Dyslexia isn’t an issue that can be helped in one certain way, and having suffered with it for my whole academic life I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have it. I am constantly trying different and new things to see what works best for me. So, I have decided to list some things which helped me through studying at university in the hopes that it might help you too!
- Get in contact with student support as quickly as possibly
In my first year, it wasn’t until after Christmas that I got contacted by student support for help and it can take quite some time for everything to be cleared. My note-taker (scribe) only then started in my second year. So, what I would definitely say is be pro-active about this and contact them and ensure you have an up-to-date physiological report.
- Print things out
For me, I have learnt that I need everything printed as well as electronic copies. This is especially the case with journal articles – I find it much easier to actually take in what is being said if it’s in a tangible, paper form. It means that I can make notes all over it and highlight certain parts when needed. It also removes the stress of the lecturer moving on to the next slide while you are still writing.
- Get assignments or coursework done ahead of deadlines
I know this sounds crazy but it’s honestly been so crucial to me. Leaving myself adequate time to proof-read and correct my work makes a big difference to the quality. I also do not deal well with working under pressure either so this helps with that too. I usually try and proof-read a few times, leave it for maybe a day and then come back to it and get family or friends to give it a once over as well.
- Make lists & stay organised
I know this doesn’t directly relate to being dyslexic and is important for every student but I find with part of my dyslexia making me a slow processor of information, the more organised I am, the more confident I feel and therefore the better I can apply myself in lectures and seminars. I have found that dyslexia does knock my confidence therefore building it up in other ways, i.e being highly organised and aware of what is going on helps to balance this out for me.
- Don’t be scared to ask for help & communicate with lecturers
It took me until around second year to do this but what I find best is just dropping your lecturer an email at the beginning of the semester to let them know about your dyslexia. I always felt that they would judge my spelling and grammar if they didn’t know (not true at all, just how I felt) and it just makes you feel more comfortable. I would also advise emailing them and reminding them for anything like a class test or assignment or anything which is credited towards your module. Even anything you are having trouble understanding ask the lecturer for help, maybe point you in the direction of other sources you could read or answer any specific questions you have. In every encounter I have had with a lecturer they have been more than willing to help when I have asked.
6.Read, re-read and then maybe read again
Honestly this is exactly what I do. I read something once, usually being pretty confused and I’ll try and make notes. Then I’ll re-read it which will help slightly but I’ll still be pretty confused, usually having to use Google dictionary to see what words mean and how to correctly pronounce them. If I am still at this stage and don’t understand it, I will try and find another source on the same topic and give it a read or maybe try and find a short video about the topic. Then I will go back and re-read again the piece, if I’m still struggling I will turn to friends and family and get them to read and then try and have a conversation about it. I simply just try and utilise all the resources we have available to us to help me engage.
Don’t be put off by dyslexia, you are just as capable as anyone else but simply need to learn to work in a slightly different way and test what works best for you. It will not limit you, look at the image (source: BBC iWonder) on the left as proof. A quote I always refer to is by the actress Whoopi Goldberg who said: “The advantage of dyslexia is that my brain puts information in my head in a different way.”
Niamh Webb is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @1234niamh, and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-webb-2b5260107/