Students with dyslexia attending further education courses may experience difficulties in a number of areas including reading, writing and spelling, but with support they can learn strategies and alternative learning methods to overcome most of these and other related difficulties in areas such as memory and organisational skills. Many institutions have responded well to the needs of their students and offer support in a number of ways. Prospective students should ask what the institution’s policy on dyslexia is.
Every student with dyslexia is different and should be treated as an individual and helped to develop the strategies that are most appropriate to their personal needs. Because some students with dyslexia prior to entering further education have already developed some compensatory strategies, their literacy skills can appear superficially adequate. A closer investigation, however, will often reveal underlying difficulties that can seriously affect learning at the higher education level.
Manifestations at Third Level
When reading, the student in further education with dyslexia:
- often needs to read something over and over in order to make sense of it and to understand what it means;
- usually reads slowly and finds reading very time consuming. It may also be difficult to remember what has been read;
- finds his/her reading is inaccurate. Might add or omit some words;
- may lose his/her place while reading and have to restart several times;
- may find it is very hard to focus on the page. The text may look distorted and demand concentration and effort. This is tiring;
- may find reading difficult because of unfamiliar or new vocabulary which is hard to remember;
- may mis-read familiar words or phrases.
When writing, the student in further education with dyslexia may:
- find spelling is a problem, especially small words;
- spell words in the way they sound, rather than the way they look;
- confuse words or omit them;
- write slowly making many drafts;
- write very quickly in order to record thoughts before they are forgotten;
- have difficulty making sense of what was written when reading it back;
- have difficulties in structuring and organising ideas in writing;
- find it very hard to express him/herself in writing.
In addition, the student in further education with dyslexia may also have difficulty in:
- remembering information for exams such as names, dates, quotations, theories, processes and instructions;
- oral skills – finding words, mispronunciation, listening, structuring – saying things in the right order;
- multi-tasking – combining two or more activities, for example listening and writing
Some Key Challenges for Adult Learners with Dyslexia
Difficulties in reading accuracy and speed
Problems noting inference in text
Inaccurate and inconsistent spelling
Problems in planning, structuring, editing and proof-reading written text
Slow and illegible handwriting
Difficulties with Mathematics (e.g. language, perception, sequencing, organisation & calculation rate)
Difficulty memorising material
Problems with sequential instructions
Slow and inaccurate note-taking skills
Inefficient study skills
Problems transferring learning
Poor planning and organisational skills
Time management difficulties
Trouble with timed, written examinations
Emotional state – stress and anxiety
Low self-esteem and feelings of incompetence
Low frustration tolerance
Deterioration of skills under pressure
nUndeveloped self-regulated learning skills
Strengths may include:
Good comprehension skills
Good problem-solving skills
Good visual or visual-spatial skills
Good social skills
Well-developed oral/language skills
Critical thinking skills
Ability to process information holistically
GUIDELINES FOR TEACHING STAFF IN FURTHER EDUCATION
There are many ways that staff in further education institutions can support their students with dyslexia. These include general awareness amongst all staff and the provision of appropriate support and flexibility in lectures, assignments and examinations.
- General Awareness
- Always refer students with suspected dyslexia to access officers, counsellors and/or educational psychologists.
- Support policies encouraging and facilitating access for students with dyslexia to further education.
- Co-operate with any existing or future support systems for students with dyslexia.
- Liaise with staff counsellors or access officers regarding learning styles and specific needs of students with dyslexia.
- Be empathetic. Don’t assume that late or incomplete work is necessarily due to a lack of ability or a lack of motivation.
- Always consider students’ oral and practical work when judging ability. Rarely does the written work of a student with dyslexia reflect his or her true ability.
- Provide opportunities for frequent student participation, question periods, debates and discussions.
- Remember that students with dyslexia will probably be slower and more inaccurate in reading and in copying down information from a board or overhead projector screen or in writing dictated information.
- Encourage study groups and any system of peer learning support.
- Provide individual time for students with dyslexia. It will help you to understand how they learn. These students are often quite aware of their preferred learning style which you may be able to accommodate with only a slight modification to your present teaching style. Ask yourself, “What do I do as a teacher that makes it easy for such students to learn?”
- Encourage students to use Information and Communications technology (ICT) to improve the quality of their work and to help them to access information and to do research. Software is now available to assist with reading and writing
- Remember that many students with dyslexia have experienced a lot of failure in their school career and, as a result, may have very low self-esteem and be lacking in self-confidence. They always require your moral support and understanding.
· Provide a structured course outline or syllabus in advance.
· Begin lectures and discussions with brief reviews and overviews of topics to be covered. End with summaries and conclusions.
· Use a board or overhead projector to outline lecture material. Print clearly all main points, key concepts, names, dates, foreign words and subject terminology on the board or on overhead transparencies. Read aloud anything that you write.
· Make the links obvious to ensure learning transfer. Don’t assume students will make associations with previously learned knowledge.
· Use audio-visual materials and hands-on demonstrations whenever possible.
· Make lecture notes and overheads available for students to photocopy.
· Produce and use support materials whenever possible, e.g. lecture outlines, printed or typed handouts of key points, diagrams or summaries.
· Invite students to tape record lectures and co-operate by speaking to the microphone. Use a remote microphone when possible.
· Give assignments in writing as well as orally and be available for further clarification.
· Provide model essays and projects for students to examine.
· Give reading lists in advance and prior to course entry. Prioritise readings. Select essential readings. Consider getting essential readings taped for students use.
· Accept and encourage alternative forms of presenting work, e.g. on computer disk, on audio or videotape or orally.
· When correcting work, differentiate between content and transcription skills. Don’t penalise a student who just needs a good copy editor.
· Allow time extensions when appropriate.
· Teach research skills.
· Provide study guides for texts, study questions, past papers and review sessions.
· Teach study skills and exam techniques.
· Co-operate with and support alternative methods of recording examination questions.
· Modify or adapt examination formats, e.g. multiple choice, closure, short answer or true/false questions. Try practical or oral examinations. Provide extra time or untimed or take-home examinations.
· Provide examination questions on audiotape or the use of a reader.
· Provide an amanuensis or a tape recorder to record answers.
· Allow the use of spelling dictionaries (text or handheld machines).
· Provide opportunities for students to seek clarification of questions during examinations.
· After examinations, arrange supplementary interviews for students to clarify answers.
Appropriate learning support for students at further education includes the following:
Direct teaching of literacy strategies
Training of note taking and listening skills
Development of essay writing skills
Exploration of thinking and learning style
Acquisition of study skills and revision techniques
Development of organisational and time management skills
Training in examination strategies
Provision of accommodations in examinations when required
Availability of both personal and career guidance
Use of information and communication technology