Last Updated on 20th January 2023
For Dyslexia Awareness Week 2022, we’ve put together a guide on this often-misunderstood learning difficulty.
With this year’s theme being ‘Breaking Through Barriers’, we thought it was important to help bring some visibility to the barriers people with dyslexia face in education. Here is a simple overview of what dyslexia is, how it can impact children and young people, and some suggestions on actions we can take to we can help remove and reduce digital barriers.
What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects the way certain types of information are processed by the brain. This can then impact a person’s capacity to read, write, and spell, amongst other abilities.
It is classified as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means it’s a condition that can have a substantial and long-term negative affect on an individual’s ability to perform normal daily activities. However, the symptoms of dyslexia can be different from person to person, so the extent to which it will impact someone’s life varies.
Here are a few of the most common symptoms experienced by children with dyslexia, aged 5 to 12 years old, according to the NHS:
Dyslexia doesn’t just affect a child or young person’s abilities in the English classroom. It can impact their experience throughout every activity, especially as it is often concurrent with other conditions like ADD or with other literacies like numbers. Some people with dyslexia can also experience physical symptoms, such as difficulty with motor coordination. This can cause issues participating in physical education, playground play, and afterschool activities.
According to the British Dyslexia Association, young people with SpLDs such as dyslexia often report higher levels of mental health difficulties and are more prone to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
In a digital world, it’s important to be aware of the barriers that dyslexia can create. Much of the lives of children and young people now take place online, from gaming for fun to interacting with friends and family on social media. Accessing these online places may be trickier for those with dyslexia, both from a readability perspective as well as communicating through writing. For example, remembering and getting passwords correct might be difficult.
A young person may be concerned that by interacting through written word online, the difficulties they face could be exposed and leave them vulnerable to judgement and possible bullying. They may have support in the classroom when their written work is only seen by a limited number of people, but when things move online there may not be a trusted adult or supportive person there to assist them with writing before it is seen by their peers.
Social media is already a pressurised environment for young people. For those with dyslexia, there are added challenges and they may not feel able to fully express themselves online. This could result in a young person feeling misunderstood or socially excluded if they do not have the necessary help or support.
Overcoming Barriers in Learning
When working alongside those with dyslexia, it is important to make sure their educational resources are accessible. Every child and young person should have equal and fair access to education and that should ideally include every resource used, from handouts to homework.
The British Dyslexia Association highlights some of the following advice through their Dyslexia friendly style guide.
You can also consider using one of the typefaces especially designed for people with dyslexia, such as OpenDyslexia, and familiarising yourself with the Web Accessibility Content Guidelines.
Technology doesn’t always enhance the difficulties that children with dyslexia may face. Digital devices and clever software can help break down barriers to literacy, reading, and communication, improving a child’s self-confidence in the process.
In addition to the above suggestions, The Child Mind Institute put forward the following accommodations for people with dyslexia which should be made in educational settings including extra time on tests, a quiet space to work, the option to record class, elimination of oral reading in class, and exemptions from foreign language learning.
Barriers could be overcome through emotional support. Discussing specific challenges and acknowledging hard work and strengths can be important in building resilience in order to manage their dyslexia.
How to Support a Child or Young Person with Dyslexia
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