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Dyslexia at work in a multilingual environment

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Dyslexia at work in a multilingual environment

Friday the 19th of October 2012, I participated in a lunch time conference about Dyslexia focusing on adults working in a multilingual environment. This speech was given in Luxembourg at DG ENERGY.

Apparently almost all research has been done for children or adolescence in school and very little is concerned with adults. Absolutely nothing has so far been researched about adults and multilingualism. It seems however as if something might start up next year.

The speaker was an Austrian professor named Hanspeter Gadler from the University of Graz and he started by explaining that dyslexia is a dysfunction of the brain, which means it cannot be cured by the school system, but is a lifelong condition. However individuals develop strategies to cope with his or her environment and the dyslexia is thus less apparent. 15 percent of the population is estimated to carry the set of genes causing this dysfunction, but ‘only’ about 10 percent show symptoms.

I found Professor Gadler's categorizing languages as shallow or deep very interesting, as it explains how dyslexia would manifest itself more in a deep language than in a shallow.

Interestingly, the EU has chosen the two most difficult languages as its main working languages. He also mentioned that one of the main indications of dyslexia in multilingual environment would be difficulties in a deep language when there are very few in a shallow. Problems with spelling are well known, but he also highlighted problems remembering linguistic irregularities as well as bad organizational skills and time management.

Professor Gadler did mention some possible actions towards the very end. For colleagues he suggested support and understanding. For the administration he had three steps;

□ Recognition
□ Confirmation
□ Support

When a manager detects weak writing results from one of his staff and if he recognizes signs of dyslexia, Professor Gadler suggest he should talk to the person and arrange for a test to be done if this seems appropriate. It would be likely that many adults suffering from dyslexia, which professor Gadler considers a hidden handicap, were never tested at school since such tests have only become widely available during the last 20 years. Many adults would thus be unaware of the cause of their problems. Considering that one of the results of dyslexia is a low self-esteem, detection of hidden dyslexia and correct actions could mean a lot for the performance of individuals and therefor to the institution as a hole.

Finally Prefessor Gadler suggested some practical actions to help adults with dyslexia:
□ Correct use of spell check
□ Text to speech and speech to text programs. (This web-site is a very good example)
□ Memos and other texts to be sent a few days before a meeting to allow time to read them.
□ Use of bullet points and avoiding long sentences.
□ Use of grey back ground for text and not white.
□ Don't align text both left and right making the space between letters irregular.
□ Allow texts to be written in a language the person knows well and not insist on English or French if that language is weak.

Even if it was apparent from the beginning that there is little to report on this topic, I think that Professor Gadler did convey a strong message. There is a big group of adults out there with a hidden handicap and many of them would do a much better job if they could get the help they need. The Commission has a long way to go in this field, not least its language department.

Find out more:
You can take a look at the power point used during this presentation.
The presentation was hosted by the support organization for dyslectic children and their teachers and parents here in Luxembourg; Dyspel. They reply to questions and give what practical help could be needed.

Finally, if you would like to read more about dyslexia, here are some links:

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

Catharina TERLING

Created by: admin last modification: Thursday 25 of October, 2012 [15:46:45 UTC] by admin

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