5.5 Guidance Notes for Tutors on Managing Dyslexia
Rose Bruford has a greater than average number of dyslexic students. It is generally thought that one in ten of the population is dyslexic – the proportion at the College could be as high as three times this on some courses. This is for two reasons. Firstly, the College is, in the conventional sense, a relatively, non-academic institution and as such it attracts those whose strengths lie in other areas. Secondly, dyslexics are often gifted in areas of creativity and so find themselves drawn to the types of subjects studied in the College.
How to Recognise Dyslexia
For tutors who are not familiar with dyslexia, a simple starting point for wondering about a student is whether their work matches their apparent ability. Most tutors have a fairly good idea about a student’s potential. If their output falls short of this potential, there is a possibility that dyslexia is the cause. Many intelligent, well-motivated students mask their dyslexia – even to themselves – and the ‘obvious’, well known symptoms of the condition are not overtly present, but where performance falls short of ability, it is sometimes the cause. Few students deliberately under perform. Those that do, sometimes have a good explanation that, once understood, can be managed and overcome.
Learning Preferences of Dyslexics
Dyslexics are visual and tactile rather than auditory and word-based learners. They prefer to do, watch, make, draw, act, touch, move, look rather than read, write, listen and (sometimes) speak. There is a tendency for them to process language less efficiently than others. A mixture of learning ‘modes’ is always useful when teaching a group because each learner will have a different range of preferences and a mixture will accommodate a greater proportion of them. This is particularly true of any group containing dyslexics.
The following is taken from the BDA website at
- Be aware of your language. Vary your speed of delivery.
- Introduce new ideas and concepts explicitly. Provide an overview of your topic so students know what to expect. Allow time for questions and give concrete examples.
- Help with note taking by providing handouts. Give the spelling of new or difficult vocabulary. Encourage students to find 'buddies' who will share notes.
- (See Dyslexia Friendly Text.) Provide handouts and summaries before lectures for pre-reading.
- Do not expect dyslexics to answer questions or talk in large groups.
- Use clear overhead projections or slides. Keep the content limited.
- Encourage the use of ICT if students wish, e.g. tape recorders or laptops.
- Create a multi-sensory learning environment, e.g. videos, pictures, diagrams, practical and experiential activities.
- Allow time for reinforcement and over-learning by frequent revision.
- The dyslexic student may be the best person to know what is most helpful.
Assignments and written work:
- Give specific instructions and use simple, unambiguous language.
- Be explicit in your explanation of the assignment.
- Allow assignments to be word-processed.
- Signpost the student towards help with planning.
- Give exact references for research articles.
- Mark for content and information rather than spelling. Do not discredit poor handwriting.
- Allow an extended period for timed writing tasks.
- This will identify any recommendations for extra time, a reader, a scribe, use of a word processor.
Taking notes in lectures is particularly difficult for dyslexics because it involves two lots of language processing. If tutors were to do just one thing to accommodate dyslexics it should be to have hand-outs for students to remove the need to write whilst listening. Experience says that this makes learning more efficient for other students, too.
Dyslexia Support in College.
Students who have been diagnosed as being dyslexic (a student should be described as ’being dyslexic’ rather than ‘having dyslexia’ – it’s not a virus!) are given a certificate a copy of which they should present with all written work to alert the tutor to allowances that should be made when marking their work.