Creating research that can be translated into evidence-informed practices that create workplace and policy change

Recently DDF has been going through significant change and has now partnered with re:think dyslexia.

re:think dyslexia is a global leader that will influence intergenerational change so adults with dyslexia are never left behind. Our mission is to create inclusive environments that enable adults with dyslexia to live healthier, happier, and more connected lives.

At the Foundation what is important to us is that everything we do is underpinned by evidence-based research. That’s why we’ve partnered with La Trobe University to undertake research, which supports young people and adults with learning disabilities, to enjoy better mental well-being and feel included and respected in their workplace.

This is the first time an organisation in Australia has undertaken research like this. It’s an exciting time! Here is some of our recently published work.

Leading diverse workforces:  Perspectives from managers and employers about dyslexic employees in Australian workplaces

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

Published: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Dyslexia Special Edition



Background: Dyslexia is a specific learning disability concerned with reading, which presents unique challenges for employees in the workforce. Yet community awareness of the challenges of dyslexia is limited.  The aim of this preliminary research is to explore the experiences and perspectives of Australian employers and managers responsible for supervising employees with dyslexia in the workplace.

Materials and Methods: Using a qualitative research design, we conducted in-depth interviews with four managers working in full-time roles with current or previous experience managing employees with dyslexia in across Australia. We used a deductive approach to analyse the data and categorise responses to the study questions.

Results: Participants’ responses indicated that although they personally had a general awareness of the challenges facing employees with dyslexia, they felt there was a lack of broader awareness and understanding of the disability across Australian workplaces. Participants were asked their thoughts on the challenges facing employees with dyslexia in the workplace and whether they could identify specific ‘workplace enablers’ that could better support dyslexic employees. The main challenges noted were: different levels of confidence and comfort for employees in disclosing disability; the possibility of discrimination against dyslexic employees; and a lack of inclusive organisational practices and processes to support dyslexic employees. Workplace enablers that were put forward included: additional support for leaders and managers from their organisations to provide inclusive leadership, and additional training for leaders and managers on how to support employees with specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia.      


Conclusions: While only a small sample size, this study indicates that more needs to be done to help leaders and managers of Australian workplaces support employees with dyslexia. It is recommended that employers could do more to facilitate greater awareness and support for employees with ‘hidden disabilities’ like dyslexia, including offering additional training for managers and others in leadership positions.   

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“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: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Dyslexia Special Edition


Background: Employment and job security are key influences of health and well-being. 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.


Keyword search: JD-R Model; Dyslexia; Workplace; Burnout; Disability; Employment

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Adults with dyslexia: A snapshot of the demands on adulthood in Australia


Published in the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties  

Shae Wissell, Leila Karimi & Tanya Serry

School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia; School of Education, LaTrobe University, Bundoora, Australia

This study explored the educational and employment profiles and the psychosocial well-being of 65 Australian adults with dyslexia. Participants were also asked about their age at diagnosis of dyslexia. These domains have been understudied in the Australian adult dyslexic community.

Data was collected using an anonymous online two-part survey. Part one was purpose-designed to collect personal and demographic information in line with the study’s aims. Part two comprised the standardised Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales (WEMWBS).

Results revealed that participants’ educational attainments and employment profiles closely reflected those of the general Australian community. Age at diagnosis was highly variable ranging from adolescence to over 50. Based on the normative data from the WEMWBS, participants had significantly lower levels of mental well-being. These results suggest that despite many participants meeting key external markers of success, many appear to do so under personal and psychological strain

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