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Some students may have had support at school, others may not have had their dyslexia and specific learning difficulties assessed until starting university when they came across problems as a result of the greater demands of Higher Education.
Identification involves assessment by an educational psychologist or qualified professional. Characteristics of specific learning difficulties and their effects on studies at university differ widely and some students may experience greater difficulties than others. Many students who arrive at HE would have developed compensating strategies to some extent to enable them to cope. Students may not realise that the problems they encounter are related to their dyslexia/specific learning difficulties.
In order that teaching staff can give due consideration to factors attributed to dyslexia/specific learning difficulties when communicating with students, lecturing, assessing assignments or marking exams, it is useful to be aware of the characteristics of dyslexia/specific learning difficulties in students in HE. Manifestations may include:
Problems in written assignments include spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation errors which students themselves may not be able to detect and correct. Incorrect words may be used, e.g. “reserve” instead of “reverse”, or “their” instead of “there.” Difficulties can become exacerbated under stress, for example, under exam conditions.
A poor short-term memory may impact on essay writing, as it may be difficult to think about all the aspects of the assignment at once, and there is a limit on the number of topics and subject matter that can be held in memory simultaneously. There may be repetition of ideas or dispersion of unrelated topics throughout the essay. The essay may lack organisation and coherence. Some students may write sentences that ramble, and which may be off on a tangent, when different ideas are written down one after the other quickly, as they come to mind and before they are forgotten.
Students may submit work that appears disorganised and lack care, but which has been read and redrafted to the best of their ability. If their ability to process visual symbols (letters and numbers) is slower than their speed of thought, and words are misread, they may not be able to detect errors when they edit their work.
Difficulties with sequencing could mean that some students may find citing references in alphabetical and chronological order in the bibliography a difficult task. Procedural maths fluency (multiplication, working with multi digits and fractions) can be a challenge, particularly in time-bound situations.