Orlando Bloom, Dick Smith, Richard Branson, Tom Cruise, Keira Knightley, Jamie Oliver, and Whoopi Goldberg have three things in common: they are rich and famous, none graduated from university, and all have dyslexia.
Dyslexia affects the part of the brain that controls the ability to process the way language is heard, spoken, read, or spelled. It can also cause difficulties with working memory, attention spans, and a person’s organisational ability.
One-fifth of the Australian population is diagnosed as being mild to severely dyslexic. Additionally, the 2019 update from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicated that the participation of people with disabilities, including those with dyslexia, in higher education has slightly declined since 2016.
The results suggest that the education infrastructure and support available for students with dyslexia in Australia and other nations is insufficient.
Dyslexia often becomes evident during the first few years of school and has been known to be diagnosed from as young as three years of age.
Research indicates that one way to prepare students with learning disabilities at university such as dyslexia is to encourage them to develop self-determination and advocacy skills.
Upper primary and high school teachers can be critical in helping students learn about their disabilities and to communicate their academic needs effectively.
Another critical step is to ensure that high school students with disabilities have the opportunity and necessary support to take university preparatory coursework and explore university study options.
Reasonable adjustments and positive interactions with academic faculty improve the prospects of dyslexic students.
There might be extra time allowed for dyslexic students to complete their assessments and markers instructed not to deduct points for misspelt words and grammatical errors.
Many students with dyslexia struggle with everyday study skills, such as identifying main ideas in the text, exam preparation techniques, reading course books and taking notes, keeping within the time allocated for exams, expressing ideas verbally, concentrating and using short-term memory.
Given the symptoms and severity of dyslexia vary considerably per individual, there should be a more comprehensive range of adjustments that will help level the uneven playing field for dyslexic students.
Teachers can reflect carefully on the effectiveness of their teaching and assessment methods for all their students. For example, teachers should be made familiar with research showing that the reading accuracy of dyslexic students can be significantly improved by using fonts such as Helvetica, Courier, and Arial.
Providing a system that encourages and facilitates prospective students with dyslexia to disclose their disability is also needed. This is often a key inhibitor for increased enrolments from dyslexic students as only a minority of postsecondary students with dyslexia disclose their disability to receive adjustments.
It is common for people diagnosed with dyslexia to have an IQ above average and some are considered academically gifted, so it is time to increase awareness of the supports available.