Dyspraxia in the Workplace

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Dyspraxia, also formally known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), is an example of a neurotype where individuals can experience differences in planning and processing motor skills.

Around 10 percent of the population is dyspraxic but it can also co-occur with neurotypes such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.

Considering dyspraxia to just be a form of clumsiness is a misconception and more needs to be done to raise awareness of it in the workplace, and wider society. With the correct support in place, organisations and their employees can achieve the best outcomes.

What is dyspraxia?

Alongside differences in planning and executing both fine and gross motor skills, dyspraxia can also mean people find other cognitive tasks associated with memory and processing information challenging.

But dyspraxia has no bearing on intelligence, it just means someone may find co-ordination challenging or they may require some extra support with work tasks. You may already work alongside dyspraxic colleagues and not even realise.

At Cognassist, our cognitive diversity assessment measures some of the areas of cognition (domains) that may be relevant for dyspraxia, including:

  • Visual Information Processing Speed
  • Numeracy

Everyone’s experiences of dyspraxia will be different, but some of the typical traits include differences in:

  • Fine motor skills like handwriting and tying shoelaces
  • Gross motor skills such as running and balancing
  • Planning and organisation
  • Posture
  • Self-care
  • Social skills
  • Working memory
  • Sensitivity to environmental stimuli

(Source: Dyspraxia Foundation)

Impact of dyspraxia on work

With the estimated representation of dyspraxia being 1 in 10 people, there’s a high likelihood that you already manage or work alongside dyspraxic people. But do you know what their strengths and challenges are, or perhaps, more importantly, how you can best support them?

If the answer is no, it’s likely you can already appreciate the value of raising dyspraxia awareness.

Dyspraxia workplace challenges

The common traits of dyspraxia can be separated into two groups, physical and cognitive.

Physical challenges are mainly coordination and motor differences and will impact different people in different ways. Motor control may mean employees use equipment differently or may affect the way they move equipment around. Whereas coordination might mean employees find office tasks, like photocopying or stapling paper together, challenging. They may also find buttoning up shirts and tying ties or shoelaces testing.

Some of the typical coordination and motor differences associated with dyspraxia are:

  • Poor posture
  • Poor work presentation
  • Untidy personal presentation
  • Frequently tripping over or bumping into things
  • Balance issues
  • Struggling to grip a pen and poor handwriting
  • Challenges with using a standard keyboard, mouse, tools or utensils

Dyspraxia isn’t only associated with physical differences, individuals may experience cognitive differences, too. These differences can also impact them at work and include traits, such as:

  • Organisation and planning challenges
  • Poor timekeeping or frequently missing appointments or meetings
  • Working overtime to catch up on work
  • Finding it challenging to complete tasks on time
  • Stress
  • Staff conflict
  • Sensitivity to environmental stimuli, such as light and noise.

It’s important to remember that the experiences of dyspraxia will be unique to the individual and the extent to which these characteristics impact a person may depend on their surroundings.

Organisations have a plethora of options available to support dyspraxic employees in mitigating workplace challenges and empowering them to be their true selves.

Dyspraxia workplace adjustments

Dyspraxia is likely to meet the legal definition of disability as outlined in the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, employees have a duty to provide reasonable adjustments to dyspraxic employees.

Reasonable adjustments are changes or adaptations employers can make to ensure dyspraxic employees are not disadvantaged in the workplace. Also called workplace flexibilities or workplace adjustments, they are measure that ensure the workplace is a level playing field for all employees.

Examples of dyspraxia workplace accommodations

Before employment with an organisation, dyspraxic individuals are also entitled to reasonable adjustments during the hiring process. So you might consider:

  • Offering alternatives to written application forms
  • Allowing extra time for interviews and tests or tasks
  • Task based interviews rather than question based to allow the candidate to highlight their skills

Making accommodations at the very start of the employee lifecycle means organisations are not missing out on a diverse pool of talent, and more importantly, dyspraxic individuals are not being discriminated against at the first employment hurdle.

Examples of workplace reasonable adjustments for dyspraxia

Here, we’ll explore our top three workplace adjustments for dyspraxia taken from our range of Personalised Workplace Adjustments. These are specially curated strategies that are suggested based on an individual’s neuro-difference disclosure, cognitive profile or job role.

Provide assistive technology

Assistive technology is useful because it can help employees to complete tasks that they may have otherwise found challenging. For example, text-to-speech technology can help employees who find it challenging to read text on a screen.

There is a wide range of assistive technology options available for dyspraxic employees. Anyone who finds inputting information a challenge may find tools such as touch screens, modified or ergonomic keyboards, mice, stationary, or tools advantageous.

Allow extra time for tasks

Extra time is a simple yet effective adjustment for several neurotypes, especially dyspraxia, because it can remove time pressure. Some individuals may take a little longer to complete a task, such as one that involves motor skills. So, allowing some extra time means the employee will not feel rushed.

Extra time may also be given for tasks, such as reading or providing answers to questions or sharing feedback after a meeting.

Assess sensory stimuli

The work environment can be subject to many distractions, loud noise, bright lights, and even strong smells, and for someone who is hypersensitive to environmental stimuli, work can be problematic.

Some dyspraxic employees can be sensitive to light, so your organisation may need to consider providing LED or incandescent lighting that is less dazzling and distracting than fluorescent types. It may also be necessary to consider providing distraction-free or quiet workspaces for dyspraxic individuals who are sensitive to noise. If this isn’t possible, noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs may be a good alternative.

If you’re looking for new and innovative ways to support neuro-differences within your team, we strongly recommend our ’27 workplace adjustments to support neurodiversity’ handbook.

Dyspraxia and working from home

Working from home can be a useful adjustment for dyspraxic employees because there is:

  • Less reliance on travel which can be challenging
  • Greater flexibility for individuals to arrange their surroundings to suit their needs
  • Less focus on ‘appearance’ and deciding what to wear

However, some people report that remote work also presents challenges, such as:

  • Limiting helpful social contact
  • Reducing the opportunity to learn from colleagues
  • Managing work-life balance

Remote working tips for dyspraxic employees:

  • Plan your daily task list – try arranging your diary the day before
  • Let your colleagues know when you’d prefer to have meetings or calls – if you feel like you need a few hours in the morning to gather your thoughts or for focus time, schedule collaborative work for the afternoon
  • Take short breaks away from screens throughout the day to avoid fatigue
  • Collaborate with your manager to establish start and finish times each day and stick to them

You can assess the accessibility of your home working space using our ‘Workplace checklist: Accessibility audit’ for mobile and remote workers.

Benefits of dyspraxia at work

To be fully neuro-inclusive, it’s vital to embrace challenges but also empower dyspraxic individuals to use their strengths. The implementation of reasonable adjustments is not the only way we can support ourselves at work.

Pulling on our strengths can be an innovative way to navigate dyspraxia-related challenges. Some of the competitive advantages of dyspraxia in the workplace include:

  • Empathy and leadership
  • Strategic thinking
  • Creativity
  • Determination

Colleagues can also use these strengths when collaborating with dyspraxic individuals to help with problem solving and teamwork.

Supporting dyspraxic colleagues at work

With an estimated 15 percent of the UK population experiencing neuro-differences, there’s a strong likelihood that you already work in a neurodiverse team. The Cognassist platform makes the invisible, visible by presenting ‘Neuro-difference Representation’ data. So, you can clearly see how diverse the workforce is.

You can also use this data to inform what proportion of the organisation is dyspraxic and help you build a more neuro-inclusive environment. You have an important role to play to ensure your colleagues feel safe to be authentic at work.

You can help to build a supportive work environment for dyspraxia by:

Taking part in dyspraxia awareness training

It’s important to expand your knowledge of different neurotypes to ensure everyone feels included within the workplace. Use your training as an opportunity to talk to your dyspraxic colleagues to learn more about what dyspraxia means for them and how you can best support them in the future.

Keep your work area tidy

We all have a collective responsibility to keep the work area clean, safe and tidy. If you work alongside dyspraxic colleagues, be sure to put back any furniture, equipment or tools where you found them. You should also make sure that you don’t leave any cables, chairs or anything else in walkways, and if you spot a hazard safely make sure it is removed.

Be mindful of time pressure

Dyspraxic colleagues may need extra time for tasks that involve planning, writing, typing, following instructions or filling in forms. So, it is important that you don’t pressure your colleagues into completing these tasks within an unrealistic time. Ask if your colleagues need any help, but you should avoid ‘hovering’ or ‘micromanaging’ because this can cause anxiety.

Be patient in conversations

Verbal dyspraxia means some individuals may take long pauses before responding to comments or questions, they may also find it challenging to articulate their speech or even get their words muddled. Be patient with your colleagues and give them time to speak to reduce anxiety and embarrassment.

Volunteer to take notes or record meetings

Dyspraxia can make the following challenging:

  • Listening and taking notes at the same time
  • Writing neatly
  • Following the flow of discussion

If you think these types of tasks are a strength for you, volunteer to take notes in meetings to share with the rest of the team. Or record all meetings as standard, where possible, so that notes can be made afterwards.

Become a workplace buddy

If your workplace has a mentorship scheme, consider volunteering as a mentor for dyspraxic colleagues. Because dyspraxic people are at a greater risk of stress and burnout, a workplace mentor can be a valuable resource to discuss any worries or anxieties.

Alternatively, you might consider volunteering to become a ‘Neuro-inclusion Champion’ to advocate for neurodistinct thinkers in your organisation.

Disclosing dyspraxia at work

Sharing your experiences and your dyspraxia diagnosis at work is a personal choice. Some people feel confident sharing their neuro-differences with their team while some feel like it is confidential information.

Even though there is no right or wrong when it comes to disclosing neuro-differences, being open will help to build more inclusive work cultures. But there are barriers to this, especially as some damaging myths about dyspraxia still exist, such as:

  • Dyspraxia means clumsiness
  • Dyspraxia is associated with low intelligence
  • Dyspraxia is rare
  • Dyspraxic people can’t do sports
  • You can see dyspraxia
  • People grow out of dyspraxia

These myths are harmful and may contribute to stigma, which can make you apprehensive about disclosing. However, these misconceptions often stem from a lack of understanding and awareness, so by sharing your experiences you can help to drive positive change.

When deciding whether to share your neuro-differences with your employer, consider the following:

  • By sharing your differences or diagnosis, you’ll be empowering others to share theirs and contributing to an open and inclusive workplace culture.
  • Telling your manager that you’re dyspraxic means they will be able to offer tailored and appropriate support. Without disclosure, your employer may be limited in the type of adjustments they can give you. Your colleagues may not understand how to support you either.
  • You do not need a formal dyspraxia diagnosis to receive support at work. Talk to your manager about your strengths and challenges, so together you can explore appropriate reasonable adjustments, if you feel you need them.
  • Does your organisation have an employee resource group (ERG) or a mentorship scheme in place? Have they offered any neuro-inclusion awareness training? These could be good indicators of whether you’re likely to get a positive response.
  • Do you know anyone else in the organisation who is dyspraxic or neuro-distinct? If so, try talking to them about their experiences.

Dyspraxia awareness and manager training

Birkbeck’s research shows that 65 percent of employers stated a lack of neurodiversity understanding by managers and decision makers was a barrier to implementing reasonable adjustments.

To build fully neuro-inclusive workplaces, where every employee feels confident to be themselves, this must change.

One way to do this is through the provision of neuro-inclusion training for managers and employees, so that everyone has a foundation level of neurodiversity knowledge.

Dedicated manager training is paramount to ensure all neurotypes, including dyspraxic employees, are appropriately supported. Dyspraxia-aware managers understand the strengths employees can offer their team and the areas where they may need to provide support.

The Cognassist Neuro-inclusion Awareness training, accredited by City & Guilds and ILM, provides comprehensive courses for the whole organisation, from employee and manager awareness to Neuro-inclusion Champion training.

For more information, contact our team today.

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