What do we know?

Dyslexia and neuro-differences are over-represented in the offender population (52%[1]) and among people who are long term unemployed (av. 28%[2]) compared to the working population (8%-10%[3]).

What are the issues?

Most projects to date have tackled literacy, which is expensive, time consuming and produces few solid successes. However, recent research suggests that literacy is not the most prevailing issue for adults with neuro-differences .[4]Literacy issues are a symptom, not a cause.  Poor ‘working memory’ and ‘processing speed’ are the predominant underlying cognitive factor for most conditions.  This affects:

  • time management
  • following instructions
  • taking messages concentration in busy environments
  • learning new processes
  • completing forms and entering data
  • organisational skills

These issues affect how easily you interact with authority, making you appear lazy and demotivated.  These issues also affect employability, both beginning and sustaining, hence our success within the Access to Work provision.

What’s an alternative?

Genius Within CIC are developing workshops in which people who are socially excluded can develop awareness on their neurodiverse condition.  We believe that self awareness is the most powerful tool to overcoming the above issues. If you understand how and why you find concentration difficult, you’ll stop trying (and failing) to concentrate in busy places!

Do we have any evidence that this works?

Self awareness and observation of other’s behaviour is key to learning [5].  There is some evidence that the development of these skills leads to improvements in neurodiverse difficulty [4].  Nancy, MD of Genius Within, spent many years working with groups of people who had been long term unemployed. Our courses were hugely successful (95% retention rate and 70% sustained job outcome rate) even though we were working with people who were classed as ‘hardest to help’.  How did we do this?  We used the following principles:

1)   We didn’t anything ‘to’ people that we wouldn’t have wanted ‘done’ to us – everything had to be an exercise or discussion that we also personally found beneficial.

2)   We didn’t ‘do’ anything that we couldn’t explain – the techniques had to bring about independence.

3)   The group worked with each other, rather than us teaching.  This meant that they weren’t reliant on us at the end of the course.

4)   We didn’t see it as our job to change people.  Their very presence indicated a desire for self-development, much as I would have attending any CPD, so there was no need for judgement of ‘attitude’ or ‘motivation’.

I think these principles are essential rules for building constructive group work!  We have an opportunity to create these conditions in areas of social exclusion and develop inclusive interventions for neurodiversity.  Watch this space, I will report back our results!


[1] Based on a study at Chelmsford Prison http://www.prisonerseducation.org.uk.

[2] Reported by Professor Amanda Kirby at the British Dyslexia Association Organisational Member’s Day, London.

[3] Reports vary – 8% reported by the Rose Report (1999) and 10% reported by the British Dyslexia Association.

[4] Only 54% of adults wanted support with reading, compared to 92% wanting help with memory. Longitudinal evaluation showed significant improvement in all areas, from both managers’ and clients’ perspectives. Doyle, N.E. Research peer reviewed and presented to the British Psychological Society conference of Occupational Psychology, Jan 2013

[5] A. Bandura, “Human Agency in Social Cognitive Theory,” American Psychologist, vol. 44, pp. 1175-1184, 1989


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