The 5th-11th October is Dyslexia Week exploring #DyslexiaCreates and the power of dyslexia to create ideas, organisations and society and the invaluable contribution this makes to Wales and the UK. We recognise, however, that dyslexia also creates challenges and barriers so this theme will enable us to raise awareness of these and explore best practice in dyslexia support that empowers individuals to achieve their potential.
According to the British Dyslexia Association, everyone's experience of dyslexia will be individual to them but there are common indicators. A cluster of these indicators alongside abilities in other areas could suggest dyslexia, and should be investigated further.
Our North Wales colleague, Susan Jones, has been working with learners in Rhyl Job Centre Plus drop-in, teaching Essential Skills. These sessions have now made the transition to an online format. Regardless of the learning environment, Susan knows only too well the importance of recognising dyslexia as she explains.
“I have been in the fortunate position to work on a one-to-one basis with learners with dyslexia. From the learners perspective, the level of focus this allows has proved to be vital for their concentration and self-esteem.
“Using phonics is usually my starting point, breaking down the letters in a word into sounds e.g. dog has three letters each with different sounds.
“Once this concept has been grasped, it is a matter of combining letters/sounds into words, then into simple sentences and eventually into more complex sentences. This is often a slow process and builds gradually.
“I have found that it is important to take small steps and to regularly practice reading words until their format becomes familiar to the learner. Repetition helps to reinforce spelling and letter sounds.”
Successful use of a multi-sensory approach has had many benefits too, as Susan explains: “’See, say, write’ - where you see the word and say it out loud as you are writing it. Using mind maps and keywords rather than long sentences can be very helpful. As always, building confidence is an important part of the process.”
Visitors to our website and users of our Moodle learning environment can activate the ReciteMe accessibility software (click on the "Accessibility App" link in the top left of the site now to try this out!). Dyslexic learners have also highlighted that using a computer to produce work is much easier than writing on paper. Word-processing apps have the added advantage of a 'spellcheck' system which highlights mistakes as well as correcting these.
While with us, our learners are entitled to free use of Microsoft Office 365 which includes the Word app for word processing. Using the ‘Dictate’ function in Word and OneNote converts speech into words! It’s also possible to turn on the immersive reader in Word so that the text can be read back to the learner - this can be particularly helpful when checking work.
Coloured screen overlays can also help to create contrast improving readability; similarly, using blue or yellow paper for written work are also popular choices. And our print guide assists by directing dyslexic learners to use of accessible fonts such as Calibri, Arial and Verdana. People with dyslexia also find it easier to read text that is left aligned rather than fully justified, as the latter can result in flowing white space running through the pages. Line spacing is also important and a spacing of 1.5 or 2 is recommended.
“Another approach I’ve made,” Susan continues, “is recording myself reading a short passage from a book or magazine which the learner listens to while they read the same passage themselves. This method is mirrored by our WEST assessment (the Wales Essential Skills Toolkit - a web-based learning environment designed to manage the assessment and delivery of Essential Skills) where the learner can listen to what they are reading on the screen.”
Just a few of the methods which can be used to support our dyslexic learners. Our thanks go to Susan for sharing some of her thoughts, as well as our tutors who are there to help and support.
Where a learner feels they may be dyslexic or this is recognised in our learner(s), we can offer support and assessment. In the first instance, learners can speak to their tutors about this where we can then explore options.
Learners can also get an indication if they may be dyslexic from the Britsh Dyslexia Association’s adult dyslexia checklist. This not a diagnostic tool but can also be used to indicate whether further investigations should take place.
For more information on how we can help learners, talk to us today.