Support available for students with dyslexia

Sarah-Ann Ashton

Sarah-Anne Ashton is a Specialist Study Skills Tutor working for Learning Services at the University. Sarah can relate to the students she works with, as last year she was diagnosed with dyslexia. Sarah teaches within the School of Psychology and Therapeutic Studies and is studying a PhD, related to dyslexia, alongside her role.

“Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty; which people don't always recognise in themselves. Their strengths in different areas can mask it. Quite often, people will have inklings or thoughts that they might have dyslexia. Literacy difficulties are usually one of the first things noticed, but other characteristics may include issues with:

  • Language processing, phonology and spelling
  • Reading development and writing comprehension
  • Working memory and confusing visually similar words
  • Focusing and maintaining concentration and feeling sensations of mental overload

At the University, we believe that students diagnosed with dyslexia should be appropriately supported to reach their potential. So, my role is to help break down barriers and challenges to learning experienced by students with a diagnosis of dyslexia.

Some students may have a diagnosis of dyslexia or support through school. Others approach the Disability and Dyslexia Service if they suspect they have dyslexia. Also, lecturers, who detect that a student may require additional support, refer students to the department. There is an online dyslexia screener available at the University. If a student’s results indicate characteristics of dyslexia, they can make an appointment with a dyslexia adviser. 

After students have received their diagnosis and assessment, there is a range of support available. This includes access to a specialist study skills tutor, who works one-to-one with students, to develop the skills needed for effective study. Skills focused on and developed include time management and organisation, assignment planning, research strategies, reading approaches, writing skills, presentation and revision strategies. Assistive software available to students can include:

  • Inspiration, a mind-mapping tool which helps organise and group thoughts and ideas, assisting with assignment writing, and exam revision.
  • Sonocent Audio Note Taker, which supports with note-taking in lectures. It helps students to stay focused and to listen actively, imports their lecture slides, to make brief annotations and colour highlight, while audio recording.
  • Dragon speech recognition software which allows students to dictate their thoughts and ideas into the computer.
  • Text help Read & Write, which helps make documents, files and web pages more accessible by reading the text aloud, highlighting the text, and checking spelling, punctuation, grammar and easily confused words.

If a student is still experiencing difficulties after using the available software, they may be eligible to access a note-taker.”