Author: By James A. Cincotta, MA Ed
Source: reprinted with permission of the author

Disclosure refers to telling a supervisor, co-worker or others about your learning disability. Disclosure is one of the most difficult decisions you can make. It’s a personal decision that requires a lot of thought and planning. You need to carefully plan how you wish to disclose and think about the possible implications this action has for everyone involved.

Reasons Why Adults with LD Keep It To Themselves.

  • May not know much about their LD and how it affects them at work
  • Had an unpleasant experience in the past, and do not want to repeat that experience
  • Fear that disclosing will lead to prejudice, discrimination or rejection
  • May think that a LD will be seen as a weakness
  • Feel they should not disclose their LD unless it is absolutely necessary. They prefer to work around the problems.
  • Do not know when or how to disclose their LD .

Some Reasons Why you Might Decide to Disclose:

  • Because the requirements of your job have changed due to organizational growth, restructuring or technological changes, and you can no longer “hide” your learning disability
  • Because clear-cut issues have arisen that allow your supervisor to gain a better understanding of your situation
  • Because you want to explain why you have not always met expectations or requirements of the job.

Some Situations When You Might Decide to Disclose

  • Before a job interview, or before you accept a job or a promotion so you can discuss the accommodations you require
  • During a job evaluation
  • When your LD begins to hamper your work performance
  • At other times, when you think your employer and/or co-workers are receptive to your disclosure.

When Not to Disclose

  • When companies recruit people with LD but lack a supportive environment allowing people with LD to excel.
  • When you believe that a person or the company will use the information to prevent your success
  • When you feel that people will make you feel bad about your LD
  • When you are at a job interview, because there is a risk of not being selected for the job due to your LD or the focus is put on your LD, not your skills

To Whom Do You Disclose?

The best person to talk to is a staff person from the human resources department, or at least removed from the front-line. In small companies, you may want to speak to a senior person who is not your direct supervisor.

Some Helpful Tips About Disclosing

  • Plan a meeting. Scheduled meeting between yourself and the person you have decided to talk to.
  • Be prepared. Provide the person with a specific reason for the accommodation. Explain why you need it and how this would benefit the organization.
  • Don’t discuss your life history. Provide only as much information as the person needs to know for you to obtain the accommodation.
    Information discussed should be private. Stress that the information needs to remain confidential and private. Ask if anyone else will be given the information and for what reasons?
  • Make a plan and stick to it. Write an action plan on how, when and to what extent the accommodation is to be provided.
  • Follow up. Request a follow-up meeting to chart the progress or adjustment which needs to be made.

Think It Over, Carefully

  • Before you disclose, think carefully about what you are going to say. Remember, it is important to emphasize your strengths and successes, and list any strategies or accommodations that have worked for you in the past.
  • Ultimately, only you can decide the time, the place and the amount of information to share with others.

Strategies to help individuals at work

Accommodations on the Job

  • Accommodations are the different methods and materials that a person with learning disabilities uses to complete tasks or activities with greater ease and efficiency.
  • According to Canadian Human Rights legislation, employees have a right to accommodations in the workplace if it does not cause “undue hardships” to the company or the organization where you work. Undue hardship means the accommodation is not too expensive or too hard for the employer to put in place.

Accommodation Means:

  • Making changes to the environment without changing the nature of the task or activities
  • The specific equipment used (e.g. computer, tape recorder) to get the job done
  • Techniques (extra time, quiet working space, written and verbal instructions) to make communications with supervisors and co-workers flow better
  • Matching the tools, techniques or strategies to the specific need.

Auditory: Best Practices

  • Assistive Technology (A computer that can read to the individual or help with spelling)
  • Reduce background noise (ie. Sitting under a vent could distract a person conversation; make them aware and move elsewhere )
  • Repeat instructions
  • Have listener repeat back information to you and allow extra time for information processing
  • Offer written instructions, charts, pictures, ie. Declaration
  • Demonstrate the task first rather than discussing it

You have difficulty remembering what you heard.

  • Make sure that verbal instructions are given away from background noises such as ringing telephones, noisy machinery or background conversations.
  • Ask to move to a quieter location.
  • Ask if you can have a written copy.
  • Take notes or ask for written instructions.

Organization: Best Practices

  • Use timers or verbal response as reminders
  • Map information / graphic organizers
  • Allow extra traveling time and time to process
  • Allow client to work at own pace
  • Break task into component parts or sub-tasks
  • Help in mapping out a day or projects.
  • PDA’s / Daytime / Alarms

You have difficulty telling time and you arrive late or unusually early.

  • Use alarms or bells, etc., to signal changes.
  • Schedule extra time for travel between meetings and interviews.
  • Use timers or verbal response as reminders.

Have difficulty organizing your work day, tasks, files or paper work

  • Use a day planner or agenda book. Regularly keep it up to date. Check it before you leave for work.
  • Use colour pens and highlighters to colour code and prioritize tasks and activities. Use “sticky” notes which can be removed once the task is completed.
  • Break down larger activities into smaller tasks. Ask for specific timelines and due dates to complete work. Ask which tasks are urgent and which can wait.
  • Use time reminders, such as a watch, alarm clock, stop watch or buzzers.

Visual Perception: Best Practices

  • Provide a room in neutral colours with minimal physical distractions
  • Use oral communication and web-based materials instead of written documentation
  • Voice Activated Software
  • More time to complete tasks
  • Talking Calculator
  • Position person so their back is facing the door

Attention: Best Practices

  • Always on the move, fidgeting (feet/pencil tapping), you can’t sit still.
  • Take frequent exercise or stretch breaks. Be careful not to take too many because you don’t want to let people think you’re not working.
  • Keep a soft rubber ball that you can squeeze and play with. Make sure that by playing with the ball you are not bothering anyone.
  • Take the time to exercise at home or at a gym before going to work to burn off energy. Consider walking to work.
  • Write down the time of day when you fidget the most. When you are the most active, use that time to run errands, talk to people, or do the type of work that allows you to burn off the excess energy.

Have difficulty organizing your work day, tasks, files or paper work (cont.)

  • Buy a good, easy-to-use time management book or take classes in time management from a community college or adult high school which will teach you how to better organize your time.
  • Use time management software which can schedule your meetings and activities and organize your emails.
  • Work in groups or ask a co-worker to help you.