Dyslexia and Me: “Unrecognised dyslexia is costing the UK economy in excess of £1 billion per year”

There is a good fight going on for better help in schools for kids with dyslexia. I see it everyday on social media both from parents on discussion boards to groups like the American Decoding Dyslexia heroes (yes, that is how I see them, heroes and heroines) pushing for change in schools! It’s fantastic to see and I really hope that in the near future there is far better support for kids in school.

However, the battle to support adults with dyslexia doesn’t seem to be heard as loudly. I know I am going back to cover this topic once again, but I feel that this is an issue that is largely unrecognised. When you say ‘dyslexia’ people instantly assume ‘kids’ and ‘school’ not ‘adults’ and ’employment/unemployment’ or ‘prison’. 


Up to two million people in Britain have undiagnosed dyslexia and struggle to spell, read and write without knowing why, it has been claimed.

Only 5.8 per cent of adults are aware they have dyslexia – a learning disability that makes it difficult to decode the written word – while the widely accepted figure for the actual rate is 10 per cent, say experts.

While methods of diagnosing dyslexia at an early age have improved significantly, millions are struggling with learning problems in their forties and fifties or into retirement. – From Up to 2m Britons ‘have undiagnosed dyslexia’

1 in 10 people in the UK or 1 in 5 people in the US are the figures I see branded around. Whatever the percentage really is, that is a lot of dyslexic people in the population. ‘Millions are struggling’ is just outrageous and that’s just within the UK.

Of course the education system has changed a lot over the years and more people are being picked up with dyslexia than in my parents generation. Even while I was at university (I had only just been diagnosed myself at 25), a number of younger peers in their teens and early twenties were only just being assessed and diagnosed as dyslexic. We were lucky because we were all diagnosed when we were in higher/further education. There are many others who are still going through the education system undiagnosed.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive officer of Dyslexia Action:

“Unrecognised dyslexia is costing the UK economy in excess of £1 billion per year.

“It follows that if you can not learn to read you can not read to learn. This group of individuals are more likely to fail at school resulting in reduced employment opportunities. It is well documented that those with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties are over-represented in the prison and probation populations, those excluded from school and the long-term unemployed, costing the UK economy millions.” – From Up to 2m Britons ‘have undiagnosed dyslexia’

“£1 billion per year”!!! That’s an extraordinary amount of money! Perhaps that money could be used towards making assessment of dyslexia freely available on the NHS rather than hoping that the educational institution or the parent of the dyslexic person pays the fees for an assessment?

Shirley Cramer of the charity Dyslexia Action warned that the true impact on people with learning difficulties was likely to be higher because in many cases it was a hidden disability. “Because we know there are large numbers of them, and that they are hidden, and that they are over-represented in disadvantaged groups, they are very much at risk. And we know that with a bit of help they can be terrific employees.” – From Jobcentres ‘tricking’ people out of benefits to cut costs, says whistleblower

However, how many employers give that ‘bit of help’ to their dyslexic employees once in the workplace? That’s a difficult question to answer. When jobs are scarce and when many dyslexic people are struggling to find work, how likely is it that a dyslexic person would report a company if the employer discriminated against their dyslexia?

“In the UK, employers have to make ‘reasonable adjustment’ for people with dyslexia, which means making allowances in selection and interview and providing certain kinds of support in the job (like special software). Of course, some employers may be less understanding. If you meet one, don’t take it personally. But you might want to think hard about whether you really want to work there.”

“TO DISCLOSE, OR NOT TO DISCLOSE? There’s a strong case for declaring your dyslexia on your application, but it’s your choice. If you’re not sure, take advice from someone you trust, who understands the culture in your chosen industry.” – From Dyslexic graduates: 6 job hunting tips you need to know about

‘Don’t take it personally’? If I was in a wheelchair and you could see my disability would I be expected to ‘think hard’ about where I wanted to work for that company? While many public places now have ramps for accessibility for those who use wheelchairs, is it not time the same care was taken to have more accessibility for those with dyslexia? Is dyslexia a lesser disability just because it’s invisible?

As for whether or not to disclose you’re dyslexic? Yes it is a personal choice, however, how is an employer meant to support your needs and understand your difficulties if you are unprepared to say you have dyslexia?

This ‘advice’ (quoted above) was on a student graduate website presented as ‘tips’ for dyslexic graduates! It shows just how much attitudes towards dyslexia in workplace NEEDS to change!

There are others who are stepping forward and challenging former employers through the courts.

Ms Gibson’s ordeal began two years ago when she claimed she was forced out of her admin secretary job with a firm near her hometown in Bangor, North Wales.

She said: “I’d complained through the usual channels about the bullying but got nowhere.

“In fact my line manager said: ‘If you can’t deal with your colleagues’ perceptions of your disability then you need counselling’. It was so wrong.”

She said unsympathetic directors insisted she take minutes from their daily meetings despite her severe dyslexia – and humiliated her when she asked for help.

“The stress of work gave me anxiety problems. My hair fell out and I couldn’t sleep,” she said.

“I couldn’t keep up with the meetings and instead of supporting me I was ridiculed in front of all my colleagues.

“I resigned shortly after and started to build a case to represent myself – I wasn’t going to let them get away with it.” – From Britain’s Erin Brockovich: secretary takes law degree to sue employer

I wonder how many others have had to leave jobs under the same kind of pressure as Ms Gibson who have been able to take former employers to court.

However, as seen on the graduate ‘advice’ website, attitudes towards dyslexia in the workplace needs a LOT of work. If careers advisors are telling dyslexics that there are employers with stinking attitudes towards our ‘disability’, then what hope is there for dyslexics finding suitable employment?!

Prison/Justice System

There are other dyslexic’s who end up on the wrong side of the law after leaving education. A large number of inmates in UK prisons have dyslexia. I won’t speculate on why this is the case and instead will share some more facts on the topic.

The results of the screening are dramatic – half of the inmates at Polmont show indicators of dyslexia. Jane Kirk says: “Dyslexia is a continuum of processing difficulties, and 50 per cent of the sample were somewhere on that continuum. Many of them had many of the indicators, and few were borderline. We identified more young dyslexics than we expected. The diagnosis gives them the chance of a new start.”

Some of the young offenders break down in tears when they discover that, while they clearly have specific learning difficulties, they are not “thick”. Several wonder why they could not have taken such a simple test much earlier in their lives. – From Tes Connect: A spell on the inside; Dyslexia

Half of inmates at Polmont with indicators towards dyslexia! Even if these statistics are old, it shows how many people slip through the education system and end up on the wrong path in life. Polmont is a young offenders unit, so there is a chance of helping these young people back onto the right path and to help them with their dyslexia struggles. However, having a criminal record will make employability for these young people even more of an uphill struggle before taking dyslexia into consideration

With regard to dyslexia, for example, estimates of prevalence amongst offenders range from 4 – 56%. One example of such research in England is John Rack’s (2005) research for the Dyslexia Institute in eight prisons in Yorkshire and Humberside. Rack’s research found that simple interview and screening procedures tend to overestimate rates of dyslexia, while excluding people with low IQs resulting in under-identification. Rack found that 40 – 50% of prisoners were at or below the level of literacy and numeracy expected of an 11-year old (Level 1), 40% of whom required specialist support for dyslexia. He concluded that dyslexia is three to four times more common amongst offenders than amongst the general population, with an incidence of 14 – 31%.

The general agreement in prison-based studies is a rate of about 30% dyslexia, though rates of serious deficits in literacy and numeracy in general reach up to 60%. Deficits in literacy and numeracy are often defined as abilities below the age of an 11-year old (Level 1; Rack 2005; Bryan et al. 2004). – From NO ONE KNOWS
offenders with learning difficulties and learning disabilities

Up to 60% of inmates with literacy and numeracy issues! This clearly shows a failing in the system for dyslexic people. Questions need to be asked as to why this percentage is so high. Is it because these people cannot find work after leaving the education system? Is it because school was unable to support them effectively so their behaviours became disruptive and negative? There could be many reasons behind why there are so many people with dyslexia in the prison system and it’s time we looked at how to change the trend.


I think that we need to look at society as a whole, not just the education system, the justice system or employment situations. If 10% of the UK population has some degree of dyslexia, diagnosed or undiagnosed, that’s a lot of people who may need some sort of support.

To reduce the £1 billion cost to the UK economy, is it not time that adjustments were made in both schools AND the workplace? With an advance in assistive technology over the last 10 years, perhaps it’s time for all employers to have strategies already in place for the 10% of their staff that may need support. Although not all dyslexics have the same problems, there are some traits that are similar. A software that reads, one that can be spoken into, one that changes the screen colour… It’s only slight adjustments that would make a far more productive and happier workforce.

Could this £1 billion instead be used to fund free dyslexia assessments on the NHS instead? Perhaps with earlier diagnosis, young dyslexics will be able to build up their strengths for a more productive and positive step from education into the workplace.

I think it’s time to recognise that dyslexia is for life, not just in education.

Please help to support dyslexic people like myself by donating as little as £1 or $1 to the British Dyslexia Association through my JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/Blog4Char2015

Posted on February 15, 2015, in Awareness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. This is excellent. Dyslexic adults really do need accommodations, especially if their struggle impacts their ability to make a living.

    In America, a big thing that blocks diagnosis is affordability. Health insurance might or might not cover it, and testing can cost well over $1000. Obviously not affordable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mum couldn’t afford to have me assessed as a single mum. The school refused to do it. I was lucky my college did when I went back into education.

      I get a free eye test on the NHS and I don’t see why it can’t be the same for dyslexia. I would rather see £1 billion put into the NHS to assess dyslexic people than to see it spent on supporting them on unemployment benefits or within the prison system.


  2. Decoding Dyslexia VA salutes you!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Good article.

    I believe we could actually free up 2 billion in the UK education system alone – and make dyslexia assessment unnecessary – while enhancing learning for all learners.

    On top of that, we could save the additional billion, you are writing about, but I am not sure that figure includes the cost of the health-care system, as substance abusers (addicts) are the only group where dyslexia and related learning difficulties are more prevalent than in the prison population. Secondary costs to victims of crime, costs of the social services, trying to help and manage broken families, etc.

    But the most exciting aspect of addressing dyslexia using our methods, is the fact that schools using our method for teaching produce up to eight times as many gifted students, compared to average schools.

    Read my article on the subject on my website: http://www.gifteddyslexic.com/dyslexia-in-scools/dls-can-free-up-resources-in-education

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Dyslexia and Me: “Unrecognised dyslexia is costing the UK economy in excess of £1 billion per year” | NYC Dyslexia Research

  2. Pingback: Dyslexia News - March 2015 - DyslexicProfessional.com - Dyslexia at work

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