There's a dyslexic student in my CU
The term ‘dyslexia’ describes a range of difficulties with language processing, mainly affecting reading and spelling. It is often referred to as a ‘specific learning difficulty’ and can vary widely in its effects. People with dyslexia are also often affected by difficulties with sequencing, organization and short term memory. There will be a significant number of dyslexic students in every university.
On the plus side, dyslexia also often comes with great skills in visual thinking and verbal articulation, as well as intuitive people-reading ability. So this person could be a great asset to your CU! Here are some ways you can accommodate the difficulties and enable participation and contribution:
- Ensure that all written material is clearly printed in a clear font such as Arial.
- People with dyslexia often prefer a layout of bullet points, with the information itemised as a list rather than appearing in sentences and paragraphs.
- Never obscure print by the 'artistic' use of background graphics.
- Good colour contrast is important.
- Some people have a visual element to their dyslexia which is made worse by the use of glossy or coloured paper. Coloured paper, other than pastel tints, should be avoided unless a specific colour paper is requested.
- If you want someone to read aloud, ask them privately first. It is embarrassing to have to make an excuse in public, whatever the reason.
- Back up written notices / announcements with the spoken word, but be aware that poor short term memory affects some people. Repetition helps!
- It can be beneficial to check privately with the individual and go over dates, times etc.
- When holding any meeting, circulate written support material in advance, not on arrival or during the meeting.
- Be aware that at times of stress a dyslexic person may experience more difficulty than usual.
- Some dyslexic people may find books and written material threatening, so give them the opportunity to 'escape' without losing face.
- Some people are very uncomfortable about their disability and may not be prepared to discuss it, so be sensitive and discreet.
- Some dyslexic people process information more slowly or differently from others. This can often be misunderstood in meetings, house groups etc. Take time to understand the individual needs of a person with dyslexia.
- Many people with dyslexia enjoy learning better when it includes discussion and hands-on experience.
- Dyslexic people are often good at covering up problems with processing the written word, so make no assumptions about their abilities.
- Assume nothing - always ask.
www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk – Formerly the Dyslexia Institute, Dyslexia Action provides services and support for people with dyslexia and other literacy difficulties.
www.bdadyslexia.org.uk – The British Dyslexia Association is an organisation with a vision for a dyslexia friendly society that enables dyslexic people to reach their potential. Produces fact sheets and other support services.
This resource is part of our Accessible CU series, created especially for Christian Unions by Through The Roof, a Christian Disability charity. To read this article in full, and other articles on including disabled students, download the student version of Through the Roof's publication Be a Roofbreaker for just £3.