Thriving in the Workplace with a Learning Disability

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell

As a child I realized that I was not able to learn to read like other kids. This realization came with instant shame and was magnified by public humiliation of trying to spell a word on the blackboard in front of the class and well-meaning adults who would over-focus on trying to “fix” my problem. The natural progression of shame is a need to hide.

If you, too, have dealt with a learning disability, how do you not carry this childhood sense of inadequacy to an interview with a prospective employer or, later on, actually into the work force?

Many books and studies show that a learning disability like Dyslexia can be an advantage in the work place because a non-neurotypical learner might bring a different prospective to a problem or even a business. Fifty percent of billionaires are Dyslexic, but it’s still something most people would not advertise in a job interview. Although a lot of famous entrepreneurs have gone public with their learning disabilities, the stigma is still there amongst people searching for employment. And, although most people don’t have learning disabilities, many of us can still be overly concerned with our weaknesses instead of focusing on our strengths. Really being who you are is the key to success and feeling good about yourself.

“80% of success is just showing up.” This is a famous quote from Woody Allen and later used by Bill Clinton. Don’t get overly focused on perfection. Just focus on getting something out there. Focus on showing up.

Here are three ideas for being successful with a learning disability:

1. Find practical solutions to your problems.
My email signature says, “Please excuse any spelling mistake. I am Dyslexic.” This shows people that when I make spelling errors or when my email is lacking accuracy, it’s not a function of me not caring. If you have a learning disability you can also try doing “trades” with a co-workers. Have them check your spelling, and in return give them creative ideas or concepts that will help them. Being honest about your strengths and weaknesses and utilizing your talents will help you work collaboratively and move your team forward quicker.

2. Know your strengths.
Even though people with learning disabilities may traditionally have had a harder time in school, we can often be successful in the workplace. Being Dyslexic, I have found that I have a much more creative approach to problem solving and I see patterns that allow me to get from point A to B a lot more quickly. If you have a learning disability, find out what you’re good at and embrace it. Discovering your difference and your strength will be your key to success.

Don’t get overly focused on perfection. Just focus on getting something out there. Focus on showing up.

Photo by Lisa Diederich

Photo by Lisa Diederich

3. Find a role model & share your story.
It is so important for people to come out and state that they have a learning disability. Discovering that there are successful entrepreneurs with Dyslexia really helped me embrace my own. Having a role model is important, so if you can find someone who has overcome his or her struggles it will help you feel less alone. Also, sharing your own story with coworkers, friends, and your children will give them insight into what you deal with on a daily basis. You never know whose role model you might become!

Do you have a perceived weakness that you dwell on in the workplace? How can you act to overcome this?

Image via Lisa Diederich



Leana is the founder and CEO of KidsInTheHouse.com, the world’s largest parenting video library with over 9000 videos from 500 leading experts. Leana is a serial entrepreneur who has started three businesses from the ground up, and she is a mother of three.

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