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Useful Help at College/FE

Educational institutions are required to take reasonable steps to prevent prevent disadvantage that may arise from disability.  Most colleges have dedicated units and or staff members who provide specific supports for students with disabilities, often called the Disability Support Service or Access Officer.  However, all staff in third level and further education should be aware of dyslexia and how to accommodate students with dyslexia.   Students with dyslexia are the largest group of students with disabilities at third level, and numbers are increasing all the time.   It may also be surprising to learn that many students with dyslexia reach third-level without having been diagnosed.

At college, students with dyslexia can face the following difficulties:

  • Listening and taking notes in lectures.
  • Reading large amounts of complex text.
  • Writing essays and thesis.
  • Organising study efficiently.
  • Preparing for examinations.
  • Memory/recall in examinations.
  • Higher stress levels than other students

Students may also suffer the emotional effects of these difficulties.  They can have a negative impact on their self esteem and confidence.  They often experience higher levels of stress than other students and typically have to work much harder than other students to achieve the same level of performance.

Teaching staff know their own students best, and they also know the specific demands of their courses.  Teaching staff are well placed to support students with dyslexia. They don;t need to become dyslexia experts but they do need some training to understand the difficulties dyslexia can pose and to learn about simple strategies which can help.  Teaching staff can also consult with the Disability Support service, when necessary, for advice on specific issues.  Above all else, being sympathetic to the students’ difficulties is important.  Tutors and lecturers can also recognise achievements and boost confidence and self-esteem.

Useful Support Strategies:

  • Provide handouts in advance of lectures (hard copy or digital).
  • Allow students to record lectures.
  • Encourage good note-taking skills.
  • Structure each lecture clearly.  Provide an outline at the start and summarise at the end.
  • Regularly check to ensure that everyone has understood.
  • Give clear guidance in relation to reading lists – what is critical and what is less important.
  • Never ask students with dyslexia to read aloud in class.
  • Encourage students to use active reading techniques to aid comprehension, e.g. having specific questions, writing notes/highlighting important information.
  • Text-reading software will be needed by some students, where the computer reads the text aloud.
  • Encourage students to submit work done on computer rather than handwritten.
  • Concept mapping techniques can help to organise material.
  • Don’t focus on spelling mistakes but do encourage students to use spell-checking facilities (including those with speech feedback) but remember that these are not fool proof.  Students with dyslexia may not always recognise the correct spelling.
  • Give useful, sympathetic feedback with suggestions for how the work submitted could be improved, rather than listing what’s wrong with it.
  • Remember that timed exams are particularly challenging.  Ensure that students have clear guidance and know what to expect.
  • Some students will need reasonable accommodations in exams, e.g. extra time, use of a computer.
  • Examiners should also be sympathetic when marking exam papers – focus on content and knowledge, and be considerate of spelling, grammar and poor handwriting.

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DAI activities are part-funded by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Scheme to Support National Organisations 2016-2019 administered by Pobal), the Special Education Section of the Department of Education and Skills, SOLAS and KWETB.