What is dyslexia coaching?

Dyslexia is a learning difference often associated with difficulties reading and writing. While these are affected, at its core, dyslexia is about the way we process information and can cause problems with organisation and time management. 

There are also many positives that come with dyslexia, including creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. For those with dyslexia, however, the challenges can lead to low self-esteem and confidence issues that may hold them back from fulfilling their true potential.

For some, a helpful way to overcome this is through working with a coach who is dyslexia-aware. Here we talk to life coach Sarah Clark, who has been working with dyslexic clients for over 20 years to learn more about coaching for dyslexia and the support it can offer. 

How can dyslexia impact those living with it?

Dyslexia is a learning difference which affects information processing for an individual. According to the British Dyslexia Association, 10% of the population is believed to be dyslexic. The positive impact of having dyslexia means that the person is often able to think in a really creative way, to have strengths in visual and creative fields, problem-solving and social interaction. This can put the individual with dyslexia at an advantage.   

Dyslexia primarily impacts on reading, writing and processing ability. It also can affect vision and can make tracking numbers or words on a page difficult. Some people report that organisational skills are affected, and as we tend to be a society who relies on the written word, it can have an impact in a variety of settings in school, college, home and working life. 

It can be viewed as a continuum so that individuals will experience dyslexia differently which is where a person-centred approach to coaching is so helpful. In day-to-day life, dyslexia can impact how a person structures their day, and takes in and processes information. It can mean that the individual feels misunderstood and may experience overwhelm and low self-esteem.  

I commonly hear those with dyslexia say that, as it can take them longer with literacy and processing, that they can feel that they are not as intelligent as other people. Dyslexia does not impact on intellect, however the experiences that those with dyslexia encounter in life can make it feel like that sometimes. This is where coaching can be so helpful. 

What common difficulties have you seen clients with dyslexia face?

I have been working with those with dyslexia for over 20 years and have also trained staff on how to support and recognise how to adapt training materials to ensure that they are accessible. The main difficulties that I have seen include frustration, anxiety, and stress when facing exam conditions or starting a new job that may mean that their neurological difference is not understood or taken into account. 

It takes courage and confidence to be assertive about the need to have more time to access a document or request a different communication method.

In life in general we like to be accepted as individuals however it can be tricky to be the one who has a different learning style.  

Clients report that time management can be really difficult. We have a fast-paced lifestyle that relies on literacy and having to adapt materials, request graphics or a more auditory style of communication can present difficulties. As organisational skills and memory can be affected, clients have self-reported that their self-esteem levels can lower.  

In particular past experiences of not feeling like others are providing an inclusive setting for my client can damage morale. If we have one experience that is unhelpful we can feel that the next setting will be the same and this can create negative self-talk for future situations. 

How can coaching support people with dyslexia?

Coachees often come for coaching when they feel that things are out of balance, they might be perceiving that life feels a little overwhelming and wish to develop skills to progress through life more smoothly. In coaching sessions, the coach listens to the client and helps them to explore their experiences and design the future that they would like to see. The coaching enables the coachee to tap into strengths and skills that they may have been unaware existed in order to maximise their potential. 

Coaching can help support people with dyslexia to work on their goals, find new organisational strategies, and develop strengths and skills for moving forward. It can support new ways of thinking and approaching situations too. I know one client who uses songs or stories as a memory aid, another uses flow diagrams with graphics, voice recognition, mind maps and speech to text. 

Coaching can help the client to recognise when they are being treated differently due to their dyslexia and help them with confidence, assertiveness skills and the ability to recognise their rights to speak out and ask for what they need. In sessions when I have asked those who are dyslexic what they most want they will say to be understood, to have more time to process and to feel that they can ask for this. 

I have been told that coaching enables a feeling of accountability when working on goals and that reviews of actions taken and future plans with a coach can help with motivation and achievement.

It is important to never assume what a client needs in terms of ability to access the coaching but to ask. In readiness for sessions having a plentiful supply of graphics, kinesthetic objects, a spirit of curiosity and the ability to ‘chunk’ information down according to requirement is very helpful.  

If you could help our readers understand one thing about dyslexia, what would it be?

I would say that it is to remember that we are all different and even if we are given a ‘label’ that we are all individuals and we have the right to ask for what we need individually to ensure equality. If you are working with someone who is dyslexic then it is important to allow time for processing, use strategies that minimise writing and to seek to understand what would be most helpful. If you define yourself as dyslexic then you will have overcome a variety of hurdles in life to be where you are now and that is deserving of recognition and respect.

If this has inspired you to look into coaching, you can start your journey right now and find a coach who’s right for you. 

Article updated 24/06/2024

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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