficulty estimating costs like groceries or billsDysgraphia• Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated verbally• Inconsistent spacing between words and letters• Exhibits strange wrist, body or paper position• Has difficulty organizing thoughts on paper• Has trouble keeping track of thoughts already written down• Has great difficulty thinking and writing at the same time (taking notes, creative writing.
Strengths & Challenges in the WorkplaceChallenges• Inefficiency• Problems Learning a Sequence of Tasks• High Error Rate with Tasks Involving Academic Skills• Time Management• Poor Self Esteem:Strengths• Determination• Creativity• Specialized Talents
Keys to Success1. A powerful desire to succeed2. A clear sense of goal orientation3. Reframing the LD experience: accepting the disability, understanding their strengths and weakness and taking action towards that goal4. Learned creativity – unique indiduvals ways to accomplish compensate strategies for the weakness5. A social network that provides support rather than encouraging dependence
Common Misconceptions – Preventing Job Advancement1. I don’t deserve to be promoted I should be grateful to have a job2. People don’t like me, maybe Im just unlikeable3. I cant get another job I am just stuck here
Effective Job Search1. Assess your strengths2. Note Patterns3. Read and Learn4. Talk & Clarify5. Observe and Fine tune6. Assess Needed Support Systems7. Prepare to close the deal8. Use the honeymoon Period9. Plan periodic sessions
Choosing the Right Job1. The job2. Personality of the direct supervisor3. Personality of your co-workers4. Environment5. Company Values
Employment Assistance for People with Disabilities1. Vocational Rehabilitation2. Easter Seals3. Goodwill Industries
Self-Advocacy in the Workplace1. Familiarize your self with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehab Act2. Get help determining what accommodations, strategies, and technology will help you3. Indentify who you will discuss your needs with in the workplace4. Know what you want, and how you are going to ask before you begin a first conversation.5. Update & Reevaluate
Learning Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act• The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet (EEOC, 1992). Therefore, some people with learning disabilities will have a disability under the ADA and some will not.• A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment (EEOC, 1992). To be a disability covered by the ADA, the impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities. These are activities that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty. Examples are: walking, seeing, speaking, hearing, breathing, learning, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, and working. These are examples only. Other activities such as sitting, standing, lifting, or reading are also major life activities (EEOC, 1992).
DisclosureDisclosure refers to telling a supervisor, coworker or others about your disability.Disclosure is one of the most difficult decisions youcan make. It’s a personal decision that requires a lotof thought and planning. You need to carefully planhow you wish to disclose and think about thepossible implications this action has for everyoneinvolved
DisclosureWhen should you disclose?Though there is certainly no one “right” time and place to disclose, it is willdepend on the individual situation. When you decided to disclose your learningdisability to your employer, there maybe settings and circumstances .Before the interviewIf you are going to need an accommodation for the interview , you must tellthe employer. For example, if you have a learning disability and you know thatthere is a test that is given during the interview, you might request that youtake the test in a quiet area.
DisclosureDuring the InterviewTalking to the employer about your disability at the interview will let themknow what supports and services you need to do the job. Make sure you talkabout your skills and give examples of what you will need to do the job.After you have been offered the jobIf you need an accommodation to do the job you are offered you will need totell the employerWhile you are workingNow that you are working at the job, you may need an accommodation. Inorder for the employer to give you the accommodation, you will need todisclose.
Advantages of DisclosureSome of the advantages of disclosure are:• It reduces stress. Many people say that it is more stressful trying to hide their disability than it is to tell.• It makes it easier to talk about the accommodations you may need.• You don’t have to worry that someone you used to work for, or a reference will tell that you have a disability.• You will be able to talk to your employer if you have any changes in your situation.
Disadvantage of DisclosureDisadvantages of disclosing are:• You could be treated differently.• It could cause you to be overlooked for a promotion.• Co-workers could ask you questions about your disability.• You could be excluded from activities.• You could worry about bad experiences that happened in the past happening again, such as losing a job or negative reactions from your co-workers.• It can be difficult and sometimes embarrassing.
What is an AccommodationsAn accommodation is essentially any strategy that gets rid of or lessens theeffect of a specific barrier. Accommodations are used to help individuals withdisabilities learn or demonstrate what they have learned, and to workindependently & efficiently as possible.Accommodations are NOT intended to justify or compensate for the lack ofknowledge, skills or abilities necessary to succeed. Whenever possible,accommodations should be based on the use and further development ofExisting skills and capabilities
Types of AccommodationsReading• Reading from a paper copy:• Convert text to audio• Provide larger print• Double space the text on print material• Use color overlays (Irlen lenses) to help make the text easier to read• Provide materials that are type-written, in a font that is not italicized; if handwritten material must be provided, use print, not cursive• Have someone read the document aloud to the individual• Scan the documents into a computer and use Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which will read the information aloud• Use a reading pen, which is a portable device that scans a word and provides auditory feedback
Accommodations ContinuedSpelling• Allow use of reference materials such as dictionary or thesaurus• Provide electronic and talking dictionaries• Use word prediction software that displays a list of words that typically follow the word that was entered• in a document• Use word completion software that displays sample words after someone starts typing part of a word• Allow buddy, coworker, or supervisor to proofread written material
AccommodationsOrganizational Skills• Help employee reduce clutter in work area• Hire a professional organizer• Use color-code system to label or identify materials• Use calendars (paper, electronic, or both) to remind of deadlines, meetings, upcoming tasks• Build organization skills by attending time management workshops, like those offered by Franklin Covey• Build organization skills through self-education at sites like mindtools.com
Situations and Solutions• A teacher with a learning disability had difficulty spelling words correctly on the chalkboard. The employer provided an overhead projector with plenty of blank overhead sheets. The teacher wrote words, phrases, ors sentences on the overhead sheets then let a fellow teacher check for accuracy. Now the teacher can forgo using the chalkboard; instead the teacher can display information from the projector.• A researcher in a technology company had expressive writing disorder. The employees job tasks included gathering information for written reports. To accommodate this employee, Inspiration software was provided to help the employee organize, prioritize, and then outline the information for reports. The employer also provided a hard copy dictionary and thesaurus.
Discrimination• If you believe you have been discriminated against by an employer, labor union or employment agency when applying for a job or while on the job because of your race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, or believe that you have been discriminated against because of opposing a prohibited practice or participating in an equal employment opportunity matter, you may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Charges may be filed in person, by mail or by telephone by contacting the nearest EEOC office.• For more detailed information or to locate the EEOC office nearest you, contact the EEOC at 800-669-4000 or visit the EEOC website http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html
BibliographyJob Discrimination -http://www.help4adhd.org/en/systems/legal/discriminationFacilitator Notes: Learning Disabilities, Center for Continuing Education InRehabilitation, University of Washingtonhttp://www.ccer.org/_public/site/files/30min/LD%20Facilitator%20version.pdfTen Job Hunting Tips for the Unfocusedhttp://excelle.monster.com/benefits/articles/2265-10-job-hunting-tips-for-the-unfocusedAccommodations & Compliance Series: Employees with Learning DisabilitiesCornell University, ILR SchoolDisclosure Fact Sheet, Work Matters, Maryland Department of Disabilitieshttp://www.mdod.maryland.gov/News%20and%20Publications.aspx?id=1974Self-Advocacy in the Workplace, Learning Disability Association of America, 2004https://ldaamerica.ixwebhosting.com/aboutld/adults/workplace/print_self-advocacy.aspAccommodation & Compliance Series: Employees with Learning Disabilities, Job AccommodationNetwork, February 3, 2010http://askjan.org/media/lear.htm