By Dr. Nafeesah Allen
Affecting roughly 20% of the American population, dyslexia is one of the most common neurocognitive disorders, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Individuals diagnosed with this learning disability may have difficulty connecting letters to sounds (phonological processing), reading and spelling.
Similarly, dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), impacts motor skills. While dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder and not a learning disorder, it can also affect reading and writing ability. Roughly 50% of individuals with dyslexia present characteristics of dyspraxia too.
Why Finding Careers That Maximize Their Unique Competencies Matters
But dyslexia and dyspraxia have nothing to do with how smart a person is. Someone with either or both of these neurodiverse conditions is equally as competent as their neuronormative peers – it just might take them longer to read, respond or react. In fact, these individuals tend to have quick adaptation and creative thinking skills desired by employers. Also, people who have managed to minimize the disruptions these conditions can cause often have the strategic planning, problem-solving and people management chops needed to succeed in a dynamic workplace.
A job search for someone with dyslexia or dyspraxia often means considering careers not just aligned with their interests but also with how their brain functions best. Although it makes sense to avoid careers involving heavy reading and writing, now more than ever, there are many technology-enabled accessibility support systems that can help significantly. Also, manual, creative and interactive roles can fit these individuals’ natural strengths and personal interests. Here are 6 roles in which people with dyslexia and dyspraxia truly excel.
The brain is highly adaptable. Over time, people with dyspraxia or dyslexia develop other skills — like improved reasoning, processing, problem-solving and observational skills — that help them manage. They also develop excellent spatial reasoning skills. Graphic design and visual artistry roles are perfect for individuals with dyslexia and/or dyspraxia because they tend to have above-average imagination skills. Employers seeking candidates with strong visual-spatial reasoning and creative thinking skills would find a win-win situation. Illustration, videography and other design roles could be a perfect match for the company and the employee.
Animal Care Specialist
Whether it’s pet grooming, animal sitting, veterinary studies or animal-centric therapy, working with animals in any capacity suits individuals with dyslexia and dyspraxia. Though dyslexic and dyspraxic characteristics can present differently in every person, these individuals tend to have high emotional intelligence and empathy. Roles focusing on emotional sensitivity and face-to-face interaction lend themselves well to a successful career. Candidates with dyslexia and/or dyspraxia would thrive working as an animal rescue officer, helping animals find loving new homes or working with people who interact with animals as a modality for therapy or training.
Individuals with dyslexia and dyspraxia have firsthand experience with understanding that every student learns differently. Dyslexic and/or dyspraxic individuals would excel in teaching or tutoring roles that let them try out novel learning strategies and innovative tools. Not only do they have the patience and leadership skills to succeed, but their narrative reasoning and uncanny ability to think outside of the box means they are unlikely to give up on students who require learning accommodations. The teaching field is wide. Based on grade level and subject, there are many roles for people with dyslexia and/or dyspraxia to succeed. Adult education, second language learning, special education, standardized test prep and trade schools offer good long-term job prospects.
It is estimated that over 50% of the employees at the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) have dyslexia. That makes sense, given the spatial reasoning skills needed in a three-dimensional context. People with high logical reasoning abilities are well-suited to a scientific environment because it is heavily experiential. Whether in engineering or systems analysis, people with dyslexia and/or dyspraxia would make excellent employees in the spatial sciences.
The strong link between dyslexia and entrepreneurship indicates that employers should look to this cohort for big-picture thinking and the power of persuasion. Entrepreneurs have to balance challenges — technical and interpersonal —that people with dyslexia and dyspraxia know all too well. Also, they can succeed in establishing their own work environment that is conducive to launching a visionary business and bringing new people together around an innovative concept.
Many people who identify as dyslexic and/or dyspraxic excel in working with their hands. Careers that focus on construction, trades and residential or commercial building can be a lucrative path for people with dyslexia or dyspraxia. Here’s why. These fields are project and team-based. The communication and negotiation skills needed to work on large-scale projects are their strong suits. The administrative or clerical tasks can be delegated to others, so they can seamlessly focus on the hands-on work. From architectural plans, they can envision space, design and aesthetics in ways that can truly be an asset on a work site. Fields like plumbing, electrical maintenance and general contracting also tend to be within their zone of genius.