The Gift of Dyslexia and Finding Positives in Challenging Times
By Abi Luck
Friday, March 12, 2021
Access to education for all is something I feel really strongly about. Having studied at university for both a full-time campus-based degree after leaving school, as well as a distance learning degree whilst working full time a few years later, I understand fully both the demands of balancing university study alongside daily life; as well as the huge rewards that achievements in Higher Education can bring. That’s why I got into disability support in the education sector and continue to work towards helping to make access to education equal for everyone, regardless of background, circumstance or ability.
For education purposes the term 'disability' really covers a wide range of diagnoses; we use it as an umbrella term to cover a number of different conditions/ circumstances. As well as physical impairment, long term illness or medical conditions, the term also refers to 'hidden disabilities' such as mental health diagnoses, Autistic Spectrum conditions and specific learning differences, amongst other things.
Did you know that a large number of our students did not realise they had dyslexia or co-occurring difficulties when they started with us?
Quite often students who are returning to education after a period of time out discover that difficulties they experienced whilst at school were not identified at the time as being the traits of dyslexia, dyspraxia or other specific learning difficulties. Without this diagnosis, many students are still missing out on a wealth of support that would be available to assist with difficulties in reading, written composition, spelling and time management. Often, they have simply got used to these particular differences in learning style and have found ways of compensating for them, such as allowing extra time when sitting down to read, or sticking post-it notes up around the house to try to remember things!
Typically, dyslexic traits might include:
- finding that you need to reread written material a number of times in order to process it
- struggling to keep up with note taking
- finding it hard to organise your ideas into written composition
- organising and managing your time.
It's important to note that specific learning difference is not a reflection of intelligence; the 'specific' refers to an area of weakness which is not in line with the rest of your abilities. Many people with dyslexia have a higher-than-average IQ and will usually have developed a number of strategies over time to overcome their individual challenges. Often there will be a significant difference between the student's ability to express themselves in writing compared to their verbal strengths for example.
Check out some of the hugely successful individuals who have dyslexia in this YouTube video from the Oxfordshire Dyslexia Association.
Additionally, you can learn more about the strengths of dyslexia and the importance of getting a screening in this YouTube video by Touch-type Read and Spell TTRS.
You can find further reading about the strengths of dyslexia here:
- 9 Strengths of Dyslexia - Nessy US
- The Unappreciated Benefits of Dyslexia | Dyslexia | Dyslexic Advantage
Adapting to change
The Covid-19 situation this year has brought with it huge challenges for people in so many ways, and university students and staff were by no means the exception, from the thousands of people who were thrown into the momentous task of an immediate transfer to online teaching, learning and working back in March 2020. For many students with disabilities, the lockdown situation brought additional anxiety, especially as countless with pre-existing conditions became suddenly vulnerable and faced the various adversities that this brought with it.
However, challenging situations can bring about positive change in many ways too. Human beings are incredible at adapting positively and with creativity when faced with difficult circumstances. We have of course seen this so many times throughout this pandemic. One great example I recently saw of this was in an article by Dr Helen Ross who is both dyslexic and a teacher and has also been studying the impact of lockdown on dyslexic learners. She writes about how the sudden requirement to move to different platforms and how the inevitable increased use of technology has been beneficial in lots of ways for dyslexics:
"Online I can write, delete and then re-write instructions or feedback for the kids. I can upload tasks and then mark work as it comes in rather than marking a huge pile of books by hand, in one long, painful sitting. Now, I don't have that barrier. The kids don't have that barrier. We can just get to the work more easily.
Marking aside, filing work is also easier. Keeping clear records of who has done what and when they have done it is easier. Our school software packages also do much of this for us automatically, and where they don't, electronic filing makes my life a lot easier with the 'search and find' function."
You can read the full article on the British Dyslexia Association website: Lockdown life: Dyslexia at a distance
Technology can be a great benefit to learners with SpLDs such as dyslexia, in fact, there is a wealth of assistive software that already exists to help learners in eliminating the barriers they might face.
We are certainly all looking forward to a return to normality when the current situation finally comes to an end. Yet hopefully when we do eventually get to return to face-to-face learning, we may have all inadvertently gained some new skills, strategies and insights in the meantime!
To find out more about Dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties, or if you think you might need a screening, feel free to contact Abi Luck to book an appointment. The Screening takes around an hour and will give an indication of whether further assessment is required. The University will also pay towards the cost of a full diagnostic assessment. Please contact Abi for further information.