Research: “You Don’t Look Dyslexic” Australian adults employment experiences

“You Don’t Look Dyslexic”: Using the Job Demands—Resource Model of Burnout to Explore Employment Experiences of Australian Adults with Dyslexia

Shae Wissell, Leila Karimi, Tanya Serry, Lisa Furlong and Judith Hudson

Published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


Background: Employment and job security are key influences on health and wellbeing. In Australia, little is known about the employment lifecycle of adults with dyslexia.

Materials and Methods: Using a qualitative research design, this study sought to explore the experiences faced by
adults with dyslexia seeking and retaining employment. In-depth interviews were conducted with a cohort either currently or previously in the labour market. We used the Job Demands Resource Model of Burnout (JD-R Model) to explore links between workplace characteristics and employee wellbeing. Deductive content analysis attained condensed and broad descriptions of participants’ workplace experiences.

Results: Dyslexic adults (n = 14) participated; the majority were employed part/full-time and experienced challenges throughout their employment; exhaustion and burnout at work were reported, also fear and indecision about disclosure of dyslexia. A minority reported receiving positive, useful support from team members following disclosure. Conclusion: The JD-R Model provided a guiding framework. We found participants experienced a myriad of challenges that included risk of mental exhaustion, discrimination, limited access to support and fatigue, leaving them vulnerable to job burn-out. Dyslexia does not have to be a major barrier to success in any occupation. Yet, when in supportive, informed workplace environments, employees with dyslexia thrive.


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