Supporting Individuals With Learning and Attention Issues in the Workplace


Today’s presenters are Bob Cunningham, expert
advisor at understood.org and Meg O’Connell, vice president of the workplace initiatives
at Poses Family Foundation. Bob, I’ll turn it to you first for a brief
introduction.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: Thanks, Sarah. My name is Bob Cunningham, I work with the
Understood.org team and with Meg at the Poses Family Foundation. My background is primarily in K through 12
education, also in post secondary education in university setting as well as technical
school setting. I’ve worked with a lot of students who transitioned
into those kinds of post secondary settings, and also directly from those and from high
school into the workforce. I’m excited to be here. And thanks for inviting me.>>SARAH PULLANO: Great, thanks so much, Bob,
Meg, if you can give a brief introduction, that would be great.>>MEG O’CONNELL: Yes, Bob and I work together
at the Poses Family Foundation. I’m the vice president of Workplace Initiatives
which is our key workplace program where we work with nonprofit partners and companies
to help them launch disability inclusion programs. We are a grant making entity but also offer
pro bono and advice and support to our partners. I’m glad to be here with you and share best
practices and lessons learned.>>SARAH PULLANO: As everyone can hear we
have great presenters today, a lot of expertise to take advantage of. Any questions that you have, please feel free
to ask those through the chat box at any time or provide any comments back. Bob, I’ll turn it to you to kick off our presentation
and take us through the first part.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: Great, thanks, Sarah. Things we are going to cover today, we will
talk about what learning and attention issues are, what they are not, and some common myths
around them. We are going to talk specifically about learning
and attention issues in the workplace, best practices and examples from some of our work
and from the field. Then we will have a time at the end for Q
and A. We are going to start looking at actually
what learning and attention issues are. If you want to go to that first slide, there
we go. One in five individuals in the United States
has a learning or attention issue. These are things like attention issues, or
issues with reading or writing or math or problems of organization and focus. These are brain based issues. These are things that are neurologically implicated. They are not visible which makes it more challenging
in a work environment or through a hiring process for people with learning attention
issues, because it is not obvious that somebody struggles with a learning or attention issue. These are some of the conditions that we are
referring to when we talk about learning and attention issues. We use the term, learning and attention issues
because it’s a broader way to conceptualize the difficulties that people have, it’s also
more inclusive. It doesn’t require that somebody has been
identified through any kind of formal evaluation or process or by a doctor or anything like
that. It’s really people who are struggling with
the symptoms of these kinds of issues. One of the issues that you have heard a lot
about I’m sure is ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also dyslexia which
is trouble with reading. Dyslexia is the most prevalent of the learning
and attention issues we will discuss. There is a strong likelihood that all of you
in your workplaces encounter people with both ADHD and dyslexia, and those two conditions
often co occur in the same person. Somebody if they have ADHD they are more likely
to also have dyslexia. If they have dyslexia they are more likely
to also have ADHD. Executive functioning issues, it’s a hot topic
right now in the education space anyway. These are things like planning and summarizing
and organizing, and the CEO of the brain. Also things like flexible thinking, so can
you look at a situation and come up with multiple possible ways to solve the problem. That is flexible thinking. That is a executive function. Dyscalculia is trouble with math, dysgraphia
with writing, dyspraxia with motor coordination. None of these things are visible. It’s really the interaction with the person
that will let you know if this is a issue for them, or somebody may choose to self disclose
to you that they have these conditions. Nonverbal learning disabilities, auditory
processing disorder, sensory processing issues and visual processing issues occur less frequently
in the population, but can have a major impact in the workplace, something like a nonverbal
learning disability that can affect social skill development and the understanding of
nonverbal social cues, in other words, they have difficulty reading facial expressions
or reading body language, that sort of stuff. Auditory processing and visual processing
is how a brain makes sense out of stimuli that they are getting from their senses, from
their eyes or from their ears, and sensory processing is how they make sense of a bunch
of different senses combined. It’s not trouble with actual hearing or with
actual vision. It is how their brain makes sense of what
they are seeing and hearing that becomes problematic. Here are some things that learning and attention
issues do not include. Intellectual disabilities, developmental disorders
like Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, sensory impairments, like I said, blindness
or hearing impairments, physical or motor impairments, social emotional or behavioral
disorders, and emotional disturbances including the effects of trauma. When we talk about learning and attention
issues, we are not talking specifically about those things. The reason is that if somebody has one of
those conditions, it’s better to start with resources and organizations that really focus
on them because they are much more complex, more comprehensive in the way they impact
a person’s development. So we would encourage you to start with organizations
that really focus on those issues. But understand that people with those kinds
of conditions can also have learning and attention issues. It is just usually better to start getting
information and thinking about how you help someone with organizations that focus on those
particular issues. There are a lot of myths surrounding people
with learning and attention issues. I’m going to go over some facts about learning
and attention issues. Then I will show you some of the corresponding
myths. The first fact, one in five individuals has
a learning and attention issue. Those are more prevalent than a lot of people
think. If you think of your workplace, if you have
five people sitting in a room, one of them is likely to have some kind of learning and
attention issue. These are things that all of us who are in
employment situations, who are responsible for supervising employees, who are responsible
for hiring employees, this is something that we should all be familiar with, because we
are going to encounter people with these conditions. The myth that is associated with that one
is that learning and attention issues are rare, they are not common. They are in fact pretty common, 20 percent
of the population is a lot of people. There is no scientific evidence that links
diet to learning and attention issues. If you read the popular press and media, often
you will see articles around diet and how they impact people’s attention and behavior,
things like that. That is not what we are talking about here. Diet has no relation to learning and attention
issues. These are brain based neurologically based
conditions. Eating poorly does not in fact cause learning
and attention issues. Vaccinations also do not cause learning and
attention issues. That is a hot topic in the press every so
often. There is absolutely no scientific evidence
that links vaccinations to learning and attention issues. Individuals with learning and attention issues
are just as smart as everyone else. This is a fact. There is no correlation between a person’s
intelligence and whether or not they have a learning or attention issue. Somebody who has dyslexia has difficulty with
mechanics of reading. Somebody with attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder has difficulty paying attention to things that other people want them to pay
attention to. And inhibiting their impulses. But neither of those things have anything
to do with how smart someone is. Learning and attention issues are linked to
IQ, is a very popular myth. It’s just that, it’s a myth. Again, no relationship to intelligence. A fact that you should all know is that there
are no cures for learning and attention issues. People do not outgrow them, which means if
a person is in elementary school and they have a learning or attention issue in elementary
school, they will still have that learning or attention issue as an adult. It will just impact them differently, because
the way these conditions impact people depends a lot on what setting the person is in, so
the way it impacts them in school may be different than the way it impacts them when they are
adults in the workplace. But the issue is still there for them. They still struggle with it. While there is no cure for learning and attention
issues, there are ways to help somebody with learning and attention issues and as employers
or as people who work with folks who have learning and attention issues, we are all
invested in their success. If you have a employee or someone you are
looking at hiring, you have them in your company because you believe that they have something
to offer your company. So it is in your interest and the company’s
interest to learn about learning and attention issues and how you can support them in the
workplace, so that they are successful, because if they are successful, your business is successful. Another fact, some learning and attention
issues do make it hard to interpret visual information. But there is a myth that glasses can correct
learning and attention issues. That is not true. Hearing aids, glasses, those kinds of devices
cannot correct for learning and attention issues. Like diet and vaccinations, there is also
no indication that learning and attention issues are related to how much TV you watch,
how many video games you play, that sort of stuff. There is a lot of research out there on people
with learning and attention issues and how much time they spend with television, video
games, things like that. But there is no causal relationship there. And the next one, go ahead and show the myth. People with learning and attention issues
are just being lazy, is the myth that I hear most frequently repeated, in schools and in
workplace settings. It’s that someone with a learning or attention
issue is not working hard enough, or they are just being lazy. Somebody may in fact be lazy, someone may
in fact not be working hard enough. But that is not because they have a learning
or attention issue. People with learning and attention issues
tend to be just as industrious, just as committed, just as intent on doing well and performing
well, as anyone else. They just need often to figure out ways to
have their learning or attention issue impact them less in the workplace. For that, they often need help from you or
from someone else in their workplace. This is a fact. With the right support and intervention, individuals
with these issues can thrive in school and at work. Many, many people with learning and attention
issues have very successful careers, many people with learning and attention issues
thrive in all kinds of workplaces. There is nothing about learning and attention
issues that makes them unable to be successful in a workplace, like I said, sometimes they
may need to have things presented to them differently. Sometimes they may need to have things presented
to them more than once. But once they get it conceptually, they are
just as able to do what you need them to do as anyone else is.>>I have a quick question for you, before
we go into the next section. A lot of great information and really good
overview for some examples of learning and attention issues and difference between those
and disabilities as well or some examples of disabilities, if you are somebody who,
maybe you are sitting on the line even for this webinar right now and you are taking
a look at some of these facts and myths, some of the examples that you shared, and you feel
like maybe you could be somebody who has dyslexia, because again I know that there is a spectrum
for all of these things as well, ADHD included, it’s not the most extreme version of probably
what we default thinking to, is there an example that you can think of or maybe somebody didn’t
realize that they had a learning or attention issue, and a way that they were able to test
for that in a way or a journey that they were able to take themselves on to discover more?>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. So you are right, Sarah, there are, these
are continuum kind of issues, right, so there are milder forms and more severe forms. In my experience, especially people who are
particularly bright, so very intelligent folks and folks who have gotten good support are
often able to really compensate for having a dyslexia or an ADHD, and they probably realize
themselves, so there might be people on the phone who realize that learning to read was
more challenging for you than it was for some of your peers, and you really could never
figure that out, because by all indications, you were every bit as smart as that peer. So why was it harder for you? And this is part of the frustration of having
a learning disability like dyslexia or an attention deficit. I’m really good at a lot of these things,
why is this particular thing so challenging for me, so hard for me? If that is the case for you, then exploring
that on a site like Understood.org or talking to a medical professional or a psychologist
or someone like that is a great way to get good information. It is really, really common for people with
learning and attention issues to actually be diagnosed as adults. And that is usually because they have found
ways to compensate for themselves, or they are just really bright people who were able
to be successful despite the fact that they have a learning or attention issue. If you are someone who has looked around and
said I’m as capable as they are, why is this particular thing, why is math or why is reading
or why is sitting still or why is paying attention for long periods of time, why does it seem
to be so much more difficult for me than for everyone else, then you are someone who should
be asking those questions of professionals in your network.>>SARAH PULLANO: I think those are great
tips and resources, suggestions for where people can turn to if they want to find out
more. I think that is probably one of the biggest
questions that we may receive when it comes to learning and attention issues, is we expand
people’s minds and their knowledge of what could be considered as these learning or attention
issues but it’s a question of, okay, now that I have this understanding, maybe this is something
that applies to me, because I have struggled in certain areas, or sometimes when I read
something or more commonly than not when I read something, sometimes the words get mixed
up, or sometimes the letters within a word, I might have a little mix up there as well. And I know again just one piece of information
that I always like to share, just an example of that spectrum that we were talking about,
is there are a couple people who I have come across in my life who have disclosed being
dyslexic and it’s a range. One person has said to me that it’s more of
a mild form, if that is the appropriate term to use, to where they really just have to
double check what they are writing down, or when they are typing things in, because they
might mix up a couple different words or the order that they go in. Another person who disclosed to me, mentioned
that it might be more auditory for them, even when they are listening to somebody talk the
words get mixed up. It’s just listening to key words and picking
out key phrases when somebody is speaking to them, and they have a little bit of a harder
time with longer phrases and longer phrased questions. So it’s something to keep in mind, even when
you are conducting interviews or a phone screen or when you are typing out questions as a
recruiter or hiring manager, that is something that might not just benefit somebody potentially
with dyslexia or learning or attention issue, but somebody without that even, just keeping
questions short and sweet and straight to the point, just leaves less room for error
as well.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: You are right. If you look up something like auditory processing
issues, what you just described is something that co occurs frequently with dyslexia rather
than dyslexia itself, and that is a auditory processing issue. If you are having trouble with that whole
kind of length of a string of words or sentences or listening for longer periods of time someone
talking, that is a fairly common condition and there are a lot of good ways to intervene
if someone is having that. I think your suggestions around what a interviewer
can do, to be aware of it. The other thing that I’ll say is that all
of the symptoms of these learning and attention issues exist in everyone. Right? We all have varying capacity for the amount
of information we can take in at once, or the length of sentences or the length of speaking
that we can internalize at a time or the amount that we can read perfectly accurately, or
the number of words and syllables and stuff that we can spell perfectly accurately. Everyone has a point at which that capacity
breaks down for them. The difference for people with learning and
attention issues is that it breaks down sooner, and it actually gets in the way of your day
to day functioning in school or at work or socially. If you feel or if you think that you are interacting
with somebody where these kinds of things obviously kind of get in their way, then that
is when you really start to look at how to accommodate for that or how to make some changes
in what you are doing, because it’s not necessarily something that that person can change in the
moment. They are going to rely on the person who is
interviewing them or the person who is talking to them or the person who is working with
them to make some adjustments in the way that person is doing things, so that they can be
more successful. Does that make sense?>>SARAH PULLANO: Absolutely. That is really great information. Thank you so much for expanding upon that. I know we have a couple other questions. But just for sake of time, we will keep moving
on into that next section, and I’ll be sure to call out any other questions that we receive
along the way. (pause).>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: Meg, I think this is your
part.>>MEG O’CONNELL: Yeah, I’m ready. I was waiting for an introduction. So thank you, Bob (chuckles). We are going to switchgears now and talk about
what is important to you guys in the workplace. Bob did a great job talking about what learning
and attention issues are and this comes up a lot for us but what are some of the practical
things that you can do when you think either your colleague or yourself might have a learning
disability or learning and attention issue. We want to start with some things at the front
end, our first engagement a lot of times with a new employee, there are recruiters on the
phone, this is your day job in and out, is to interview both and understand how they
are going to fit into the organization. One of the first things we advise people to
do is to really understand their interviewing style. Know what you like to do and how you like
to engage, but then also be sure that you are able to pull out other tools in your toolbox,
if you see that maybe your style or the approach of your interviewing process is not resonating
with the individual. Sometimes you can struggle having a phone
interview with somebody, we have all been on those calls where people are multi tasking,
and you ask a question and they are not responding, this can be a struggle for folks with learning
and attention issues. Skype interviews or Zoom interviews can be
effective, sending questions in advance can be effective. Really engaging in different ways, the environment
is also really important. When we talk about your work environment and
where you have interviews, many offices are into the open format and open cubicles where
there is lots of noise, some recruiters or managers like to go to the cafeteria so people
can kind of see the mulling of the employees and what the culture is like. That can be really distracting. Certainly not that you shouldn’t do any of
those things, but if you see that your candidate or even your coworkers, it doesn’t have to
be an interview setting, is struggling to pay attention and you see them wandering off
and not connecting on the conversation that you are having, again it’s important to be
aware of your surroundings and be able to say, hey, I think things are missing, let’s
move to another location. Why don’t we move somewhere else, it’s loud
in here. You certainly don’t want to make them feel
awkward or embarrassed, make it your personal choice, because not everyone is going to be
comfortable to disclose that the person has a learning or attention issue. Many folks may think they have one, but they
are not really sure. So they don’t want to give voice to it if
they are not a hundred percent sure. Just being open to different environments
and different channels, and when we talk about channels and framework, people with learning
and attention issues are often supported by other organizations like Understood, and there
are nonprofit partners and the school systems work with kids with learning and attention
issues, many of you likely know the colleges and university systems have a office, disabled
student service office that supports kids in college with learning and attention issues. So seek out these organizations to say, hey,
we are looking to find great candidates and we want to access the talent pool here, because
as we heard from Bob, learning and attention issues are not predicator to success or being
successful in the workplace. You want to make sure that you are opening
up the aperture for the greatest results to have diversity within your talent pool, and
that of course includes people with learning and attention issues. As we talk about the interview and those of
you that are recruiters or in HR on the call know this, we talk a lot about the essential
functions of the job, when we talk about the Americans with Disabilities Act and sometimes
during a interview we are so focused on behavioral interviewing or, tell us about this scenario,
where you have a difficult coworker, tell me about your most challenging project and
how you strategize through that, and all that is great, but you may not be getting actually
at the job tasks and what it is that the person is going to be doing day to day. Try to get as specific as possible, maybe
give them a problem to solve, maybe show them some work products that have been produced
where you know there might be something that could have been done differently and ask them
how they would have changed it or what they would have done, or what they would add to
it. I know at the Poses Family Foundation, we
do interviews, give our most challenging problem in advance to one of our candidates, and tell
us how you would solve this problem and what you would do and what would be your approach,
and it helps us understand how their mind works, how they think about a problem, how
they process the information they receive and how they get to the outcomes. So it lets them really demonstrate who they
are and how they think about what we have presented to them, and how they can come up
with some great ideas. It’s wonderful to see when you have a variety
of candidates, because you can see the different processes that people go through and the outcomes
that people get to, and it’s really fascinating. Allow space for disclosure. This is the last one on this page. I think this is the hardest one for us as
HR professionals or recruiters, because we are trying to put our best foot forward, so
is the candidate. Sometimes it’s good to pause and say, hey,
during this process, is there anything that I can get you that would help make you more
comfortable? Maybe somebody needs a break, just to take
a deep breath, and process what they have already heard. Maybe it’s naturally building those things
into your interview style, where you give somebody, if you have got meeting after meeting
after meeting, let somebody go sit and grab a cup of coffee by themselves, and process
information. You may get folks that say, you know what,
I need that space. I would love it. I know I have 400 interviews today, I’d love
to have five minutes after each one where I can sit and summarize what I heard in that
meeting that will help me prep for the next one. So give that space for the candidate to talk
about what works for them. We want to empower our candidates to be the
best they can be, and advocating early on is really a great way to get them started. We can go to the next slide. There are some other things, and a lot of
these will seem very basic, and we have seen all of these in the workplace, but these are
ways that we can support employees and our colleagues, visitors, vendors, whoever comes
into our work environment, who may have learning and attention issues. The first and most important is setting clear
expectations. So whether it’s a meeting, whether it’s an
event, whether it’s an interview, setting out objectives up front, so recruiters’ objectives,
recapping them, things we all do in a great Power Point presentation like we are doing
today and set those up for folks. Ask questions for understanding, again, very
basic, but make sure, we all process information differently. I heard the story not long ago when we were
talking about learning and attention issues, it was a classroom situation and the kids
were instructed to draw a star, and so there are all these beautiful five point stars and
some were shooting stars and some were colors, and this one kid drew a picture of Lady Gaga. So everybody processes information differently,
and for them that is what they saw as a star. So be clear with the expectations and the
understanding and what it is that you are wanting to get out of your meeting, event
or interview. Written instructions are always helpful. I do this all the time. I am not great with hallway conversations. We have all had the water cooler conversations
where two or three great things come out of them, and you walk away and you are like,
I can’t remember what that program was, so someone should be responsible, if it’s not
you, somebody in the hallway meeting needs to follow up and say, great, I’ll check this
up in a E mail and send it out to everybody to make sure everybody has clear expectations
and you are checking for understanding, and of course if there’s any deadlines or we have
to get that done by next week, it’s in writing and nobody is like, oh, my god, I walked away
and I forgot. That probably happened to everybody on this
call. This is back to the disclosure piece but asking
if they need any resources to do their job. I mean, we have all had scenarios where we
feel like we have basic tools that we need to do our jobs, but sometimes that includes,
can include a quiet space, sometimes it can include different hours. Years ago I had a colleague who I worked very
closely with, and she was a night owl and I was a morning person and I still am a morning
person. I get up every day at 5:00 a.m. and she is
one of those that would be cranking stuff out at 12, 1 in the morning. And I had been asleep for four hours at that
point. So we created this great opportunity to hand
things off to one another, so it really worked for our different styles and our strong times
during the day, and so things like that, that you can adapt and adjust so you know the strengths
that people have and how they learn, how they process and how they work can be really helpful
in the workplace too. The last one, again, and I think this is good
for all of us no matter what the issue, but letting candidates, colleagues, people that
report to you directly, know that you are available to address any issues and concerns. Bob indicated earlier that a lot of people
get diagnosed when they are adults. This may be new information for a coworker
or colleague that is trying to process this information and how it’s going to impact them
in the workplace, and what supports they might need. So as folks come forward, it’s about having
a meaningful dialogue, and I know the Getting Hired team does a great job giving you guys
tools to have those conversations about disclosure in the workplace, and helping employees who
need resources. So being open and available to those conversations
is critical. Sometimes a disclosure or being vulnerable
to say I need a support can be difficult for someone. So just being that kind of warm friendly open
place that says hey, we are here to support you and help you and we want to give you the
tools to do your job is a great approach, and will help not just the individual but
the entire work team. We can go to the next one. This is that last bullet was a perfect segue
to the next about offer accommodations for more inclusive workplace. There are some great, great tools that, and
we use a lot of these on my team as a workplace initiative. We recommend them a lot, with the folks that
we work with. Technology is a great equalizer. We hear it all the time. There are many tools that we can use that
help people stay on track and focus. Grammarly is one that is used a lot. We are all familiar with spell check which
is great, and a lot of us cannot spell anymore because we rely so heavily on it. Grammarly takes it a step further and actually
checks your grammar for you and helps with fragmented sentences and comma placement and
all those things, to really tighten up someone’s writing. If someone has dyslexia and struggles with
that, this can be a great tool for them. If someone struggles with, I never got that
comment, it’s a great tool for them, writing reports or documents, it will tighten up writing
and help them feel more competent and productive. RescueTime, another app and also a key metric
is another one that is used. If you have someone that has executive functioning
issues or doesn’t understand how much time it takes them to finish a work product or
a task or maybe they need that structure to say, I can knock this out in 30 minutes but
I’m having trouble getting started, setting that time clock can get them started. It also helps them manage their time and understand
how much time they are taking on projects. Focus Booster is another one, Speechnotes,
we have all heard of voice to text, that’s a great option for someone that who may be
dyslexic and has trouble writing things down, but can voice it very eloquently. So great apps. You can explore all of these in your app store,
folks in your learning and development teams, we talk about it in the last bullet, they
likely have access to these and can also tell you what apps are supported by your organization. They can also, your procurement team can let
you know, we have been having folks download Grammarly in a unprecedented amount, maybe
we should see about hooking up and getting a special rate with them since so many of
our employees are using this. There will be things that you will be able
to access there, it’s something to keep an eye on there. Visual supports and processing information
in different ways, this is great, we all talk about visual learners and auditory processing
and those types of things, especially if you are dealing with large teams, it’s great to
provide information in multiple formats. So we can use charts and schedules and reminders
and milestones and owners of this section and that, and can really be helpful for not
only when you are having planning meetings or project check in meetings, individual updates,
it then gives an opportunity for individuals to really gravitate to what works for them. This is another great opportunity, a team
member or a manager or leader to ask your colleagues what works best for them. I’m visual. You can tell me something five times, and
I think I get it, but if I see it, it is very different for me. I experience it different and it clicks in
a whole different way for me. There are a lot of people that that works
for them. Ask your colleagues what works for them, and
try to accommodate them as best as possible. Again, if you have multiple team members,
use as many strategies as possible. Know the internal accommodations. So how does the process work within your organization? If someone discloses, gosh, I could use a
tool, how do I get it, it is important that everyone knows what that process looks like
within their organization. Can you find it from your HR department? Is it on the internal website? Does it appear in newsletters? Are there easy access points so folks can
find it? So knowing how to share that information with
your colleagues is going to be important too. We talked a little about the learning and
development team. This is another great resource from standpoint
of, if you have come across an issue and you are not sure how to address it, chances are
the learning and development team who does obviously a lot of training and engagement
for staff at all levels, all different learning styles, all different learning abilities,
might have resources for you as well too, and addressing something that you are facing,
so they can be a great internal resource, in addition to accommodations, to reach out
and get ideas and get their perspective on how to handle a situation that may be coming
up. All right. I think Bob, this is back to you.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: Yes. I’m back. Thank you, that was excellent and very specific. I think everyone loved that. I’ll talk about five things that everyone
on the phone can do to help empower the one in five people with learning and attention
issues, in addition to the great things and complementary things that Meg mentioned. The first one is that October is a whole bunch
of different days, LD, ADHD, everything else. Everything has a day now, including liking
chocolate chip cookies and hamburgers, but so do people with learning and attention issues. Here are ones that come up in October. Take advantage of that. Watch the media. Watch to see what is available out there about
learning and attention issues, because a lot more will be coming out in October. Know the facts. This is important for you. As folks who work with people with learning
and attention issues, who supervise them, are in charge of hiring them, know some of
the facts. There is a great report from the National
Center for Learning Disabilities that gives you an awful lot of facts about learning disabilities
in particular. So go ahead and check that out. Print it out. Share it with people in your businesses and
your company. It’s a great thing to know. Next one, host a company wide lunch and learn
to education employees on these issues. Find a space in your calendar, professional
development calendar, the company calendar, and get a lunch and learn together where people
who are interested or who should be interested in learning and attention issues are invited
to come share some of their experiences and learn from somebody who has a learning and
attention issues, somebody who has particular knowledge about learning and attention issues. There are a lot of universities, clinics associated
with hospitals, advocacy organizations, that would be happy to provide someone to come
and be part of lunch and learn sort of thing with you. If you have employees who have children with
learning and attention issues, Understood.org is a phenomenal resource for them. Share it with them. Let them know that understood.org is out there,
and if they have kids with learning and attention issues, Understood is a site that was designed
specifically for parents of kids with learning and attention issues. It is available in English and Spanish. It is entirely free and has a wonderful group
of tools and content. The other thing I will say about Understood
is that it’s something that you can use, Understood covers people from ages 3 to 21, the content
is devoted toward people from 3 to 21. But I will tell you that much of what is in
there around high school, much of what is in there around post secondary education is
absolutely applicable to the workplace. What we do in schools for high schoolers who
have dyslexia are things that you could readily do in a workplace in terms of accommodations
and things like that. So go ahead and use Understood to get information
for yourself, share Understood with your employees who themselves may have learning and attention
issues or who may have kids with learning and attention issues. You can actually use one of the tools called
through your child’s eyes, it’s available on the home page at Understood, to see what
it’s like to struggle with a learning and attention issue. Pick reading issues, attention issues, math
issues, whatever you would like, pick an older student or pick a little kid. You will get to hear from an expert, you will
get to play a simulation. You will get to hear from a person who struggles
with these learning and attention issues. It is a great way to build empathy, it’s a
good way to sit back and think about what could be done for that person if he or she
was coming to you in whatever capacity you have professionally. It’s an awesome tool to use. The last one is increase awareness of learning
and attention issues by sharing personal stories. Understood has a section where different folks
share what it’s been like for them to have learning and attention issues. It’s everyone from just kind of your typical
parent out there or your typical student, to celebrities, and politicians, well known
people. Go and look at what they have to say about
having had a learning and attention issue. Again for your own benefit, think of what
you would do with that kind of person, and if you have someone like Daymond John who
has dyslexia and other learning issues, that is somebody we would be happy to have working
with us, working for us in our companies. Imagine the kind of things that your company
could do to either encourage, empower and support someone like him or to discourage
and disempower, and have him just be a transit employee at your place of work. Think of the power that your company has and
that you personally have within that company to make your workplace a great place for people
with learning and attention issues to thrive. Your turn. Text Sarah with questions.>>SARAH PULLANO: Thank you both Meg and Bob
for all of the great content. I think this was extremely helpful to learn
more about learning and attention issues and understand just the demographic, the population
that is impacted which could be anybody, and to know that a lot of people are really diagnosed
as adults as well. I think that is a common misconception, Bob,
as you alluded to and as you went over that ADHD and dyslexia as an example of the many
learning and attention issues that are only diagnosed when you are a child, versus when
you are an adult as well. I wanted to summarize some of the information
that you all shared, and wanted to ask if there is anything that I was missing, to hone
in on a couple of the points that you said, and that again part of the reason why individuals
with learning and attention issues might not disclose that, because that is a question
that we often receive, trying to put ourselves in the shoes of that employee or that job
seeker or that student, why aren’t they self disclosing, we are trying to make ourselves
an inclusive environment or an inclusive place for them to feel comfortable doing that. But they may not be aware that they have a
learning or attention issue. They might feel as though they may need assistance
in some area, but they aren’t sure exactly what to call that or to put a diagnosis to
that. So offering resources like the ones that you
mentioned for employees could be helpful for them, and then helpful to have them potentially
disclose then that that is in fact something that they need further assistance with or
accommodation with. Some of the examples that we say with any
diagnosis or potentially disability is the fear of being perceived differently, or being
held back from an opportunity. Those are some of the common fears that we
hear about from job seekers when they talk about disclosing something to a colleague
or especially to a manager or to an employer as well. But Bob and Meg, I wanted to ask, are there
any other items or examples that come to mind when thinking about the challenges that a
job seeker with a learning or attention issue might encounter in their job search or when
trying to communicate and sell themselves in a phone interview or in person interview,
that would be helpful for the audience to keep in mind.>>MEG O’CONNELL: I’ll start. One that comes to mind that we hear about
frequently is the on line application process can be cumbersome and sometimes difficult
for those with learning and attention issues and particularly we hear about the timing
out issue, or the inability to automatically save. We hear from folks with dyslexia that being
able to print out an on line application question or at home is helpful, and enable that to
be able to work on them at home and type them in, or that they work with their voice to
text software that would enable them to talk their answers into the various line items
in applications. That would be something that I think that
obviously the IT department should be made aware of, but sometimes the application processes
can be a little bit cumbersome, so being sure that there is a workaround, or that we recently
worked with an organization that had a hot line number, if you need an accommodation,
so making sure that if you have an access line or if you need an accommodation or assistance
in the application process, that there is somebody there who is ready, willing and able
to help you with anything that may come up through the process.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: I can give one too. First, one of the things that I did not mention
that I probably should have along the way is that many people with learning and attention
issues do a big exhale when they leave school. That is because learning disabilities and
things like that are so closely aligned with academic skills and school and schoolwork,
and stuff like that. So oftentimes the last thing people want to
think about is how that learning issue is going to then impact them in a work setting,
because they are just looking at it like thank god, I got through school, now this won’t
get in my way anymore, and I can go on to have my happy successful life, because the
learning issue was really only for school. Right? So sometimes you will get people who are for
lack of a better word, sort of in denial that that learning issue is still going to have
an impact on them when they get to the workplace. So creating that safe space for them to talk
about that or think about that is important, and is something that you should recognize
when you are talking to people especially if they are just coming out of school. Practically speaking, another thing that I’ll
say in keeping with what Meg was saying about the application process, writing is actually
a terrible way to decide how smart someone is or how capable they might be, because writing
out of all of the academic tasks and things like that is sort of the most susceptible
to most learning and attention issues. There is often a really big difference between
the way somebody with a learning and attention issue can present themselves in speaking and
in thinking and in conversation, than in writing. So, if you look at different examples, and
there are some on Understood and some other places of what writing looks like, can look
like in terms of organization, spelling errors, and the way they put thoughts together, stuff
like that, you might recognize some of that. I would encourage you not to dismiss an otherwise
promising candidate because of a writing that kind of looks sub par. If you have the opportunity or if you allow
recorded responses, video responses, verbal responses, whatever, to the pieces of an application
or an application process, you might get a totally different take on someone than what
you would get through their writing. So I’ll throw that out as a caution.>>SARAH PULLANO: That is a great point. I hadn’t thought about that mind set, from
when somebody leaves school and then enters the workplace and kind of having that sigh
that you mentioned, so that is a really great point to keep in mind, and helpful information. Going along those lines, another question
we had received, situationally, and we have a job seeker disclose this to us, currently
a student, so this job seeker and you can apply this to the workplace as well but the
job seeker is a student, and they have an auditory processing disorder and struggling
to gain accommodations at school, and trying to educate professors and career service centers
to be more understanding about an accommodation that is needed, even something as simple as
having a notetaker. Do you have any advice as to best ways to
educate about the need for an accommodation in a situation like that? And even again something that could apply
to an employee in the workplace who is in that same scenario.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: Meg, do you want to take
it or do you want me?>>MEG O’CONNELL: Yeah, I mean I can start,
and you can chime in. A couple of things, I think there is an opportunity
for individuals to self advocate and it’s creating a environment that it’s okay for
people to speak up and say, gosh, you know, as a process it might be great for us to have
a notetaker in these meetings, I’m happy to be the first person or I’m happy to own it. I shared this example a couple of weeks ago,
that there was an employee who had a learning and attention issue, and kind of the game
they used to play with themselves was, okay, I’m going to be a court reporter and I’m going
to capture every word in this meeting, and really be able to think about it and digest
it. And it allowed them to be hyper focused on
the content of that meeting, and then have the documentation to take it back to them,
digest it further, add some additional comments and engage further with their colleagues. But how this came about was, this was a meeting
where no cell phones were allowed, no computers were allowed, it was all pen and paper. It was all whiteboarding and dialogue and
there was no formal notetaking, other than everybody was responsible for their own. This individual had a learning and attention
issue, struggled keeping up with the track of the conversations and going from one topic
to the next to the next. They actually advocated and heard from other
colleagues, that it would be great if there was a formal notetaking process. She went to her manager and said, I’d love
to be that person, because this is the thing that I’m really good at, I take excellent
notes. They were going to rotate it among the team
members, and she said no, I really want to do this. And this really helped her focus and she was
able to tell her manager why she needed this, to help her stay engaged. Her engagement went up, the team’s engagement
went up. Everybody had something to refer to afterwards
about setting career expectations, providing follow up and dialogue. I think being able to not only ask for help
but also be aware of where you can see where people might be struggling when you are in
meetings and how you can offer them support.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, I think that’s excellent,
Meg. For the particular student who has the auditory
processing issue, at most universities and colleges, things like that, something that
I have seen work exceptionally well is to have a solution before you go and talk to
someone. So, if you kind of know yourself well enough
to know what helps you and what gets in your way, just being able to say that very directly
to a professor or to a university center or kind of anyone else, is usually the best way
to get what you need, right? Many times, professors won’t even get into
the whole disability services center or office and say we need this documentation, that documentation. If what you are saying sounds reasonable,
they will just go ahead with it, because it’s easier than pursuing all the processes and
stuff like that. If you have a clear idea of what helps you,
just present that. That is often a good thing to do. Also for somebody with an auditory processing
issue, there is an app, free app and there is also an up charge for the professional
version, but it’s called Otter like the little rodent, otter, and Otter is a great voice
to text kind of notetaking thing. So you can use something like otter to keep
yourself on track a lot of times with notes, and things like that.>>SARAH PULLANO: That is really helpful. Thank you both for that information. I’ll be sure to pass that on, though I believe
the person who asked that question is still on the webinar as well. But that also brings us right to time. Again if we did not get to your question,
I will be happy to follow up with you directly, and if need be, definitely ask Meg and Bob
for their advice on a response as well. I wanted to thank you all again, Bob and Meg
and Rashonda for all of the great information, for taking the time to present this to our
audience today and for your expertise and thank everybody who joined today for participating
as well. We will follow up with the link to the recording
as soon as it’s ready.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: Thanks, Sarah. Thanks, everyone.>>MEG O’CONNELL: Thank you so much.>>SARAH PULLANO: Have a great rest of your
day, everybody. Thank you.>>BOB CUNNINGHAM: You too. Take care.

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