Supporting students with dyslexia

  • Students with dyslexia form the largest group of disabled students at Oxford Brookes. Although there are many theories about dyslexia, it is generally accepted that a dyslexic brain processes language differently from a non-dyslexic brain. Although reading is the primary area affected, dyslexia has an impact on other areas. Some students will arrive at Oxford Brookes with a diagnosis of dyslexia, but others will only be identified while they are students. Teaching staff can help by being alert for students who display dyslexic characteristics, and suggesting that they contact the Dyslexia/Specific Learning Difficulties Support Team for a discussion. Dyslexic students often achieve high results once they have developed effective individual methods of working.

    Possible characteristics of dyslexic students

    Weaknesses may include

    • Weaker language skills than other thinking skills.
    • Poor short term memory
    • Poor auditory or visual perception
    • Sequencing difficulties and left/right confusion
    • Poor organisational skills and time management
    • Weak at open tasks, where procedure and structure need to be self-imposed
    • Erratic spelling
    • Difficulties in reading
    • Good days and bad days
    • Difficulties in editing and proofreading their own work

    Strengths may include

    • Good spatial awareness
    • Creativity
    • Flexibility and good problem solving skills
    • Good interpersonal skills
    • Strong visual sense
    • May find it easy to visualise and manipulate sophisticated scientific concepts, but struggle with basic arithmetic and writing
    • May grasp solutions intuitively, but be unable to explain reasoning process.

    Communication

    • Convey important information in writing and orally. Use emails and the school intranet rather than pieces of paper which may get lost.
    • Keep written communication brief and clearly structured.
    • Use colour, graphics, diagrams and flow charts, rather than dense text.
    • Provide an overview before going into detail.
    • Provide handouts in advance, preferably electrically, so that students have time to read them, and can choose their preferred background colour.
    • Check what paper colour dyslexic students would like for print documents.
    • Use plain English, and check understanding.
    • Give any instructions in a clear sequence, orally and in writing, and explain the purpose of what is being done.
    • Give the student time to read information before using it, and time to think before answering questions.

    Teaching

    • Plan your teaching to draw on the different learning styles of your audience eg kinaesthetic, auditory etc. Bring concepts to life with videos, diagrams, role plays, experiments.
    • Have a clear structure, which you share with your audience.
    • Provide an overview of new ideas and terminology, to emphasise their underlying structure and show how they fit with other areas of the subject.
    • Will you summarise key points?
    • After a lecture ask students to work in pairs or small groups on tasks designed to consolidate learning.
    • Encourage the use of tape-recorders or laptops if students find them helpful.
    • Give guidance on recommended reading. Dyslexic students are slow readers. Indicate whether texts are essential or optional.
    • Select reading list material that is clearly laid out eg uses colour, text boxes, summaries, case studies, good graphics.
    • Recommend electronic resources eg ebooks, electronic journals
    • Keep reminding students about coursework deadlines, but be flexible if a dyslexic student has a last-minute problem.
    • Be aware that a dyslexic student will have difficulties in revising their own work immediately after writing it.

    Marking – the blue cards

    Alternative assessment provision

    • The standard provision for students registered as dyslexic includes
      • 15 minutes extra time per hour of exam
      • a rough book
      • exam on blue paper
    • a smaller room
    • Additional individual adjustments can be agreed with the Dyslexia/Specific Learning Team eg a computer in exams, a question reader, an amanuensis.
    • Oxford Brookes University alternative assessment regulations  www.brookes.ac.uk/services/asd/registry/exams/regulations.html
    • An alternative assessment format, such as a visual display or multimedia presentation, can be an effective test of subject knowledge.

    Disabled Student Allowance (DSA)

    • Funding will cover individual needs identified in an assessment eg:
      • Equipment eg computer, assistive software, portable voice recorder
      • Training in using equipment
      • One-to-one study support
      • Book allowance (because highlighting key passages is helpful)
      • Extra consumables eg printing, photocopying, etc.
    • Free one-to-one support for dyslexic students without a DSA can be arranged through the Dyslexia/Specific Learning Team.

    Assistive software and technology

    • Some assistive software is available on all pooled room pcs, including
      • Inspirations (mindmapping)
      • Mind Genius (mindmapping)
      • Read and Write (includes speech feedback, phonetic spellchecking, homophone checking, word prediction)
    • Encourage students to do all writing on a computer rather than by hand, since it is so much easier to check spellings and edit.
    • Students may use voice recorders, speech recognition software, notemaking software, dictionary pens, etc. Some use transparent coloured overlays.

    Further information