If you child has been identified as having Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) helping your teen to get work experience or into full time work can sometimes feel like a bit of a challenge, but it needn’t be. We asked Katie Smith, Partnership and Innovation Manager of dyslexia recruitment specialists, Exceptional Individuals to share her thoughts on how to help your child.

You may be the parent of a child that has just been diagnosed as Autistic, or you could be the guardian of someone that you suspect is Dyslexic. The thoughts that are going through your head are likely to be completely negative, and the news may well have left you are worrying, upset and really scared for your child’s future and what this now means for their career and independence.

Similarly, your child may be feeling guilt, their self esteem is in tatters and they are probably now thinking that they are “stupid or worthless”. But the truth is that there really isn’t anything to worry about. Neurodiversity in all of its forms is a learning ‘difference’ not a ‘disability’. The neurodiverse mind processes information in a different way to what is considered normal. But normal is subjective anyway. In today’s society, neuro-diverse minds are in high demand across the board of recruitment, there’s a skills gap within all industries and companies large and small are always crying out for creativity and analytics, marketing, content writing, sales and IT. These areas are where the neurodiverse mind has a huge edge over the neurotypical.

As the economy changes and moves forward we need people who think differently and creatively to build our economy in an ever-changing world. Over the past 6 months since the BBC Gender pay gap scandal we have seen that attitudes towards Diversity and Inclusion are changing, there is no better time to be neurodiverse in the UK. We estimate that around 20% of the population are statemented as neurodiverse, and many employers now have internal Diversity and Inclusion networks set up to help to support their employees and open up channels of communication, especially within Health and Wellbeing.

Exceptional Individuals is a neurodiversity support agency that helps neurodiverse individuals over the age of 18 to get through barriers and into employment. We help people to understand their neurodiversity by building their own spikey profile (pictured) which shows them their strengths (top spikes) and can help them to cope with anything that they find challenging (bottom spikes). In realising where their strengths are we can help our candidates to tailor a job search and career path, assist with CV writing and application forms and then be there to put in any reasonable adjustments or assistive tech that will help them to manage their workload when they are offered a role.  We work with some of the top inclusive employers in the country such as Aldi, Kantar, Ryman and Roche Pharmaceuticals to open up opportunities for our candidates.

One of the most important pieces of advice that we give to our candidates is around disclosure and how to handle this. We fully support our job seekers throughout this process and would always encourage them to disclose this information to a potential employer. In a day and age where you are protected by the Equal Opportunities Act it is within everyone’s best interest to be open and honest and disclosing your neurodiversity shouldn’t impact on your application in anyway. One thing that it will do is help a potential employer to set up any reasonable adjustments that may be needed for you to complete this. During the selection process within any company the HR and Recruitment manager only want to find the best person for the role, whether this person is disabled, from LGBTQ or BAME communities etc. doesn’t matter to an employer but giving yourself the best chance to shine over and above others should matter the most for you. In making reasonable adjustments to an application process, whether this is extra time, assistive tech, software or psychometric testing then an employer is showing true inclusivity and giving everyone the best chance at achieving this. After all, would you really want to work for an employer that isn’t helpful or willing to make adjustments for its employees? Probably not.

All of this being said, I still on a weekly basis I find myself comforting or consoling a completely exasperated parent whose child has been mistreated or has struggled due to their neurodiversity since leaving school. Whilst in education there are untold amounts of support for children and young adults that are neurodiverse. However, once out of education all of this support seems to disappear into thin air. A person’s assistive technology and laptops may need to be handed back, there’s no advisor to help them to complete an application, there’s no extra time available to help them complete a form or psychometric test; the list goes on. Self-doubt and worry sets back in and a feeling of helplessness in the unknown world of work will be eating away at your child of course, but also it eats away at you. You know their worth and their strengths inside out and that they would be a fabulous asset to any employer but this never seems to translate when they are applying for jobs or attending interviews.

The point is that this is not your child’s fault as you know, but it also is not your fault. The large majority of candidates that we see are echoing this story, so if this sounds familiar please understand that you are not alone and by continuing to provide a supportive environment to your child you are doing the best that you can. Our most successful candidates are the ones that have a supportive background, whose families are fully invested in seeing neurodiversity as a strength rather than a weakness.  As Careers Advice for Parents say “Helping teens to decide on their future can seem like more of a challenge now than ever whether you are a parent, a carer or a teacher”. By utilizing services like this and talking to fully invested and caring advisors we can help you to understand how your child is feeling, what challenges they may face when seeking work and how best to advise them.

As a parent you may feel completely unqualified to assist your child with managing their neurodiversity or career choice; the best advice that we can give to you is to always have open and honest dialogue and to encourage your child to identify their strengths and play to them, to build their careers around this and to seek support and assistance when taking a look at their bottom spikes, after all the greatest minds have always thought differently.

Image credits:
Allan Ajifo, Flickr