Understanding Autism & Dyslexia at Work

If someone is autistic, there is a good chance that they will have another co occurring condition. Here we are going to talk about Dyslexia. But before we do that, let’s briefly look at how the two conditions can overlap.
Autism and dyslexia are both neurodevelopmental conditions and share similar social communication deficits co-occurring with impairments of reading or language.

So what is Dyslexia? Dyslexia is a condition that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing, but unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn’t affected.

Contrary to popular belief, there are other aspects that affect how a person with Dyslexia interprets the world around them. Although it primarily affects reading and writing skills there are other examples such as organisational skills. Dyslexic individuals have a difficulty in processing information, and this can lead to problems with retaining what they see and hear. This can affect them learning new literacy skills.

Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. Dyslexic people tend to struggle with phonological awareness, verbal memory, processing and speed. Because of some of the issues mentioned previously, they may read slower than others, may make errors when reading aloud, may describe the letters or words as moving around or appearing blurred, and may struggle to carry out a sequence of directions. They may find it difficult to remember content (even if it involves their favourite video), may struggle with spatial relationships (for example may appear to be uncoordinated when playing sports or organised activities), and they may have problems determining left from right.

As a result of experiencing some of these difficulties, people with Dyslexia may suffer from depression and anxiety, appear withdrawn, have behavioural issues, have low self-esteem, and lose interest in school, their work, or finding work.

Like with other neurodiverse conditions, there can be confusion around different types of the condition. As with some people who are autistic, some people with Dyslexia prefer to just be referred to as dyslexic, whereas others like to refer to a specific type of Dyslexia. Unlike with Autism in the past, there is currently no official diagnosis of different types of Dyslexia, but some people believe there to be sub types. Even within these sub types this can vary. Examples include:

  • Phonological Dyslexia (The ‘type’ of Dyslexia often referred to when people talk about Dyslexia. It is when someone has difficulty with phonological awareness skills that involve breaking words into sounds and then matching them with written symbols, making it difficult for them to sound out or “decode” words).
  • Surface Dyslexia (When someone has difficulty remembering whole words by sight. Also referred to as visual Dyslexia or Dyseidetic Dyslexia).
  • Rapid Naming Deficit (This is where people are unable to name letters and numbers quickly when they see them. They may know the names of letters and numbers, but it takes them longer to name letters and numbers when there are many of them in a row. Experts think rapid naming difficulty is connected with processing speed and that it may also be linked to reading speed).
  • Double Deficit Dyslexia (This occurs when someone has difficulties with both naming speed and phonemic awareness), and Visual Dyslexia (This is the same as surface dyslexia. Some people use this term to mean something entirely different: They think that reading issues have to do with the eyes and vision and may claim that reading can be improved through eye exercises or tinted lenses).

Many people with Dyslexia struggle in school due to reading and writing difficulties and not being given extra time to process information. However, many people with Dyslexia go on to be very successful in their chosen field. For example, many dyslexic individuals excel in practical tasks such as building or creating something.

Although not as common as Autism and ADHD, there are still plenty of people who have both Autism and Dyslexia.
Despite the difficulties that people with Dyslexia have, many of them show strengths in areas such as reasoning and in visual and creative fields. They may also come up with fresh ideas that others haven’t thought of. Many successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. They may be great at designing, problem solving, good oral presenters, and possess great interactive skills. Some of the jobs that may suit dyslexic individuals include graphic designers, journalists, website developer, hospitality, sports and recreation, landscaping/gardening, warehouse work, and construction.

Famous people who have had or have Dyslexia include Leonardo Da Vinci, Walt Disney, John F Kennedy, George Washington, George W Bush, Tom Cruise, John Lennon, Keira Knightley, Jamie Oliver, and Steven Spielberg

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