First of all, well done! If you are looking at this page I hope it is because you are thinking of going to TAFE or uni, or you are already there. That means you’ve already achieved a lot, and you deserve to be congratulated.
Tertiary study is a big step, which may feel both scary and exciting. It will put you outside your comfort zone and a whole lot more. But you shouldn’t let that put you off. If you have a life goal that requires further study, the effort will be worth it. So you’re dyslexic. So what!? You can do it – but it will take hard work, determination and (for me at least) organisation.
I didn’t know I was dyslexic until I was through first semester of my Masters degree. I had made it through my Bachelors degree prior to my diagnosis by using a heap of strategies. These included:
- Support from friends and family – I leant on my mum and friends inside and outside of uni for help. I found some very smart friends, and also some people who were struggling like me and we would pool our skills together. My mum was always a good sounding board for anything I was learning, and would quiz me before exams.
- Studying in a small group – I always found that studying with people helped me with assignments.
- Exam preparation – At exam time I preferred to study alone. Exams were always stressful because my handwriting was terrible, I couldn’t spell big words and getting my thoughts on paper in the right sequence took a lot of time.
- Readings – I never got through all the readings and hated going to some classes where they would call your name off the roll and ask you about a reading or ask you to read a passage!
Once I was diagnosed, I learnt more strategies that helped me. You might find them helpful too:
- Tutoring – Having a tutor for subjects that I knew I would have difficulty in (for me, that meant accounting, biostatistics and epidemiology).
- Discussing my needs with lecturers – I made sure to tell my lecturers at the start of each semester that I had difficulties. They were generally keen to help and would negotiate accommodations.
- Exam accommodations – I asked for extended time for exams. I did this through the university disability service. I found this a little bit stressful because I’d never seen myself as a person with a disability. However, it was important to do my best and I eventually felt empowered by my choices and ability to get the help I needed.
- Proofreading – I always had someone proofread my work.
- Assignments – As much as I could, I would draft my assignments before I wrote the final version.
- Planning – I broke tasks up into manageable size pieces and did them in the right sequence.
- Choosing a quiet study environment – I did my study in quiet places so I wasn’t easily distracted – no coffee shops!
There are other strategies that might be helpful for you:
- Reading lists – Ask for reading lists before semester starts to get a head start on the reading. Also, ask what the essential texts are and start with them.
- Mind maps – Use mind/concept maps to get what you’re learning into a visual format.
- Assistive technology – Check out assistive technology like Speech to Text and reading pens.
- Alternative assessment options – Talk to your lecturers about other ways of assessing your understanding of the course. Is it possible to do a verbal exam, video recording or presentation?
- Start early – Give yourself plenty of time to complete tasks so you don’t become overwhelmed.
- Submit drafts – Ask if it’s okay to submit drafts for review – and then make sure you draft.
- Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t know if you don’t try.
- Access support – Meet with your disability support service. This way you can be allocated a caseworker who can help you advocate for what you need to succeed.
- Assessment accommodations – Find out about what adjustments can be made for assignments and exams. Your lecturers and disability support can help you to find out what you’re eligible for.
- Handling stress – See a counsellor or psychologist to help you with your time management, organisational skills, stress and anxiety. This is especially important during busy times and exam time.
You might find What’s in A Label useful to help you find out what services a diagnosis can connect you to at TAFE or university.
Study Strategies for Students with Dyslexia is a resource compiled by Lois MacCullagh from ideas provided by students from Macquarie University – some them have dyslexia and some don’t.
For more information, watch the Study Strategies for Students with Dyslexia clip.