Educational institutions are required to take reasonable steps to 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 Office. The activities of these services vary from college to college, but they generally provide information, act as advocates and organise the provision of necessary supports for students with disabilities, including dyslexia. They often have an important role in creating a higher awareness of the needs of students with disabilities among the teaching staff of the college, and generally making the college a more accessible place to students with difficulties such as dyslexia.
Supports for Students
To access appropriate supports, it is important that all students with dyslexia contact the Disability Support personnel in their college as early as possible to ensure that any necessary supports are put in place from day one. The types of supports which can be available in colleges are
- Lectures – copies of lecture notes, note-taking tuition, note-taker, photocopying facilities.
- Course Materials – assistive technology, extra tuition, reading strategies, memory techniques, etc.
- Examinations – use of assistive technology, extra time, spelling and grammar waiver, use of a reader, exam preparation and exam techniques.
At college, students with dyslexia may 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.
Useful Supports at College:
- 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.
AHEAD provides a wide range of useful advice on supports for students with disabilities and dyslexia at third level.