30th September 2019
Supporting Teachers with Dyslexia
There is a lot of information and support available for teachers and parents who want to help dyslexic children reach their full potential. However, when it comes to dyslexic teachers, there is surprisingly little information available. 1 in 10 people in the UK has a form of dyslexia, and some of these people go on to become effective teachers with satisfying careers.
It is a misconception that dyslexia is a barrier teaching – in many ways, your experience with dyslexia can make you an even better teacher!
What is dyslexia?
It’s important to remember that a dyslexic person’s struggles are not related to a lack of intelligence or willfulness. Dyslexia is actually a neurological learning difficulty (or learning difference) which is commonly known for how it affects reading and writing skills.
However, dyslexia is actually more about information processing, as dyslexic people have difficulty processing and remembering information they see and hear, which then goes on to affect learning and the acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia exists on a spectrum, and dyslexic people’s symptoms can range from mild to severe.
People with dyslexia may find they have visual disturbances when reading, such as letters and words moving around on the page, or appearing blurred. You can imagine how that might present difficulties for a dyslexic teacher!
Teachers with dyslexia
Many teachers who have symptoms of dyslexia report that this learning difference is actually a gift when you have the right frame of mind. Dyslexia can give teachers valuable insights into the challenges some pupils face with literacy, and the ability to act as a role model for students struggling with their academic confidence.
Teachers with dyslexia are in many ways better equipped to come up with creative, effective teaching strategies for improving the attainment of pupils with learning differences. Studies on the advantages of dyslexia have shown that people with dyslexia perform more strongly than other people on visual and creative exercises.
Despite these advantages, teachers with dyslexia undoubtedly struggle in some areas of their jobs without the right support. Some of the difficulties a teacher with dyslexia might encounter are:
- Writing on a whiteboard
- Report writing
- Remembering names of pupils/staff/parents
- Remembering dates
- Organisation and time management
- Lesson planning
- Checking and marking written work
- Reading documents
Wider challenges a teacher might face:
- Colleagues who do not understand the nature of dyslexia
- Questioning of competence from other teachers, pupils or parents
- Low self-confidence in writing, reading or maths
- A lack of support from mentors or senior staff
Provided the teacher has an awareness of their own abilities, dyslexia in the classroom can be viewed as a strength, when paired with effective tools and compensatory strategies.
What support is there for teachers with dyslexia?
Although dyslexia in a teacher may present challenges, a proactive approach can go a long way to help overcome difficulties. There are a lot of tools you can use to help you be the most effective teacher you can be:
Remember that if your dyslexia has a “substantial and long-term adverse effect on normal day-to-day activities”, it is legally recognised as a disability in line with the Equality Act 2010, so your employer will be required to make any reasonable adjustments that help you do your job.
Reasonable adjustments can include things like:
- Giving you more time for marking
- Templates for records and report writing
- Extra reading time
- Allowing for more verbal assessments and less written assessments
- Providing a laptop
Today’s world is technologically driven, and although that means there is more word-processing than ever, it also means there are a host of tools to help you make sure your writing hits the mark. From text-to-speech programs, grammar correction, spell-check and even dyslexic-friendly fonts, these tools can help you with whatever symptoms of dyslexia you experience.
A few helpful technological tools:
- Grammarly – This free writing app uses artificial intelligence to help people write with clarity, using the correct grammar, spelling and tone.
- Dyslexie – A typeface/font that was designed with the intention of mitigating some of the issues that dyslexics experience when reading. You can get the dyslexie browser plugin here.
- Audiobooks such as those found on Audible are a great way to get through reading material without having to do any reading.
Education Support Partnership
If you need help securing the tools you need, the Education Support Partnership is here to help. Whether you need legal assistance and advice regarding your rights at work, or just wellbeing support when everything becomes a bit too much, the ESP is on hand to provide professional assistance for anything your teaching career throws at you, free of charge.
Groups and Organisations
The Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education (ADSHE) has a helpful guide for teachers with dyslexia, including strategies to help you with spelling, marking and reports, reading, lesson planning and delivery, and record keeping and organisation.
The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) – who are heading up Dyslexia Awareness Week! – are available to provide dyslexia information, advice and services to people of all ages who require assistance with anything related to dyslexia.
- ADSHE – https://adshe.org.uk
- BDA – https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/
- Dyslexia Foundation – http://www.dyslexia-help.org/
- Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity – https://www.helenarkell.org.uk/
- The Advantages of Dyslexia – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-advantages-of-dyslexia/
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