Dale S. Brown
Persons with learning disabilities, like all workers, want to develop
and grow with the job to compete for and win promotions. Unfortunately,
the stereotype of someone with learning disabilities is a person
who will stay at a job doing the same thing over and over again.
Many well-meaning professionals have told employers that there are
low turnover rates among persons with learning disabilities. People
with learning disabilities may have the creativity and talents to
be in management. Many of these people start their own businesses
because promotions in traditional organizations are often elusive.
The basics of advancement are similar for all people and much
information is available on the subject. It is important for a person
with learning disabilities to assess their strengths, to develop
credibility, and to take advantage of available leadership opportunities.
Five misconceptions frequently come up and need to be addressed:
I don't deserve to be promoted. I should be grateful
to have a job.
Many people with learning disabilities have been treated as if
they were stupid or inferior. People with learning disabilities
have to work to overcome: discrimination in the hiring process,
that they are grateful to have a job, and their hesitancy to rock
the boat. Some even think they may be fired if they ask for a raise.
Decisive action must be taken against this negative inner voice.
The following suggestions can help to overcome these feelings:
Organize small successes of which you are rightly proud.
Associate with people who make you feel good.
Be truthful with yourself.
Believe in yourself; you deserve to be treated well.
Accept the realization that you are an excellent worker.
Remind yourself of how grateful your employer should be that
you are working for him/her.
People don't like me. Maybe I am just naturally unlikeable.
Difficulty in getting along with others can be part of a learning
disability. However, there is no such thing as being naturally
unlikeable. Social skills can be improved and the effort is
worthwhile. Studies have shown that appropriate social interaction
is a crucial factor in job success. As a person moves up in an organization
these skills become more and more important. In addition, many corporations
are changing their mode of operation to a team-based approach, which
requires better social interaction skills than the traditional employee-supervisor
relations. Here are some ways to improve your abilities to get along
While on the job try to make friends.
Observe body language.
Trust nonverbal cues if they are different from the verbal communication.
In stressful situations make an effort to observe nonverbal
The desire for power and recognition is behind many office interactions
even if people are not willing to admit it.
Try to see things from the point of view of others as well as
Ask for feedback if you are a new employee or in an entry-level
Ask: How can I improve my work? or
What can I do to get along better?
I don't need any help with my learning disabilities.
Because of the invisibility of learning disabilities, requests
for help may not be considered legitimate. Sometimes assigned jobs
could be done more efficiently by others. It is important that needed
help be obtained.
I can't get along with my boss.
Many people have difficulty understanding and accepting the rules
of authority in a hierarchical organization. However, it is a skill
that has been discussed extensively in books and on tapes. For example,
the following situations may arise.
Your supervisor can interrupt you, but the reverse is not true.
You must arrive on time although your supervisor/employer may
To overcome similar situations the following suggestions may
Give credit to your supervisor/employer.
Don't march ahead when you should stay behind.
Try not to be threatening.
Separate your feelings about your supervisor/employer from those
you harbor about teachers or parents. Trouble with authority in
the past can lead to defiance or over compliance.
Do what is required of you and do it well.
I can't get another job. I'm stuck here.
This misconception is related to the statement: I should be
grateful to have a job. It is crucial to move ahead and to
market yourself. This is particularly important as the job changes
and a large proportion of your time must be spent in the area of
your disability. It is essential that there be a good match between
the job and the person to achieve success.
Reprinted from "Newsbriefs," Nov.-Dec. 1992