As Dyslexia Awareness Month gets underway, my thoughts always return to the ways in which we can support dyslexic learners to thrive within education. Making the right adjustments and offering the most appropriate support can transform their learning experience and yet for some, learning is regrettably not a positive experience.
Many dyslexic learners are still struggling in our schools, which indicates that there is much work to be done. Considering that LinkedIn has added Dyslexic Thinking as a skill, thanks to a campaign by Made by Dyslexia, I wonder whether we are all as up to date as we might be or if education providers are lagging behind to an extent?
Dyslexia affects as many as 1 in 5 people and is described as “a genetic difference in an individual’s ability to learn and process information.” This can lead to strengths in communication skills and problem-solving skills among others, and challenges with spelling, reading and memorizing facts. This is not an exhaustive list. A word of caution, though. As the British Dyslexia Association points out, “Each person with dyslexia experiences it in ways unique to them. Each will have their own set of strengths and challenges and tread their own path through life.”
The global charity, Made By Dyslexia, is soon to launch a free training course called Dyslexic Thinking in Schools in partnership with Microsoft Learn, designed to help educators and parents to understand and empower young dyslexics. Research by the charity with parents and educators has found that schools and colleges do not understand dyslexic thinking, with 94% saying that educators need training in order to better support dyslexic learners. New York City has become the first city in the world to train every teacher to support dyslexic thinking. That is certainly food for thought. Are we disadvantaging dyslexics by not fully understanding how to support them to utilise their skills in a system that may not fully recognize them?
In the Lessons in Dyslexic Thinking podcast, Made by Dyslexia Ambassador, HRH Princess Beatrice recently said, “Teaching teachers how to be aware of dyslexic thinking skills and how important these skills are can move a needle for a lot of young people.” Made by Dyslexia has a mission to, “train every teacher and help every workplace to spot, support and empower every dyslexic mind.” This mission is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Made by Dyslexia aims to achieve it by 2030.
So, what can we all do now to improve the support offered to dyslexic learners? Some of these ideas may help:
- Know the signs… Dyslexia does not simply affect the ability to read and write. For students of learning age this can be a sign, along with struggles with numeracy. One telltale sign is what the British Dyslexia Association calls a “spiky” profile – areas of strong ability alongside areas of weakness. Poor concentration and relatively slow processing speed can be an issue too, as can difficulties following instructions. Some students may spell one word several different ways in one piece of writing, be hesitant readers, missing out words or adding words, have difficulty with comprehension and perhaps be easily distracted. There is a useful list of possible signs of dyslexia on the British Dyslexia Association’s website.
- Upskill… Take the Made by Dyslexia training and any other training offered in your setting or local area. It is so important to stay up to date when supporting children with additional needs and if it has been a while since you have had training specifically on dyslexia, you probably need to upskill.
- Know the signposts… if you identify a student that may be affected by dyslexia, what happens next? What support is there in your setting and in your locality? Do you know where to signpost parents? Does your school’s SENDCo have a package of information for parents or families of dyslexic learners? Remember that support should be put in place as soon as a need is identified whether or not there has been a diagnosis.
- Reasonable Adjustments… The British Dyslexia Association suggests that reasonable adjustments might include offering alternative methods of recording, using handouts that offer learning points (some schools use knowledge summaries which can be helpful), using a task planner to record work that needs to be done, allowing extra time for children to process information, repeating instructions, and chunking work. There are many more ideas on the BDA website.
- Think about exam access… whether the assessment is formative or summative, dyslexic learners may need a reader, a scribe, extra time, rest breaks – it is important to explore these needs with each learner and the SENDCo. As every educator knows, creating equality of opportunity does not mean treating everyone the same.
- Listen to the Lessons in Dyslexic Thinking podcast… Launched by Made by Dyslexia, it features conversations with inspiring dyslexics. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music or YouTube.
This is ultimately about helping dyslexic learners to get the support they need, as well as helping educators to get the support they need in order to more effectively support dyslexic learners. One cannot happen without the other, and this month of focus on dyslexia is perfect for upping our game at a time when we have access to more knowledge and research on dyslexia than ever before.
Find out more…
- HRH Princess Beatrice: How Dyslexic Thinking can change the world - YouTube
- British Dyslexia Association (bdadyslexia.org.uk)
- Made By Dyslexia – Redefining Dyslexia
- Microsoft Word - Support strategies for all parents and carers_250118 copy.docx (bdadyslexia.org.uk)
- Diagnostic Assessments for Dyslexia - British Dyslexia Association (bdadyslexia.org.uk)
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.