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Management: Help For Employees With Learning Disabilities, Part 2
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Management: Help For Employees With Learning Disabilities, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Help For Employees With Learning Disabilities, Part 2

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Help For Employees With Learning Disabilities, Part 2

In our first look at employees with learning disabilities, we brought up the legal obligation for employers to provide reasonable accommodation for certain employees, and we offered a few specific suggestions for helping employees with their challenge areas. Sticking to the practical application (and not the legal side of this issue), with an emphasis on caring about providing the best conditions for all employees' success, we will now explore a few more ideas that could help your employees with learning challenges.

When it comes to language-centered learning differences, your challenged employees will usually deal with some disconnect between processing, writing, speaking, and hearing the language. Someone with dyslexia might read the written word just fine but then have trouble expressing ideas in written form. Another with the same diagnosis might read and write with no problems, but have difficulty with large amounts of orally-given instruction. Still another might write beautifully but take a very long time to put his or her thoughts into written form. Because the challenges are so varied, some accomodations will be beneficial to some employees but not for others, so thislist is not meant to be comprehensive; instead, it should serve as a starting point for discussing with your employees what might work for them.

For employees who have difficulty with orally delivered content, consider also giving notes in written form, or ahead of time giving them an outline of a lengthy meeting or training session. Understand that if you give a multi-step instruction, you could lose all but the last step if you don't offer a written component as well. This is not as bothersome as it might at first sound: if you often use a whiteboard to jot down your ideas as you deliver them, you're already doing it. If you regularly ask someone to take notes and then email them to everyone after the meeting, you're already doing it. Now consider other ways you can offer a written component (and iot need not necessarily be extremely detailed) to your oral communication.

For the employee who has trouble with large amounts of reading, offer the content in digital form (a PDF or word-processed file will usually be fine) and give your employee access to the text-to-voice capabilities included with most operating systems today. Even better, offer text-to-voice reading software to employees who want it, then give them training and practice time. These application programs have become increasingly easy to use as well as increasingly sophisticated in some of their functionality, but the rewards sometimes come only after dedicated practice. If digital formats are difficult to work out, put scanners on the desks of employees using text-to-voice features and allow them some time to digitize their material. If multiple employees are reading the same material, provide time for them to share with each other their responses to the material in small sharing groups.

For the employee with time-management challenges, sometimes just a regular reminder of time's passing can make an enormous difference. Some operating systems will recite aloud the time of day at user-defined intervals (every half an hour or every fifteen minutes, for example). This can serve as a reminder to the employee to focus on tasks at hand. You might also avoid assigning a next task while a previous task is still being worked on.

Some employees have difficulty with keeping track of large amounts of paper. They may need direct coaching, with someone spending time every day helping them to put things in their own place.It may take some time, but habituating the behavior over time with direct, one-on-one coaching will often help these employees to do this on their own. They may need an occasional booster shot of coaching, but usually, once they learn to do it for themselves, they can manage it when given dedicated time for these tasks.

All this may sound to some like holding the hands of employees who aren't qualified for their work. Please keep in mind that in general we are not talking about unqualified, incompetent workers. We're speaking in this case about employees who are otherwise good performers but who seem to be challenged in one or two specific areas. Sometimes a small adjustment such as the suggestions on this list are more like a prescription pair of glasses, or a wheelchair ramp: they help employees deal with challenges that are not their fault so they can be excellent contributors to your company.


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Management: Help For Employees With Learning Disabilities, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

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