Supporting Students with Dyslexia:
A Handbook for Academic and Support Staff
Aims of the Guide 2
Legal Obligations: the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) 3
and Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001)
The implications of Dyslexia for Students in Higher Education 4
Identifying signs of Dyslexia in Students 5
Effective Support from School Admissions 6
and Information Officers and Tutors
Effective Support from Module/Course Tutors 6
Getting the right assistance 8
Screening for Dyslexia 9
Dyslexia Assessment 10
Support for Dyslexic Students at JMU 10
Teaching and Learning 13
Best Practice in Lectures 13
Assignments and Assessment 14
Working Methods 15
Further Study Skills Support 17
The Environment 18
Contact Details 20
Aims of this Guide
This Guide aims to provide all Academic and support staff, and students
themselves, with information on the following areas:
Definitions of Dyslexia
How dyslexia can affect students at university
How staff may recognise and identify signs of dyslexia in students they
teach or support
How staff might be able to help students who have dyslexia
Other support services for students with dyslexia at John Moores
List of contact details at the university for further advice and information
Dyslexia constitutes a Special Educational Need as defined by the Special
Educational Needs and Disability Act, 2001. It is one of several Specific
Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) which include:
Dysphasia, speech and language delay and/or deficit.
Dyspraxia, motor and co-ordination difficulty.
ADD/ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity.
Autism, difficulty in social interaction and verbal/non-verbal
Aspergers Syndrome, a psychiatric disorder characterised by
impairments in social interaction and repetitive behaviour patterns.
Tourette Syndrome, neurological disorder characterised by multiple
facial and body tics, often accompanied by compulsive utterances such
as grunts or interjections.
Dyslexia, (definition given below).
Irlen Syndrome (or Scotopic Sensitivity), a difficulty with glare from the
page that can adversely affect reading and text perception, but can be
reduced by the use of colour filters and overlays.
The British Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia in the following way:
"Dyslexia is best described as a combination of abilities and difficulties which
affect the learning process in one or more of reading, spelling, writing and
sometimes numeracy/language. Accompanying weaknesses may be
identified in areas of speed of processing, short-term memory, sequencing,
auditory and/or visual perception, spoken language and motor skills. Dyslexia
is a puzzling mix of both difficulties and strengths. Dyslexic people often have
distinctive talents as well as typical clusters of difficulties. Some dyslexics
have outstanding creative skills. Others have strong oral skills. Whilst others
have no outstanding talents, they all have strengths.”
Brain imaging techniques have now proved that dyslexic people process
information differently. Around 4% of the population is severely dyslexic, and
a further 6% face mild to moderate problems. This means that at least one
student in every class may be dyslexic, and will need varying degrees of
additional support to compensate for their individual areas of difficulty.
Dyslexic students are capable of fulfilling the demands of higher education,
even though they may need to be taught differently.
Dyslexia is not a disease to be cured; nor do people "grow out" of it. Early
recognition and appropriate support can ameliorate its effects. Dyslexic
people learn to accommodate to a greater or lesser degree depending on
their own personality and the type of support they need and receive from both
academic and support staff. Individuals will experience difficulties throughout
their lives and the majority learn to develop strategies to enable them to cope
most of the time, although in stress situations, such as exam periods, all the
original problems can recur. With a degree of awareness and understanding
on the part of tutors, many do achieve academically and go on to successful
Within a Higher Education institution such as JMU, any department/school
and member of staff may come into contact with a student who has dyslexia,
and will require some basic awareness to be able to provide advice and
support that is appropriate and effective. This Guide is a preliminary stage in
staff awareness training, but must be supplemented with ongoing self-
development sessions around issues of dyslexia and learning disabilities.
Furthermore, although the focus of this Guide is directed primarily towards
teaching and welfare staff, including staff involved in admissions, the LRCs,
examinations and study support, it is nevertheless true that the needs of
students (and staff) who have dyslexia have to be recognised at management
level, and incorporated into the processes of academic planning and policy
Our Legal Obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) and
Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (2001)
The definition of „disability‟ as described under the terms of the Disability
Discrimination Act (1995) states that:
"A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment which
has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his/her ability
to carry out normal day to day activities".
Dyslexia does not always affect a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-
day activities. Dyslexic people can often reduce the effect of their disability if
they are able to do things their way. However, if they cannot do this for any
reason, the effects can be disabling. When the Bill was being debated in
Parliament, the government made it clear that they thought severe dyslexia
was covered under this law:
"In some cases, people have 'coping strategies' which cease to work in
certain circumstances (for example, where someone who stutters or has
dyslexia is placed under stress). If it is possible that a person's ability to
manage the effects of the impairment will break down so that these effects will
sometimes occur, this possibility must be taken into account when assessing
the effects of the impairment." [Paragraph A8, Guidance to the Definitions of
Support for disabled students in higher education is now a legal obligation for
all institutions as a result of part IV of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995,
and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, the latter of which
comes into force from September 2002. All aspects of educational provision
are covered under the act, including admissions, enrolments and exclusions,
student services, teaching and learning, libraries, catering, accommodation,
careers services etc. There are two main duties:
Not to treat a disabled person less favourably than a non-disabled
person for reasons related to his/her disability
The requirement to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that a
disabled student is not placed at a substantial disadvantage.
The requirement not to treat disabled students „Less Favourably‟, as well as
some „Reasonable Adjustments‟ (such as providing information in alternative
formats) comes into affect September 1st 2002. Other reasonable adjustments
involving support personal and equipment (interpreters and hearing loops for
example) must be made from September 1st 2003. In addition, physical
adjustments, e.g. access to buildings, must be made from September 1st
2005. There is much good practice already within the University and individual
schools; and, these implementation dates do not preclude continuing and
extending it in the meantime.
Additionally, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Code of Practice on
Students with Disabilities was implemented from autumn 2000. All schools
and service teams within the University are expected to meet its 24 „precepts‟
or standards that cover all areas of our relationship with students, including all
aspects of teaching and learning. The Code expects us to treat disabled
students as an integral part of the academic community and to provide for
them as part of our core activities. The quality of what we do will be audited by
the QAA, which will use the Code as a benchmark.
The implications of Dyslexia for Students in Higher Education
Although one in four adults will have some form of dyslexia, it is the severity
and nature of difficulties manifested that determine how much and what form
of additional support is required. Many individuals develop coping strategies
to compensate for their particular areas of difficulty, and therefore may not be
aware that they have dyslexia at all. However, during significant change in
circumstances and workload responsibilities, the effects of dyslexia can be
more strongly manifested (such as starting university, examinations,
increased intensity in learning or other times of stress).
The implications of dyslexia vary between individuals. Many who have
dyslexia explain some of the difficulties they experience in the following ways:
"It's like looking for something in a library when all the books have
fallen off the shelves!"
"It's not a disease, it's just the way I am."
"My brain is wired differently and sometimes there are blocks on the
wiring, so I have to take different routes to find information. A bit like
taking the A1 when the M1 is blocked due to a traffic jam."
"It's like my computer crashing with too much information!"
"I know what I want to say but I can never find the right words."
"I see things from a different angle. Problems are often easy to solve
and I don't understand why others struggle with them."
"It feels like no-one else thinks about things like the way I do."
"Solving problems or doing tasks is the easy part. Explaining how I did
it is the difficulty!"
"I have all the right ideas but when I write them down, they do not make
sense any more."
"My spelling is poor, but I use a spellchecker and for an important
document I ask a colleague to proof read."
"I find a series of instructions difficult to follow but if I have time to make
notes or a written list I can do the job."
It is clear from these examples that people with dyslexia can hear and see as
anyone else who is hearing and sighted; the difficulty that people with dyslexia
can face is remembering and making sense of what they hear and see.
Identifying signs of Dyslexia in Students
Since individuals experience the effects of dyslexia differently, they will also
have different individual strengths and weaknesses. These might include:
Misreading, making understanding difficult.
Difficulty with sequences (such as days/months, dates, saw for was, 53
Poor organisation or time management.
Difficulty organising thoughts clearly.
Confusion of letters and numbers of similar shape (such d/b 6/9 W/M).
Repetition of phrases and words.
Confusion or omission of small words.
Dislike and avoidance of reading aloud.
Difficulty in pronunciation, particularly with multi-syllabic words.
Shortening words (such rember for remember).
Wrong use of capitals.
Badly formed letters that are not always on the line.
Confusion between left/right, east/west.
Untidy notes and work area.
Difficulty with copying from OHPs.
Such weaknesses, however, are set along side positive strengths, which can
be utilised to compensate for some difficulties. People who have dyslexia are,
in many cases:
Innovative and original thinkers.
Intuitive problem solvers.
Creative in many different ways.
Good at practical activities (such as sports, Art and Music).
Good at personal and inter-personal relations.
Within a university context, tutors may also find it helpful to listen out for such
comments from students as:
"When I'm under pressure, I can never remember the relevant words."
"Speaking out in front of the whole class makes me stumble and forget
what I was trying to say."
"I know I have all the information, it's just that getting it out in the right
order can be difficult."
"I'm fine until I have a deadline!"
"It's such a different way of working at university, I find it difficult to
Other signs that tutors may notice maybe:
A marked discrepancy between ability and the standard of work being
A persistent or severe problem with spelling, even with easy or
Difficulties with comprehension as a result of slow reading speed.
Poor short-term memory, especially for language based information,
which results in the inefficient processing into long-term memory.
Difficulties with organisation, classification and categorisation.
Note-taking presenting problems due to spelling difficulties, poor short-
term memory and poor listening skills.
Handwriting being poor and unformed, especially when writing under
A lack of fluency in expressing ideas, or difficulties with vocabulary.
Continuing pronunciation or word finding difficulties, which may be
inhibiting when talking or discussing in large groups.
For most students with dyslexia, encouragement and understanding from
academic and other staff is the key to survival and academic success. Many
lack basic self-confidence in themselves and their work, particularly when a
large part of that work is dependent upon the written word. Writing and
reading are often their weakest resource, and will not reflect true individual
knowledge and understanding. On the other hand, people with dyslexia can
be very articulate with enhanced verbal and reasoning strengths. It is
important, therefore, that they be allowed the opportunity to demonstrate their
capabilities through alternative methods to written work – such as oral
presentations, video/radio based work, slides and Power Point displays, taped
assignments, small group discussions, Vivas, interviews and so on.
Effective Support from School Admissions and Information Officers and
School Admissions and Information Officers will often be the first point of
contact for prospective students making enquiries regarding course
information. At this stage, these students may or may not have identified
themselves as having dyslexia, but in either case awareness and
understanding on the part of staff will send a positive and welcoming message
of equal opportunities for all applicants. When preparing and making available
materials for present/prospective students, staff will need to be mindful of
students with dyslexia. Make your information accessible, particularly entry
procedures, examination arrangements, deadlines for submission of
coursework, access to learning resources and support provided by Student
In cases where students have identified themselves as dyslexic at the
application process, School Admissions and Information Officers have a
crucial part to play in terms of appropriate support arrangements. Through an
informed understanding of the implications of dyslexia, and working closely
with both the student and relevant teaching/welfare staff, the SAIOs will be
able to assist in making decisions regarding course choice, course planning,
module delivery and work assessment. SAIOs also need to be aware of
welfare and support services in place at JMU for students who have dyslexia,
and refer the student to these for further assistance (such as applying for the
Disabled Students Allowance for specialist equipment and support).
Effective Support from Module/Course Tutors
The adjustments required for dyslexic students on the part of tutors are not
usually demanding. A willingness to be flexible is perhaps the most important
thing. Dyslexic students will want their tutor to understand their dyslexia so
they can feel confident about discussing any difficulties that arise. There is a
wide range of strategies that will help the dyslexic student, and changes you
make for dyslexic students will be of benefit to all your students.
The transition into Higher Education and the nature of university work can
create new and complex demands for students who have dyslexia. Course
tutors need to enable students to respond to the new work environment by
providing additional learning support, which will often be a vital part of
students‟ coping strategy. Many will face difficulties rising from an inability to
read and process information quickly, working against time, learning a new
and specialised academic vocabulary, as well as facing problems relating to
spelling and grammar, and will require one to one guidance to help alleviate
these. In particular, the task of essay writing is one, which places very heavy
demands on students with dyslexia as a result of a weaker memory system.
Thoughts and ideas have to be held in mind whilst attention is diverted to the
more basic processes of spelling, grammar and sentence construction.
Expressing themselves quite effectively in individual words and sentences,
students with dyslexia often experience difficulties in connecting and
organising ideas into a well structured and planned assignment. As well as
extra tuition on a regular basis, word processors with mind mapping software
can also prove helpful, and some students will be able to obtain this and
similar equipment through the Disabled Students Allowance. Assignment and
course-work deadlines given weeks ahead can also create time management
difficulties, since dyslexic students require a tighter structure to work to. In
general, many students will find tuition support from course tutors extremely
valuable, even if only to consolidate and revise information given in lectures
It is particularly important for dyslexic students to identify their strengths and
use this to make themselves more effective learners. For example, some
people like to make tape recordings of their notes so they can revise by
listening, whilst others like to draw diagrams.
Getting the right assistance
Some of your students will not know they are dyslexic, particularly those
returning to education, e.g. mature students, or students on Access courses.
If, after noticing some of the above signs of difficulty and believing that a
student you are responsible for may have any degree of dyslexia, it is
important that you are aware of and consider appropriate follow-up
procedures. Some of these (such as screening and assessment for dyslexia)
can only be administered by specialist tutors and Educational Psychologists. If
administered by unspecialised staff, these procedures may not be helpful, and
may even be detrimental to a student in terms of progress, support and
In the first instance, the student must be sign-posted to designated individuals
who are able to begin the process of screening and assessment. At JMU, any
student who you believe may have dyslexia, even if this turns out to be not the
case, must be directed to Student Welfare Services. Contact must be made
with the Disability staff either by telephone on 0151 231 3315, or by e-mail to
If tutors are concerned as to the extent to which their worries about a student
are warranted, there are a number of dyslexia checklists that could be worked
through with students. These are based on a series of questions about
literacy, numeracy and organisation, and may include:
Do you find difficulty telling left from right?
Is map reading or finding your way to a strange place confusing?
Do you dislike reading aloud?
Do you take longer than you should to read a page of a book?
Do you find it difficult to remember the sense of what you have read?
Do you dislike reading long books?
Is your spelling poor?
Is your writing difficult to read?
Do you get confused if you have to speak in public?
Do you find it difficult to take messages on the telephone and pass
them on correctly?
When you have to say a long word, do you sometimes find it difficult to
get all the sounds in the right order?
Do you find it difficult to do sums in your head without using your
fingers or paper?
When using the telephone, do you tend to get the numbers mixed up
when you dial?
Do you find it difficult to say the months of the year forwards in a fluent
Do you find it difficult to say the months of the year backwards?
Do you mix up dates and times and miss appointments?
When writing cheques do you frequently find yourself making
Do you find forms difficult and confusing?
Do you mix up bus numbers like 95 and 59?
Did you find it hard to learn your multiplication tables at school?
(9 or more „yes‟ responses to these questions strongly indicate some degree
of dyslexia, and require follow-up advice and support from a specialist).
The majority of dyslexic students will be relieved to discover their dyslexia. It
enables them to understand their educational history and put past
experiences into context, thereby relieving some of the frustration they will
inevitably have felt in the past.
Screening for Dyslexia
Students who have been identified by tutors as having difficulty with aspects
of literacy, numeracy or organisation will benefit from a process of screening
for dyslexia. There are a number of screening tools available, and using them
requires a deeper level of understanding of dyslexia (I.E specialist tutors).
Actual delivery is often relatively easy but interpreting the results requires
some knowledge of the theory behind them. At JMU, welfare staff cannot offer
formal screening, but will conduct a preliminary test via a questionnaire which
students are asked to complete. The results of this are then forwarded to, and
interpreted by an Educational Psychologist. However, welfare staff are
currently considering the possibility of offering a computerised form of
screening through the Lucid Adult Dyslexia Screening software package,
LADS. This will speed up the process of identifying those students who
require a full assessment from an Educational Psychologist, and those who
require additional study skills support.
After a screening test, and with the help of welfare or Learning Skills tutors,
some students will be given enough information to be able to develop
individual learning plans based upon the outcomes of their questionnaire or
LADS screening. Others, however, will want and require further assessment
of their difficulties and needs.
The next step, following the outcomes of initial screening, is to require
students to undertake a full assessment. An assessment can take up to 2.5
hours, and will be administered by a qualified Educational Psychologist. All
assessments will include a variety of tests, and will take place either at the
university or an Assessment Centre (the nearest one to JMU being through
the Liverpool Dyslexia Association). The aim of the assessment is to build up
a picture of how the student thinks and processes information, and students
will be provided with some feedback about their strengths and weaknesses in
a comprehensive report. The report will be extremely useful both to the
student and to support staff at the university in that it will:
help to clarify appropriate arrangements for examinations,
advise students as to how they can improve their learning skills,
enable some students to obtain funding for specialist equipment and
support from their LEA,
help students explain to others the effects of their dyslexia and their
highlight students‟ particular strengths as well as difficulties.
Before students are able to access funds for specialist equipment and
support, their LEA (Local Education Authority) may require a needs
assessment, which may take place at the university or a regional centre. The
aim of this is to ensure that students receive provisions that are most
appropriate to their particular needs, and much of the information will be
derived from students‟ Educational Psychologist report.
For further information on applying for DSA, please see the „Guide for
Disabled students‟ also produced by Student Welfare Services.
Support for Dyslexic Students at JMU
JMU has a large number of students who have Dyslexia. Many of these will
have been assessed prior to joining the university, and staff in Student
Services will have received their report of recommended provision. As far as
possible, the Disability Support Worker and welfare staff will ensure that
appropriate provisions are in place before the student arrives, and
applications will have been made for the Disabled Students Allowance for
individual students. This will enable students to purchase specialist equipment
and support which best meets their needs. The academic school will also
have been informed, and teaching staff will have opportunities to discuss
appropriate support both with welfare staff and the student as well.
However, many students will not know they have dyslexia when they embark
on a university course. It is hoped that, as a result of this Guide and other
information about dyslexia known to staff, these students will be quickly
identified. Students who believe they may be dyslexic, whether they are
referred by their course tutor or have voluntarily approached Student Welfare
Services for advice, may find the following outline useful in understanding how
the assessment process is carried out at JMU.
Stage 1: Appointment with a Welfare Advisor
1 If you are experiencing difficulties which you or your tutors believe may
be due to dyslexia, make an appointment to see the Disability Advisor,
who will ensure that you are clear about the procedure you will be
2 Advisors are available through all the Campus Centres and also at
Roscoe Court, 4 Rodney Street
3 Advisors will also run through a preliminary dyslexia checklist with you.
4 The Advisor will give you a dyslexia questionnaire, which you should
complete and return as soon as possible.
5 Student Welfare services are currently considering offering students a
computerised screening, which will help indicate whether or not you
have dyslexia. If adopted, computerised screening will replace the
Stage 2: Formal Assessment
1 Following stage 1, an appointment will be made for you to see an
Educational Psychologist. You will be given advance notice of this
meeting. It is important that you attend at your given time. If for some
reason you cannot keep this appointment, please give as much notice
as possible for us to offer another student this opportunity to attend.
The assessment will take place either at JMU, or at the Liverpool
2 The Psychologist will send a formal report to Student Welfare Services
and you will also be sent this. It remains your responsibility to
understand what support is recommended by the report. There will
also be an opportunity for you to discuss any recommendations with
the Disability Advisor at this stage.
3 A copy of the report can be sent to your personal tutor if you so wish,
and it is your responsibility to work with appropriate staff to implement
4 You may, depending on the outcome of your assessment, be eligible to
apply for the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) from your Local
Education Authority (LEA).
5 If your report indicates dyslexia, you will be advised on how to access
6 Cost: the full cost of a formal assessment is £230 (2002/03) and JMU
will cover all this cost from the Special Needs budget and the hardship
fund. If you are not eligible for the Hardship Fund, JMU will cover the
total cost from the Special Needs budget. You are merely required to
fill in a form when you come for your assessment.
Not all students who are referred for an assessment by an Educational
Psychologist are found to be dyslexic. The difficulties you experience may not
be associated with dyslexia, but other forms of learning behaviour such as
Irlen‟s Syndrome. If this is the case, Student Welfare Services may refer you
to one or more of the following staff for support:
Study support specialist
Your own Tutor to work out an appropriate support strategy
Our Study Support Unit will provide support for students who may be
experiencing difficulties with learning and studying.
If confirmed as having dyslexia, students are given follow-up advice by
Welfare Services, and will receive assistance with purchasing necessary
equipment for study purposes. An appropriate programme of learning support
will be arranged, depending upon recommendations outlined in individual
As well as examination concessions, Extensions on borrowing items from
JMU libraries are also available to students who have Dyslexia. Our Learning
Resources Centres have systems in place, which enable all students with
disabilities to identify themselves discretely. Students may also wish to access
the free photocopying and the personal tuition facilities, the latter of which is
provided by the Liverpool Dyslexia Association. Personal tuition will enable
students to develop effective study skills that meet their individual needs.
With regard to additional support, our Hope Street Multi-Media Computing
Suite has specialist software packages on ten machines. These will assist
students with their reading and writing tasks, and include the Talk-&-Type and
Inspiration packages. There is also screen-magnification software on the
machines, as well as on machines in all other Learning Resources Centres.
JMU also has a Dyslexia Working Group. The aim of this group is to raise
awareness of Dyslexia, and the needs of dyslexic students, among teaching,
administrative and support staff. By raising awareness across all sections of
the university, it aims to improve support provision for students so that they
are able to complete their course successfully.
In view of our commitment to extend resources and facilities, JMU is currently
exploring the feasibility of networking specialist software to support students
who have Dyslexia. This may include Zoomtextand the Kurzweil Reader 3000.
Being available on the network, students will be able to access this
technology from any networked PC, and therefore receive help with spelling,
writing, planning and organisation (note, this facility is still being investigated,
and tutors should contact the Disability Support Worker for developments).
Staff in welfare services and the study support Unit are also considering the
possibility to improve Dyslexia screening with specialist software, prior to
assessment and further provision.
Teaching and Learning
All students will inevitably have their own individual preferred learning styles,
and these may include listening, seeing, doing or a combination of these.
Knowing and understanding how your particular students absorb information
is important to ensure optimum effectiveness in any teaching context. Some
students who have dyslexia may themselves be aware of how they learn best,
and in some cases this may have been outlined in their assessment report. As
a means of finding out how and by what methods your students learn best,
students might be asked to state their preferences out of:
Lectures and tutorials.
Computer based learning.
Photographs and pictures.
Videos & TV.
Computer based learning.
Visits and Field trips.
Rehearsing and performing.
The pressures of studying can lead to a high level of anxiety, and dyslexia can
accentuate this and create even more stress. A new course of study may
highlight difficulties that have previously gone unnoticed. The learning
environment may add additional pressure, especially to students who have
struggled with their earlier education. It may be stressful and frustrating for
students with dyslexia to face a lack of understanding and some may appear
hostile. It will not be helpful to misinterpret any display of anger at the system
as a student being difficult or being particularly awkward. In such
circumstances, it is always more productive to show a sensitive approach, to
listen and be understanding.
Best Practice in Lectures
The specific needs of a Dyslexic student will be determined by their individual
requirements, and the coping strategies developed to accomplish a given
task. Generally, students with dyslexia will develop a better understanding of
a topic or area of study if it is, initially, presented as a whole, and then broken
down into more specific details and components. Although students who
have dyslexia provide the best help for tutors in terms of what is most helpful,
the following guidelines may also be helpful:
Be aware of your language.
Vary your speed of delivery.
Introduce new ideas and concepts explicitly.
Provide an overview of your topic so students know what to expect.
Help with note taking by providing handouts.
Provide notes, handouts and summaries before lectures for pre-
Do not necessarily expect dyslexic students to answer questions or talk
in large groups.
Use clear overhead projections or slides, and provide individual copies
Keep the content limited.
Allow use of ICT if students wish, e.g. tape recorders or laptops.
Create a multi-sensory learning environment, e.g. videos, pictures,
diagrams, practical and experiential activities in addition to verbal
Allow time for reinforcement and over-learning by frequent revision.
Discuss their learning process with students.
Explain your learning objectives of a given teaching session, I.E.
highlight what the learning experience will be, and what skills students
Provide key reading list, giving specific references to chapters.
Where possible, direct students to audio-visual sources of information.
Students need to be encouraged to make their own connections in their
learning, and build a mental image of how each component relates to the
wider picture. Tutors should enable students to take charge of their own
learning in order to understand concepts, as opposed to simple dictation and
Assignments and Assessment
With regard to assignments, tutors are able to assist students who have
dyslexia by providing encouragement and praise for task completion. Many
students with dyslexia will remember the humiliation of past educational
experiences, and will be vary of repeating these. Constructive feedback is
important, and comments should end on a positive note whilst clearly stating
areas for improvement. Tutors should focus on the student‟s strengths, and
help develop points of weakness. Circulating samples of good work will prove
useful, even for those students who do not have dyslexia.
Further points of good practice include:
Give specific instructions and use simple, unambiguous language.
Be explicit in your explanation of the assignment.
Allow assignments to be word-processed or taped.
Signpost the student towards help with planning.
Mark for evidence of knowledge, intention, correct response and
relevant thinking, rather than standard written English (unless this is a
specific requirement of the assignment, in which case allow for a word
Do not discredit poor handwriting.
Allow an extended period for timed writing tasks.
Depending upon outcomes of individual student assessment reports
and the recommendations suggested, seek special arrangements in
exams, such as extra time, a reader, a scribe, use of a word processor
or tape recorder.
Give oral assessment opportunities.
Be aware of extra effort and concentration involved for students with
dyslexia in completion of tasks.
Staff should also be aware that, even with appropriate support during the
formal examination process, students with dyslexia will experience extreme
levels of stress and anxiety. This may lead to students attempting wrong
questions or even the wrong number of questions. All instructions should be
clear and unambiguous and, if possible, it may be helpful if papers were read
out. Papers should also be printed on one side of the sheet so that students
are able to read and perceive information consecutively.
Students with dyslexia face many obstacles to easy and effective learning.
This certainly does not mean that the dyslexic student cannot learn,
but that he or she will learn in a different way. Dyslexia itself does not prevent
individuals from achieving excellent results at all levels; all it takes is some
degree of awareness and flexibility.
There are a number of strategies that can be particularly helpful for the
dyslexic learner. These may be used to achieve different objectives, such as
information retention, or to provide an alternative way to take notes in
lectures, and include:
Colour coding of files or documents.
The main obstacles that students with dyslexia face within a learning
environment are writing, organisation of ideas and processing information
from reading. Dyslexic students often feel frustrated as they have a great
deal of knowledge, but often cannot put it down on paper. For many, this has
been a problem since early days in school where work was returned with
comments such as "Learn your spellings", "Organise your work", "Where are
the punctuation marks” or "Watch your grammar".
It may be more helpful for a tutor to comment, instead, "This written work
does not reflect the knowledge I know you have. Let's talk". A comment on a
student‟s written work that states something on the lines of “she displays an
inability to sort out and organise ideas, despite a keen understanding of the
material, her oral work is interesting, clear and concise, but she is unable in
her written work to convey ideas at anywhere near the same level of
sophistication” would strongly suggest evidence of dyslexia and the need for
Since many dyslexic students find spelling a major area of difficulty, it is
inevitable that they will make mistakes when they write quickly. The use of
word processors makes life easier and the work produced more accurate
when done at speed. It is easier to recognise correct spellings from a list on
the computer rather than try to generate them. Students with dyslexia will find
word processing helpful also in that many have poor handwriting and their
words are difficult to read. Sometimes letters are not formed clearly, or words
run into each other. Many students will also confuse capital and small case
letters, as well as actual letters themselves, e.g. b/d, n/u, m/w. It is more
difficult to reverse letters on computers. Similarly, presenting material in an
organised and structured way is essential to effective learning as well as
clarification of thought. Dyslexic students often have creative ideas, but need
help in the organisation of them. Work produced on a computer can often look
attractive, well thought out and presented, thereby positively influencing the
attitude of both the reader and the student.
For many students with dyslexia, therefore, use of a computer will be an
essential part of their learning. Whilst helping them with writing tasks and the
organisation of ideas, computers are also important for providing:
help with presentation,
ways to present documents more clearly,
help to organise the sequencing and structure of ideas,
software packages to help with grammar,
help with writing using good grammar,
good spell-checking support,
a thesaurus to give wider use of language,
the means to introduce Graphics,
the means to move work around to suit,
a way to keep letters and reports on file for ease of reference.
Everyone is susceptible to eye strain and tiredness when working. When a
person concentrates for a long period on a particular piece of text, the words
can become blurred, though this is only temporary. Someone who is tired or
stressed can make mistakes when reading. This problem is exacerbated if the
individual also has dyslexia.
Dyslexic students will frequently experience visual discomfort when reading.
As a result, some will begin to focus on the spaces rather than on the words.
This is often described as seeing rivers moving down the page, and the words
and text can appear to be moving around or wobbling. Anyone with any
degree of reading difficulties may have to concentrate harder to interpret text
and remember what they have read, and anything that disturbs concentration,
such as visual discomfort, will not help matters. Black print on white paper
causes most discomfort.
It is possible to alleviate the pressures of visual discomfort, and changes you
make to accommodate the dyslexic student will also make life more
comfortable for others. There are simple strategies to help dyslexics get the
most from their reading, and avoiding black print on white paper is perhaps
one of the most important. Others include:
When producing paper work - Keep writing style in short simple
sentences. Avoid dense blocks of text by using short paragraphs.
Fonts and type - Use sans serif fonts such as Arial or Comic Sans.
Try to keep the font size at 14pt or more, not smaller than 12pt. Expand
the spacing between letters and lines. Use bold to highlight rather than
italics or underlining. Avoid underlining titles or key words. It can make
the words 'run together'.
Layout of text - Keep lines left justified with a ragged right edge. Try
using boxes or indented spacing between lines to break up text. Use
bullets or numbers rather than continuous prose. Use wider spacing
between sentences and paragraphs. Do not begin sentences at the
end of a line. Use wide margins and headings.
Presentation of information - Use coloured paper instead of white,
there is some preference for cream. Keep the design of leaflets simple,
as background graphics can make text difficult to read. Do not use a
variety of fonts. On leaflets or posters about events, keep essential
information about time and place grouped together.
Notice boards - White boards are easier to read when the writing is in
colour. Use print rather than joined writing on boards. Notice boards
positioned at an angle are often easier to read.
Alternative ideas for presenting information - Flow charts are ideal
for explaining procedures. Pictograms and graphics help to locate
information. Lists of 'do's and 'don'ts' are more useful than continuous
text to highlight aspects of good practice. Provide a glossary of
abbreviations and jargon. Include a contents page at the beginning and
index at end.
Further Study Skills Support
Throughout their course of study, it is important that personal academic tutors
for students with dyslexia maintain contact with their students, and ensure
provisions are both relevant and effective. Any difficulties need to be followed
up both with the student and with Welfare/Disability staff in Student Services
(contact details given at the end of this guide). Individual needs will vary, and
may change either as a result of changes in the effects of the disability, or
through the changing demands of a course. Tutors, through consultation with
their students and appropriate staff, must be able to respond to these
changes in terms of re-evaluating provision. Any support arrangements for
students with dyslexia, therefore, must be sufficiently flexible so as to take into
account the severity of the disability, as well as individual student
requirements and profile.
In most cases, students who have dyslexia will require some degree of one to
one support from their tutor to develop skills in:
Planning and structuring.
Being able to clarify and crystallise ideas.
Spelling and vocabulary.
The use of a dictionary and thesaurus.
Language use and grammar.
Editing and presentation.
Additionally, since students with dyslexia find examinations particularly
stressful, tutors may also need to provide positive and re-enforced techniques
of working under pressure and to strict time specification. This will need to be
accompanied by planned and structured revision that makes use of multi-
sensory resources, such as charts, posters, colour coding and diagrams.
For students who have dyslexia, the most important factor within a teaching
environment is the lighting. If not adequately addressed, inappropriate lighting
conditions will create difficulties that not only heighten the effects of dyslexia,
but also make it near impossible for students to focus, concentrate, read, write
and understand. Many people with dyslexia are light or colour sensitive, and
most will not be aware of this. Bright sunlight or florescent lights may cause
them discomfort with regard to learning, as well as additional problems such
Furthermore, these problems will be severe if a student also has Irlen
Syndrome, a condition that creates difficulties in reading and perception for
some people (not necessarily just those who have dyslexia) as a result of
glare from the page. To compensate for this, some students may use either
tinted lenses in glasses for both reading and writing, or coloured overlays
(transparent plastic folders, specially designed for reading, which can be
placed over a page of writing to block out certain light waves). Tutors can also
help by avoiding black writing on white page/board, or by providing coloured
writing paper. For those students who use a computer in lectures and
tutorials, the colours and brightness of the screen can be adjusted.
If any student consistently
Reverses single letters/numbers, or letter/number order
Omits and inserts words
Loses their place when reading, particularly from one line to the next
Needs to use their finger when reading to follow the words
Then he/she may need to be tested for binocular instability and light
sensitivity. It is very likely that this student will have Irlen Syndrome, and be
affected by glare from the page. This glare can be reduced with the use of
coloured filters, which have been shown to improve text perception. In these
instances, coloured overlays and lenses may make a difference for close
work, and they may find that the print stays still rather than moving on the
page. Some may also find that it is not as dazzling to read, or that the spaces
between words are clearer, making concentration easier. With less discomfort
to their eyes, students with dyslexia will be able to read and absorb
information more easily and for longer periods of time.
Information for Support Staff
Students with Dyslexia are very likely to use welfare services to a greater
extent than other students. With the number of dyslexic students in Higher
Education gradually increasing, staff in welfare services will need to be aware
of the implications of this disability, and how it may affect students within a
university context. As well as facing difficulties that are common to most
students at university, such as financial hardship and accommodation,
students with dyslexia face additional problems specifically as a result of their
disability. These may include:
Low stress threshold.
Slower working pace.
Low self-esteem and confidence.
Feelings of isolation.
Difficulties with organisation and lack of structure.
Weaknesses in the area of study skills.
Unable to cope with the periods of extreme stress, students with dyslexia may
not be able to arrive at a clear train of thought or action, and come to a
complete standstill. Welfare Advisors will need to be understanding and
calming, be aware of the confusions and frustrations students are
experiencing, help them to structure a way out of stress, provide
encouragement to boost their self image, and help them to develop coping
strategies appropriate to university work and living. Providing opportunities for
students to discuss personal problems and difficulties is important. Welfare
staff might be the ones to whom students feel able to pour out their feelings of
anger and frustration. The start of an academic year can be particularly
daunting, and students may need support to sort through the overload of
information they are given.
On a practical level, students with dyslexia may ask welfare staff to help with
producing their C.V., letter writing or form filling. Some students with severe
dyslexia will be entitled to the Disabled Students‟ Allowance, and advisors will
need to assist with the application process for this. The allowance can be
used for the payment for study skills support, or to pay for a reader/scribe.
The equipment allowance may enable students to purchase tape recorder and
tapes, IT equipment or specialist software. Those who have particular
difficulties with reading may also be entitled to a book allowance. In order to
ensure the most effective use of the allowance, staff may need to arrange for
the student to have a needs assessment, which has to be conducted by a
specialist within the field of dyslexia support.
In some cases, students with dyslexia may find it difficult to explain to others,
particularly academic staff, the implications of their disability. In such
instances, welfare advisors may need to liaise with schools to outline the
nature of difficulties experienced by dyslexic students, and perhaps negotiate
support arrangements (such as lecture notes and handouts made available
before sessions). Welfare advisors may also need to negotiate LRC support
provisions, as well as appropriate examination concessions (such as
additional time, use of reader/scribe, use of tape recorder or computer,
alternative paper layout).
At the same time, in spite of their individual difficulties, Students who have
dyslexia are also remarkably tough and resilient, having had to work much
harder than other students to achieve entry into university. Most will
successfully complete their course, and, for many, welfare support will play a
central role in enabling them to meet and overcome the demands of Higher
Student Welfare Services:
Address – Roscoe Court, 4 Rodney Street, Liverpool, L1 2SZ
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone – 0151 231 3167
Student Disability Services:
Address – Roscoe Court, 4 Rodney Street, Liverpool, L1 2SZ
Email – email@example.com
Telephone – 0151 231 3315
Study Skills Support:
Address – Aquinas building, Mount Pleasant Campus
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone – 0151 231 3170
Equal Opportunities Adviser:
Address: The Mews, 7 Rodney Street, Liverpool, L1 2SX
Email – email@example.com
Telephone – 0151231 3188
Liverpool Students Union:
Address – Haigh Building, Maryland Street, Liverpool, L1
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone – 0151 231 4905
The compilation of this Guide was based largely on information provided by
the British Dyslexia Association, 98 London Rd, READING RG1 5AU
Tel: 0118 966 8271
Fax: 0118 935 1927
E-mail (Help line): email@example.com
In particular, see leaflets:
A01. What is dyslexia? Jun 01.
A02. How do I know if I'm dyslexic? Jul 00.
A03. Adult Dyslexia Checklist. Jul 94.
A04. What does dyslexia mean for me? Mar 01.
A06. Writing and the Dyslexic Adult. May 01.
AS01. Life as a dyslexic student. Mar 01.
AS02. Information for Dyslexic Students. Oct 01
AT01. The dyslexic student. May 01.
AT02. Including the dyslexic student. Mar 01.
AT03. Identifying dyslexia - screening and assessment. May 01.
X02. Definition, history, SpLDs and incidence of dyslexia. Mar 01.
X09. Dyslexia friendly text. May 01.
Thanks to the following people for their input:
Naseem Anwar, Senior Adviser Equality & Policy Development
Sara Edwards, Vice-President Equal Opps Liverpool Students Union
Adrienne Lowy, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool School of Art & Design
This guide is compiled by Surya Shaffi, Disability Support Worker at
Liverpool John Moores University.