What does it mean to thrive at work? Does it mean being happy with a job? Is it getting a promotion or earning a certain salary? Or is it something else?
Thriving has a different meaning for everyone. And when someone has a learning difference or disability, the skills they need to thrive at work might not come easily.
For those employees, educational therapy might be a helpful tool. It can provide some needed guidance and support as the employee defines a path toward thriving.
What is an educational therapist?
You may have heard of educational therapy for children and adolescents. Educational therapists generally work with students who have learning and thinking differences to help them learn strategies for improving their schoolwork and building their confidence. But educational therapists may also work with adults.
Educational therapists have training as special educators for adults and children. They’re also trained in psychology. This background can be helpful, especially because people with learning differences sometimes also have conditions like anxiety. Some educational therapists also have training in other professions, like counseling and life coaching.
An educational therapist doesn’t need to be an expert in your professional field. Instead, they’re trained in the processes that underlie learning itself.
How can educational therapy help adults with learning differences and disabilities?
Educational therapy can provide specific solutions to help people manage a learning disability at work. Educational therapists can help people in the workforce:
- Build their skills for the workplace
- Improve their ability to learn from experience
- Learn how to use these experiences in new learning situations
Educational therapy can be particularly helpful for people in times of transition, like when they‘re starting a career or moving from one job to another. Because educational therapy helps people understand the way they learn, it can make it easier to thrive in new situations.
What is the process of educational therapy?
An educational therapist will guide an individual through the practical work of understanding how they learn.
The therapist may start by taking a look at someone’s performance reviews, or any other background they’d like to share. Then they’ll work together with the employee to set goals. Ultimately, they’ll help the person start to change habits and learn new skills.
How to find an educational therapist for your staff
Start by consulting your company’s health insurance provider to determine whether educational therapy is already covered for individuals. If it’s not, and if you see a need to offer an educational therapist organization-wide, consider bringing in an outside consultant to serve your staff.
Next, make sure you find the right educational therapist. The Association of Educational Therapists offers a directory of educational therapists and allied professionals.
Here are some good questions to ask an educational therapist when deciding whether to work with them:
- Do you have experience working with adults?
- Can you describe your approach to supporting people in their careers?
- Have you developed programs for companies that commit to hire those with learning disabilities?
- How would you work with us to help our wider team understand learning disabilities?
- What accommodations, software, or calendar systems would make life easier for our employees with learning disabilities, and for all our staff?
Once you’ve selected a therapist, choose the right way to communicate to employees about this benefit. For example, you could make it known to all staff in a general announcement. Avoid asking specific employees whether they have a disability.
If you’re committed to working with employees who learn and think differently, or who have other disabilities, educational therapy can be a valuable tool in your toolbox. An educational therapist can make it more likely that your employees — and ultimately your business — will thrive.
Susan Micari, MSEd, BCET, and Annalisa Perfetto, PhD, ET-A are the founders of EdTherapy NYC. Their clinical practice specializes in helping adults in college, in graduate school, and in the workplace with diagnosed and undiagnosed learning disabilities.