Learning disability or difficulty, the reality - Part (3)

27 June 2017 | Careers Advice | UpriseVSI Technical

If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of our series you can read them here:

How would you cope if bright lights and loud noises were unbearable to you? What if sitting in a work space type cubicle is near-enough impossible? How would you explain to your line manager that every written message received will require you to slowly decode it before you can even consider acting on the instructions? What reasons could you give to co-workers to explain why you seem to miss details that are obvious to others?

Transitioning from school or university to work for individuals with learning disabilities presents a whole new set of challenges that go unnoticed by the general public. Whilst the university setting may have offered a great deal of flexibility and support to students with learning disabilities, the world of work is, generally not as accommodating. That is not to say that learning disability prevents individuals from thriving in the workplace. Rather, it just requires greater overall awareness, planning and willingness on all parties to develop and adopt appropriate support strategies.

When I first managed staff with a learning disability he encouraged me to develop an appreciation of not just his disability but associated behavioural implications. Simple things such as ensuring that he was given more time in meetings to express his views, without being drowned out by a deafening silence. Also, ensuring that demanding work related opportunities were not inadvertently withheld in a misguided effort not to make things too challenging for him. Endeavouring not to confuse learning disability with learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, I found that the ideas associated with transition and scaffolding, by psychologists such as Lombardi (1992) and Bruner (1976) respectively, provided me with real insights into supporting him.

It is fitting to complete this series of articles with some experiences that Daniel, who manages ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is happy to share.

“I have had a very sporadic work life in which I have pursued different and disparate career paths. I have worked as an English teacher, in retail, as a communications director, trained as a pilot, an architect, and an expedition leader. Currently I am working as a user-experience designer and front-end website developer. This breadth has stemmed from not being able to narrow my interests and so maintain my concentration. Whilst this has ensued a lot of hardships, I cherish the variety of my different experiences and subsequent challenges; some being the challenge of transitioning itself.

"I struggle a lot with fitting into regular time frames and I simply can’t do a 9-5, seven days a week. However, despite this, I work hard and often do more hours than if I were to sustain a regular routine; I tend to start late and work late. Over the years I have learned that a small disruption to how I work can quite easily throw me out of sync and effect my pattern and productivity.

"I am brimming with ideas. This a great strength but it can make it hard to put things into practice and to complete. Unfortunately I can’t really prioritise my ideas very well, much like my interests. It’s quite easy for me to feel overwhelmed sometimes with all the things to do, or that I’d like to do. This can, on occasions, lead to burning out and/or feeling completely demotivated to do anything.

"Social anxiety is my biggest weakness. One on one is usually okay but I don’t like groups because I find it difficult to keep up with conversations between numerous people and I stumble on what to contribute to conversations. This can lead to feeling self-conscious, of not contributing. While I have learned tactics to combat this, I have come to realise that if the focus of the meeting is not on socialising itself - i.e doing something rather than meeting in a bar or at a party etc - I am able to contribute more and thus feel less anxious by having the pressure of socialising lifted.

"I think real ADHD issues are overlooked a lot because our society is increasingly associating symptoms of ADHD with social norms through the rise in technology in our lives. I think the superficial interpretation of ADHD in relation to our faster-paced way of life can dilute the attention actual ADHD sufferers need. People with ADHD have more deep-rooted issues that go beyond just being forgetful or absent-minded. I am always adamant (although sometimes easier said than done) that it is a challenge to overcome not an excuse to be utilised. I have ADHD super powers in conjunction with ADHD problems.”

Finally, I take this opportunity to thank both Ashley and Daniel for sharing their very personal experiences.

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