Students with dyslexia, or other learning differences, are entitled to extra support. The Language Workshop does not diagnose students. Students with dyslexia apply for pedagogical support through the Nais system and meet with one of the university’s disability coordinators, who makes recommendations for special support.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is an information processing disorder that primarily affects reading and writing skills. Dyslexia affects different people in different ways, and support needs to be tailored to each individual’s specific needs. It is important to remember that dyslexia is also associated with positive learning attributes such as good reasoning skills and high creativity.
What challenges do students with dyslexia face?
Stress can amplify the effects of dyslexia even when a student has access to extra support. One example of a study situation that can be particularly stressful is having to read large amounts of academic text in a short time frame.
Reading normally takes longer for students with dyslexia. Because so much time is spent in decoding the words and sentences of a text, dyslexic students may not have time to critically analyze the content of the material. Students with dyslexia often need support in developing strategies for improving reading comprehension.
Students with dyslexia often have trouble getting started on writing assignments and structuring academic texts. Their texts may seem informal or unclear because the linguistic conventions of academic writing take longer to master. The information-processing challenges of dyslexia sometimes result in issues with the structure and coherence of written assignments.
Exams are demanding situations in which text must be processed quickly under extreme pressure. Many dyslexic students have a history of painful experiences with exams.
Advice for teachers
- Remember that dyslexic students are individuals with different needs. Some students benefit from continuous support, while others may only need extra support on occasion.
- Pedagogical strategies that are helpful for students with dyslexia are almost always helpful for other students as well.
- At the first class meeting, encourage students to contact you if they have dyslexia or other learning differences and need extra support.
- Many students with dyslexia need information about how to apply for extra support. You, as their teacher, can provide information about the university’s disability coordinators.
Accessible course materials
- It is important that course literature lists are ready in plenty of time and that no last-minute changes are made. Students may benefit from an audio version of the course literature, and it takes at least two months to record and produce an audio book if one is not already available. Contact the library for help producing an audio recording of your course material.
- Other course literature, such as compendiums and articles, should also be adapted for students with dyslexia. There are many different options, and an open dialogue with the student will help determine the best form of support. Do make sure that materials are available on the Student Portal in plenty of time. Students may wish to use text-to-speech software to have course material read aloud to them. Word files are normally better for text-to-speech than pdf files, so do not re-format files to pdf unnecessarily. Make sure that photocopied texts are clearly legible.
- If you have questions about dyslexia and other language processing disabilities, contact the university’s disability coordinators by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or the dyslexia specialist at The Language Workshop, email@example.com.
Accessible lectures and seminars
- Provide students with an outline of your lecture or seminar in advance.
- Distribute texts ahead of time rather than in the same session when they are to be discussed. A dyslexic student will most likely not be able to process the text in the allotted time.
- Avoid asking students to read aloud in front of the class without giving them plenty of time to prepare.
- Structure your writing on the blackboard carefully, and try not to erase it too quickly.
- Make your lecture notes and/or PowerPoint slides available before your lecture.
- Allow dyslexic students to record your lectures. (Such recordings are only allowed for individual, private use.) There are good recording tools available for students with dyslexia, but it is important that the lecture is clearly audible and that the lecturer use a microphone.
- Follow the university guidelines and give students their mandated breaks. This is especially important for dyslexic students.
- Offer extra exam time for students with a dyslexia diagnosis.
- Offer other forms of examination, such as oral examination, when possible.
- Offer dyslexic students the opportunity to take their exam in a private room and/or to use a computer with text-to-speech software or spell-check.