Champions Career Centre: Win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet! Champions Career Centre: Borderline Personality Disorder in the Workplace Champions Career Centre: Disability Focus: Borderline Personality Disorder Champions Career Centre: Successfully Navigating Life's Twists and Turns Champions Career Centre: Invisible Illness Awareness Week Champions Career Centre: How Are Peer Support Groups Helpful? Champions Career Centre: Alberta Labour Market Snapshot: August Champions Career Centre: Champions TV Ad: Redefining Ability in the Workplace Champions Career Centre: Learning Disabilities: Dyscalculia Champions Career Centre: Dyslexia in the Workplace Champions Career Centre: Learning Disability: Dyslexia Champions Career Centre: Myths about Learning Disabilities

Etiquette for Interviewing a Person With a Disability

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We are often contacted by employers who would like more information about best practices for hiring people with disabilities. Many times, employers would like to know what is acceptable or unacceptable when interviewing someone with a disability. Knowing what is appropriate during the interview process will make the meeting much more comfortable and will also allow the applicant's ability and positive attributes to shine through.

Here are some do's and don'ts for interviewing people with disabilities:


Offer your hand for a handshake, even if the person has quadriplegia. If the person does not have a right hand or the right hand hangs limp, offer your left hand.

Smile and look directly at the interviewee when addressing him or her.

Introduce yourself by name and position to someone who is blind. 

If the person has a speech or learning disability ask him or her about the best way to communicate. This will help increase the person's comfort level and likelihood they will let you know what accommodations are needed.

Even if the person is accompanied by a helper or interpreter, speak directly to the interviewee.

It is okay to speak loudly to someone who is hard of hearing. If necessary, it is okay to use another form of communication. It is also okay to tap the shoulder of someone who is deaf to get their attention.

If you're in a long conversation with a person in a wheelchair it is okay to lower yourself to eye level.

Ask all applicants if they can do the key elements of the job. Don't single out a person with a disability for a task that isn't essential to the job. For example, asking them if they can lift 25 pound boxes when they are applying for an admin position. 


Don't assume that the person with a disability needs assistance.  However, if you think he or she might, ask whether you can be of assistance.  If the answer is yes, ask how.

Don't avoid certain questions because you assume that the applicant is sensitive or fragile.

Don't ask the individual how he or she came to have the disability.

Don't ask the attendant of the person with the disability, “What did she say?”

Don't pet a service dog, they are working and you may distract them. 

Don't introduce a person by their disability, such as "our deaf applicant".  Recognize the individual first rather than defining them by their disability. Emphasize the person over the disability. For example, referring to someone as a "man who is blind" rather than a "blind man". 

Don't ask how a disability came about.

Don't lean on a person's wheelchair while having a conversation with them.

Don't pretend to understand what someone has said if you can't make it out. Politely, ask them to repeat themselves or use notes if oral communication is difficult.

Win a Google Nexus 7 Tablet!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On October 2nd of this year Champions will be celebrating our 12th anniversary. We wanted to show our thanks to all of our clients, supporters, and community and employer partners by holding a contest to reward some lucky winner with a new Google Nexus 7 tablet! Good luck and thank you for joining us in shifting perceptions of disabilities in the workplace over the last 12 years.

Ways to enter:

1. Like us on Facebook.
This is a simple one, just visit our Facebook page and give us a 'Like'. We use our Facebook page to discuss issues surrounding disability and employment - 'Like' us and join the conversation! 

2. Sign up for our monthly newsletter.
Every month we send out an electronic newsletter which highlights Champions news, client success stories, disability awareness and career advice. Signing up for our newsletter is an excellent way to stay in touch with everything we are doing here at Champions.

3. Attend our Open House.
We are hosting an Open House on October 2nd to celebrate our anniversary and to allow you to meet our staff, view our business centre, computer lab and learn about how Champions can help you find the right job or succeed in your current role. All guests who attend our Open House will be entered in the final draw for the tablet.

Multiple entries are allowed. For example, if you Like us on Facebook and sign up for our monthly newsletter you will be entered twice. Maximize your chances of winning by entering the contest all three ways! People who are already subscribed to our Facebook Page or newsletter will automatically be entered.

The contest closes on October 2nd and the winner will be notified the following day.

Learn about the Google Nexus 7 tablet:
With a stunning 7" display, powerful quad-core processor and all day battery life, Nexus 7 was built to bring you the best of Google in a slim, portable package that fits perfectly in your hand.

Accessibility features built in to the Nexus 7 tablet: 
Settings demonstrated include Large text, Auto-rotate screen (landscape/portrait orientations), Enhance web accessibility for using TalkBack with Chrome web browser, TalkBack's Display speech output feature under TalkBack developer settings, and the Explore by touch tutorial.

Borderline Personality Disorder in the Workplace

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Previously, we discussed borderline personality disorder (BPD) and the symptoms and behaviours frequently associated with it. However, we left that part of the discussion to general terms and didn't get into how borderline personality disorder might manifest itself in the workplace.
As people with BPD often experience turbulence in their personal relationships and are prone to impulsive behaviour, there can be significant ramifications for them while they are at work. The characteristics of the disorder, such as emotional outbursts, inappropriate anger, dramatic mood swings and anxiety, can all reveal themselves frequently in the workplace. As many workplaces tend to be stressful, or at least stress inducing, there can be a tendency to overlook the symptoms of borderline personality disorder and associate them to stress. Instead of addressing the disorder, co-workers may choose to tread lightly around a person with BPD, feeling they may provoke them or set them off. Their outbursts may be frustrating to understand as people with BPD tend to be very productive, intelligent and creative when their episodes aren't rocking the workplace.

For employers, building healthy workplaces requires a better understanding of borderline personality disorder (and mental health conditions in general) alongside a knowledge of what accommodations can be used to help an employee with BPD succeed. For a person living with BPD, knowing ways to talk about your condition and how best to accommodate yourself can go a long way in demonstrating to your employer you know what it takes to make yourself successful in the workplace. Remember that every person in a workplace has weaknesses and issues, learning how to accommodate each person is something we do all the time to ensure we are all performing at our best every day.

Here are a few quick tips to creating a work environment where a person with BPD can succeed:

1. Set consistent expectations.
Clear and concise expectations will allow a person with BPD to know exactly what is required of them and not be blind sided by unstated goals or objectives. Providing consistent support alongside these clear expectations will also help to minimize feelings of real or imagined abandonment.

2. Coach, don't regulate.
Many workplaces use policies to moderate how employees interact with each other. For example, at Champions we use a model which emphasizes warm and firm communication to build respect among employees. However, for a person with BPD, complying or understanding these policies can be extremely difficult. Dealing with an outburst of anger from a person with BPD should be looked at as an opportunity to coach and mentor, and not simply a time to reprimand. Discuss problems specifically with clear ideas for improvement, this will prevent these discussions from deteriorating into arguments.

3. Focus on behaviour, not identity.
When discussing goal achievement, focus on what has been completed and not on the identity of the person who is doing the work. For example, discussing sales targets and objectives rather than simply saying "you aren't a good salesperson". The same holds true for feelings and emotions. Don't tell a person with BPD not to be angry, instead focus on asking them to change their behaviour which is manifesting itself from their anger - like yelling.

4. Know your limits and change perceptions in the workplace.
Borderline personality disorder can be a debilitating condition for a person. Understand that people with BPD aren't being manipulative or unwilling to change. That being said, it is okay to set appropriate limits of what will be tolerated in the workplace. Similar to setting consistent expectations, limits will help a person with BPD know what is required of them. Finally, education in the workplace about BPD will benefit everyone - managers, co-workers, and people who may have borderline personality disorder but haven't been diagnosed. Learning about BPD will help everyone in the workplace understand why a person may be acting a certain way and be better prepared to respond in appropriate ways to particular attitudes or emotions.

Disability Focus: Borderline Personality Disorder

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Did you know that one in five people will directly experience a mental illness in their lifetime? This means that every single one us will most likely be impacted by a mental health condition at some point, whether it be personally or through a loved one, friend or colleague. However, the prevalence of mental illnesses in our society doesn't necessarily equate to understanding, or acceptance, as many people dealing with mental health issues still face stigma and discrimination.

Similar to physical ailments, mental illnesses can take many forms. Many of us have a basic understanding of more common mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, but have less awareness of conditions like schizophrenia or personality disorders.  Which brings us to the topic of our post today: Borderline personality disorder.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is generally defined as a "condition in which people have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions, such as feelings about themselves and others." This results in people experiencing pervasive patterns of instability in their personal relationships. People with BPD also tend to be highly impulsive, to the point of being potentially damaging to themselves. 

Symptoms exhibited by a person with this disorder are often manifestations of their impulsiveness and fluctuation in their emotions. Their impulsiveness may lead to activities like binge spending or eating, substance abuse and reckless sex. Their emotions and resulting actions may be characterized by extremes of idealization and devaluation, changes in their self-image, as well as feelings of emptiness and intense anger.

There are many misconceptions about BPD. Primarily, many people interacting with a person with BPD may feel they are being manipulated because of the extreme variations in their relationship. However, it is important to remember that a person with borderline personality disorder often struggles to control the intensity of their emotions and would rarely make a conscious decision to manipulate someone. There is also lots of evidence that BPD is treatable, and like other personality disorders, can decrease in intensity over time. Finally, there is a tendency to judge people with BPD as being unwilling to change or not trying hard enough. Many people who live with borderline personality disorder are very productive and intelligent, but they also have significant emotional and behaviour barriers associated with their disorder and are doing the best they can given their current emotional and mental state.  

Almost 75% of people diagnosed with BPD are female, although it should be noted that many people with this disorder are undiagnosed or do not seek out treatment. This is similar to many other personality disorders, as people generally do not seek treatment until the condition begins to significantly impact their life. Even so, it is estimated that 2% of the general population experiences borderline personality disorder - this is more than bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Treatment often involves psychotherapy from experienced therapists and possibly medication for some of the more debilitating symptoms. We will talk about treatment a little more in our next blog post which will discuss borderline personality disorder in the workplace. 

Successfully Navigating Life's Twists and Turns

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It is amazing the difference one second can make. August 14, 2008 started off just like any other day for Rick McAlister. Having just finished his morning routines, Rick was off to his job as a truck driver; a job he had proudly done for 32 years and that had allowed him to successfully raise his family.

While tending to the loading and unloading of his truck, an activity he had done a thousand times before, Rick had a workplace accident involving his left hand and a power jack. As the pain coursed through his left arm and body, Rick knew in that split second, his life had changed forever.

For the next year and a half, his life became a living hell. While the medical system waited to see if his arm could heal and repair itself, Rick began taking numerous amounts of narcotics and pain killers to try to deaden the pain; but it wasn’t working.  “The side effects from the 12 different kinds of medication were horrendous," says Rick.  “I was watching my life flow away from me, helpless to do anything to stop it.”

Knowing he could not go on any longer living like a zombie and unable to remember his own name or even where he was; Rick attempted to take his life.  Luckily, he was admitted to the hospital where he began the arduous journey of recovery thanks to the Doctors and Psychologist that worked with him.

A bone density scan on Rick’s left arm confirmed his Doctor’s worse fears – the arm was dying from the elbow down and would need to be removed. On October 27, 2009, Rick received a partial amputation to his left arm.  And life once again took a turn and changed forever.

“Here I was at 49 years old, an amputee, not having a clue what I was going to do,” says Rick. “I never realized the full impact my disability would have on me and in every area of my life - physically, emotionally – even sexually; the stress on my new wife Diana was incredible. It was a large hill to climb and thanks to her love and support, I was able to move back to Calgary and together we could start a new chapter in our lives.”

It turns out that these life experiences were all small hurdles getting Rick prepared to jump over the biggest life hurdle of them all – returning to work.  Being a truck driver was all he had known...and now that he couldn’t do that job anymore, Rick was left wondering ... what else he could do?

And so, Rick began sending out resumes, in fact, he sent out over 100 resumes and received 40 invites to interview.  However, with each interview that Rick attended, a common theme kept occurring, suddenly all the jobs were filled, or he was now over-qualified for the position. “I knew they were rejecting me because I was an amputee," says Rick, “and that hurt.”

Feelings of depression, self-rejection and failure loomed in Rick’s mind – with every rejection, it became harder to keep positive and continue looking for work. 

Thinking he had hit a dead end and believing he would never find employment, Rick was referred to Champions Career Centre. Champion Career Centre is a pan-disability serving Agency in Calgary that helps people with disabilities, like Rick, find meaningful employment based on their unique skills and abilities.

Champions met with Rick and reassured him that he had skills an employer would find valuable and set him up on a career plan for success. Champions assisted Rick in reviewing and redesigning his resume based on his current goals and objectives. Rick attended workshops for career and life skills development; along with networking with other clients who also faced fears and failures in returning to the workforce. Champions provided a resource area with phones, computers, publications, job postings and other assets to help Rick find employment.

“I am happy that I got involved in Champions. Here were people who understood what I was going through, they could understand my apprehension and were always there with a word of encouragement,” says Rick. “But don’t expect to get things handed to you on a silver platter. You are expected to show incentive and follow up on leads provided to you.”

Rick was able to secure seasonal employment in August 2011 on a farm driving tractor during the fall harvest.  His Champions’ Case Manager went out to the work site to ensure it was safe for Rick and that he was able to do the job that he had applied for.  Not only was Rick able to do the job – he did it so well that he received a Letter of Reference and offer of employment for the 2012 harvest.

Following the harvest, Rick secured a job in Grande Prairie, AB working for a company learning a new career in the Furnace, Air Conditioning and Sheet Metal Business. The deal was that Rick would work there for 4 months to acquire sufficient industry knowledge and then receive assistance to secure work in Calgary.  During his 4 months in Grand Prairie, Rick reached out to Champions staff for moral support and workplace accommodations.

In April 2012, Rick secured a full time job in Calgary with Ecco Heating working on their Order Desk. Champions has assisted Rick at Ecco Heating by providing a workplace evaluation to find tools to assist Rick in making his job easier – such as a phone headset and a one handed keyboard.
“Champions is there for me, whenever I am stressed and just need to talk. What the average healthy person does not understand about a person with a disability in the workforce is we need to work a lot harder to prove to employers that we are very capable of doing the job and deserve the same wages as a person without a disability. Thankfully,” says Rick, "Champions works with employers to ensure fair wages are presented.” 

With government cutbacks to programs, Rick is worried that people with disabilities will give up on themselves. “Not having anyone to believe in you, you develop feelings of being worthless, which for some people could mean suicide. Trust someone who has been down that road.”

But thanks to organizations like Champions, Rick is enjoying his new career and now life with Diana is filled with optimism and hope for a brighter future.

Invisible Illness Awareness Week

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 10-16th is Invisible Illness Awareness Week and an excellent chance to raise awareness and discussion about the numerous unseen conditions that people battle every day. Chronic invisible illnesses are extremely prevalent in our society, estimates that as many as 1 in 2 people in the USA has a chronic condition, and the Canadian Coalition for Public Health has similar numbers for us northerners. 

You may be curious then, as to what qualifies as a chronic disease? Generally speaking, any long term disease which requires ongoing management can be considered a chronic illness. This includes cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory illness, mental health disorders, arthritis, fibromyalgia, COPD, lupus and a great host of other conditions. 

With such a large amount of people living with chronic illnesses there is obviously a huge impact on our personal lives and the economy. A couple of quick facts about invisible illnesses:

  • The divorce rate among the chronically ill is over 75%
  • Depression is 15-20% higher for the chronically ill than for the average person 
  • Chronic diseases cost the Canadian economy 77 billion dollars a year
  • 65% of Canadians have at least one factor that puts them at risk for chronic disease and many have more than one
Take some time this week to learn more about chronic illnesses and to support those who live with them. A good place to start is reading these personal blogs featuring "30 things about my invisible illness you may not know"

How Are Peer Support Groups Helpful?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This article was submitted by Jeb Gaudet on behalf of SupportWorks. SupportWorks is a registered Non-Profit Organization that offers a free peer support group to people in Calgary and surrounding areas living with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and post-traumatic stress disorders. For more information, please visit

A good peer support group can play an integral role in living with an invisible disability. Peer support groups are a complement to (not a replacement for) professional help. In fact, an effective group will help you stick with a treatment plan or lifestyle change, and encourage you in your goals. 

How are peer support groups helpful? When we consider the possible answers, we also discover ways to get the most out of belonging to a peer support group. 

Being together: “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” - Ryunosuke Satoro 

Invisible disabilities can leave one feeling terribly alone. The experience is not easily shared or understood, and the impairments aren’t observable. A common result is a feeling of isolation, which can lead to a downward spiral of increasing withdrawal and further isolation. 

Participation in a peer support group can help overcome the feeling of isolation by providing a safe environment to talk with other people who “get it”. Members of the group can relate to one another – and this understanding breeds empathy, compassion, and respect. Sharing with others also has a ripple effect, in that you learn to communicate your needs to others in your life, leading to new conversations with family, friends or co-workers about your disability or illness. A good peer support group can also provide new perspectives, offer different coping strategies, or suggest different resources. 

While the isolation of chronic illness can seem insurmountable, a peer support group can provide a welcome bridge to the bigger world. If meeting a group of strangers seems too much, consider reaching out to the group facilitator and arranging to meet one-on-one in a place where you feel comfortable. Once you start going to group, stick with it a few times to see if it’s for you. Try to attend regularly – that’s the best way to get to know others and for them to get to know you. 

Being present: “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” - Henry Miller 

In showing up to a group meeting, it’s important to not just show up physically, but mentally. Really listening – attending to what others share, without judgment or assumptions, and respecting where others are at – can broaden your world and get you out of your own head. You may hear familiar experiences and feel a bond, or discover a new idea and gain insight. Attention to others also lets them know that they are being heard. Truly attending in this way is a form of mindfulness, and can help you move away from the destructive ruminations that are a hallmark of depressed thinking. 

Be present in group, as much as possible. Avoid being distracted or absent in other ways. If you do need to leave in the middle of a group meeting, do so as quietly as possible, indicating to a group facilitator or co-facilitator if you need company. The respect you show for the group will be returned to you, by other group members and by yourself, as you become able to listen to yourself with the same compassionate attention with which you listen to others. 

Being yourself: "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting." -e. e. cummings 

There’s a stigma associated with many invisible illnesses, and one of the most powerful is self-stigma. Many sufferers learn to hide their suffering and learn to hide themselves. A good peer support group is a place where you can show up as you are, however you are, without holding back, pretending, or feeling that you have to protect others. For many, after years of putting on a brave face, just learning how to be yourself is a challenge, and a peer support group is a safe and understanding place to do that. 

Fortunately, being yourself doesn’t just mean laying bare the painful parts. Being yourself also means sharing the successes, which are all the more inspiring for their honesty. The endurance, growth, and achievements of all members are victories to be shared. 

Being a helper: “You know, solving other peoples’ problems is easy. The only person I can’t seem to figure out is myself.” – Thomas James Higgins 

It’s often easier to have insight into someone else’s situation rather than your own. If chronic illness is like a beast that can swallow you, then it makes sense that you can’t see clearly from inside its belly. While it’s helpful to have members of a group who can see your beast from the outside, there’s also a real advantage to discovering that you can offer the same support to someone else. 

The benefits to being a helper are many – for a great consideration of these benefits, check out this blog, all about the power of volunteering. There’s research to back this up, too: according to the aptly named “helper theory”, group members who help and are helped gain a greater sense of value and self-efficacy than those who are simply helped. Discovering that you are able to help another person is a wonderful gift for everyone involved. 

Being hopeful: “The gift we can offer others is so simple a thing as hope.” – Daniel Berrigan 

Like most things, you’ll get out of a peer group what you put in. One common piece of advice is to be active in the group. Give yourself time, and move at your own speed, but be prepared to be actively engaged in the group. What this engagement looks like is up to you, whether it’s regular attendance at meetings or taking on a volunteer role in the group – regardless, involvement in a peer support group offers you a chance to regain some sense of control, when so many things in your life may feel beyond your control. 

Finally, a good peer support group gives hope – by providing role models of people who have “been there”, by creating an environment in which you can share each other’s courage and witness one another’s growth, and where you can give and receive compassionate, respectful support for one another. 

Alberta Labour Market Snapshot: August

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stats Canada has released the most recent labour force statistics for Alberta, here are the highlights:

• Alberta’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.4% in August 2012, down 0.2
percentage points from July 2012 and down 1.2 percentage points from the same month
last year. This rate, tied with Saskatchewan’s rate, was the lowest among all provinces.
The national rate was 7.3%, unchanged from the month before.

• The labour force increased by 200 people and employment increased by 3,900 from July
to August 2012.

• Between August 2011 and August 2012, employment grew by 2.1% or 43,300 in Alberta.
This employment increase accounted for 24.5% of Canada’s employment growth over the
same period.

• The unemployment rate of students aged 15 to 24 was 10.1% in August 2012 compared
to 14.0% a year ago.

• Edmonton’s rate of 4.5% and Calgary’s unemployment rate of 4.6% were ranked third
and fourth, respectively, among Canadian Census Metropolitan Areas, behind Kelowna’s
4.1% and Regina’s 4.2%.

• The following industries had the most employment increases in August from the previous
month: Forestry, Fishing, Mining, Oil and Gas, 4,800; Business, Building and Other
Support Services, 4,700; and Health Care and Social Assistance, 4,600.

Champions TV Ad: Redefining Ability in the Workplace

Thursday, September 06, 2012

We were excited to see our latest Public Service Announcement hit the airwaves yesterday on Shaw TV and 16 Channels in Calgary. If you haven't came across it yet that is okay, we've posted it below!

Learning Disabilities: Dyscalculia

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Yesterday, we talked about the most commonly known learning disability, dyslexia, and how to accommodate it in the workplace. However, there are many types of learning disabilities beyond dyslexia. Whereas dyslexia is largely associated with difficulties involving reading and writing, there are many learning disabilities associated with math. This group of disabilities is largely referred to as dyscalculia.

As a starting point it is important to remember that dyscalculia isn't a specific disability, it is simply a general term applied to wide range of different disabilities involving math. There aren't any single forms of math disability and the experience of each person who has a math disability can vary dramatically. Different aspects of math can be problematic depending on the specific disability. Some people can struggle with sequencing equations, others with visual-spatial relationships or ordering, and others may face challenges related to language processing. Additionally, arithmetic and mathematics is frequently taught using visuals and textbooks which can create difficulties for students who have problems learning in this style.

As dyscalculia refers to a wide variety of different math disabilities there is an equally large amount of possible symptoms. These may include:
  • Difficulty with tables (multiplication, subtraction, etc.)
  • Difficulty with doing mental arithmetic
  • Problems conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time
  • Problems with budgeting or financial planning, such as not being able to correctly estimate the cost of purchases on a shopping trip
  • Difficulty with reading musical notation
  • Difficulty with remembering formulas or mathematical rules
  • Problems with estimating distances and sizes
  • Difficulty reading map directions and scale

Treatment is similar to other forms of learning disabilities. Extra time, tutors, and specialized instruction can help people with dyscalculia learn math skills in ways that utilize a person's strengths. As each person experiences their math disability differently, as well as having a unique personal skill set, a customized learning programme with one on one teaching is essential.  

Dyslexia in the Workplace

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Much focus is rightly put on dyslexia in children and at school. However, dyslexia is a life-long condition and thus there are implications for dealing with it in the workplace. Employers and employees both need to recognize the benefits of creating a work environment which is open to dealing with dyslexia.
For an employer, being sensitive to the needs of people with dyslexia can help them realize the strengths and skills of their staff, reduce stress and staff turnover, and improve motivation and productivity.

For an employee with dyslexia, an open and honest relationship with your employer will allow you to create an environment where you are poised to succeed, rather than struggle. Being honest can be as simple as knowing which accommodations or strategies you require to do your job. Knowing these will help your employer see your ability, rather than disability, when you're at work.

Here are some simple, yet effective, strategies for accommodating dyslexia in the workplace:

  • Break tasks down into smaller, more manageable chunks
  • Keep to-do lists
  • Take regular breaks to maintain concentration
  • Always take the time to write things down, like phone conversations, as people say them. Most people will like this as it demonstrates attentiveness
  • Use colours and highlighters liberally: for files, boxes, trays and to mark details and organize complex documents 
  • Tape recorders and dictation machines can be used to help remember an important idea or when a meeting is happening at a break neck pace
  • Use word processors which can dictate speech and also read back what is written
  • Learn relaxation and stress reduction techniques to avoid the headaches and stress associated with excessive paperwork or work overload

These are just a few examples of strategies for coping with dyslexia at work. Depending on the job, and the essential tasks required, there are almost endless strategies for making each situation work if everyone involved is committed to finding a better way. 

Learning Disability: Dyslexia

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Yesterday, we discussed learning disabilities in general and the prevalent myths people have about them. We also provided some truths about learning disabilities to combat these misconceptions. We are going to spend the rest of the week talking about specific learning disabilities and how to accommodate them in the workplace. First up, Dyslexia!

Dyslexia is the most commonly known learning disability. This isn't surprising as it is estimated that upwards of 15-20% of the general population display some of the symptoms associated with dyslexia. Yet many people misunderstand the symptoms and causes behind this disorder. 

One of the biggest myths surrounding dyslexic individuals is that they simply read backwards. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability where people have difficulties acquiring and using written language. Spelling may look jumbled at times but that is because a person with dyslexia may be having problems remembering letter symbols and forming words from memory. In short, the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols. As we mentioned in our article on learning disability myths, this is not a vision problem and cannot be corrected through the use of glasses or vision therapy. 

Troubles with word recognition, and reading and writing fluency, can manifest itself in many ways. Some people may develop excellent reading skills at an early part in their life but struggle with complex language skills like grammar and essay writing later. People with dyslexia may confuse letters like 'b' for 'd', but they also may struggle to determine the meaning (idea) of a simple sentence or have difficulty recognizing certain written words. They may also face challenges related to spoken language and not be able to express themselves clearly or recognize the meaning in something said to them. 

Obviously, difficulty with word recognition and language skills can cause a person with dyslexia to struggle in a learning environment. The severity and type of symptoms differs for each individual and thus treatment must also be individualized. Using a multisensory, structured approach can help people with dyslexia learn in a way which involves all their senses in a systematic way. Audio books, text reading computer problems and taped tests are examples of academic accommodations. Tutors and longer time to complete tasks can also be a major help. 

It is important to note that with dyslexia, and other learning disabilities, that the condition isn't associated with a lack of intelligence. People with dyslexia have average or above average intelligence and with proper help can learn to read and write well. 

Myths about Learning Disabilities

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NLCD) released a startling report yesterday regarding public perceptions of people with learning disabilities. Surveying just short of 2000 random adults in the USA, the report showed how incorrect many of our ideas about learning disabilities are and how their is a need for better understanding from just about everyone. 

Here are some of the biggest misconceptions held by the public about learning disabilities: 

Myth 1: Learning Disabilities Correlate with IQ. 
In the NLCD survey, 43% of respondents stated they believe learning disabilities correlate with IQ. 

Truth: It has been repeatedly demonstrated that people with learning disabilities have average or above average intelligence. They simply struggle in one or two areas (reading, math, visual or auditory processing) where they need educational help. The very definition of a learning disability infers that a person is performing lower in a particular area than would be expected by comparing to their overall IQ. 

Myth 2: Learning Disabilities Can be Corrected with Devices like Glasses. 
55% of respondents to the NLCD survey thought that learning disabilities could be corrected with glasses. 

Truth: Learning disabilities are complex and generally defy easy explanation. They are not the same as vision or hearing impairments, which can also delay language acquisition and slow learning, and cannot be corrected with the same tools used to remove the barriers associated with low vision or hearing. There is no scientifically supported link between visual problems and learning disabilities. Statistically, children with dyslexia or related learning disabilities have the same visual function and health as children without such conditions. 

Myth 3: Watching TV, Using a Computer, Eating Poorly, or Vaccinations May Cause a Learning Disability 
22% of people who took the NLCD survey thought that using a TV or computer could cause a learning disability. 31% thought a poor diet could lead to learning disabilities and another 24% thought childhood vaccines could be responsible. 

Truth: Learning disabilities are neurological disorders and related to how certain people's brains are "wired" in different ways. Their brains literally process information differently. A person's environment can have a huge impact on how successful or debilitating their learning disability becomes, but is rarely the cause of the disability (with the exception of brain injuries). Making improvements to a home environment or school program can dramatically improve the functioning of a person with a learning disability. Not diagnosing or ignoring the disability can have the opposite effect.

Stay tuned to our blog this week as we explore different types of learning disabilities and how they can be accommodated in the workplace.