What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a recognised Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD). It is a complex neurological condition that affects ability to learn the skills of reading, spelling and writing. Problems with phonological processing is a key characteristic of dyslexia. It should be recognised as a spectrum disorder, with symptoms ranging from very mild to very severe.
Dyslexia affects about 10% of the population across all levels of intellectual ability and is believed to have a genetic cause. It often runs in families and was understood to affect boys more than girls, although this theory is changing.
IMPACT ON LEARNING SKILLS & DEVELOPMENT
People with dyslexia have the same intelligence range as those without dyslexia - there is no connection betwwen intelligence and dyslexia. A range of symptoms apply:
- Problems with aquiring age-appropriate skills in reading, spelling and writing (these would be severely below average)
- Discomfort with reading, due to the stress it causes for them
- Reverse letters and number digits beyond the age where this is normal
- Unable to remember simple sequences such as the days of the week
- Difficulty with organisational skills i.e planning and writing essays
- Experience problems with following oral instructions
- Have a poor sense of direction and time
- Have a low levels of personal motivation and self esteem
- Have some co-ordination difficulties
Dyslexics may also be creative thinkers and good problem-solvers. The thought process that is at the root of their difficulties with the printed (and sometimes) spoken word, is also the essence of their innate creativity.
When working with the dyslexic learner:
- Use multi-sensory methods to support learning
- Make use of audio-visual aids
- Ensure repitition of learning, using word and language games
- Keep instructions brief and clear
- Use colour-coding and flow charts to aid organisation of work
- Teach keyboard skills and encourage use of assistive technology
- Raise self-esteem and confidence with regular praise and encouragement
Supports for students with dyslexia in the Irish education system include teaching supports, language exemptions, and reasonable accommodations in state examinations (RACE). The DARE Scheme (Disability Access Route to Education is available for entry to Third Level.
At Primary Education Level:
Teaching supports include:
Class Teacher - The class teacher has an essential role to play for the student with dyslexia. By being aware of the problem, it is possible for the teacher to be considerate of the individual student's particular strengths and weaknesses.
Teachers have a responsibility to differentiate their teaching to accomodate the variety of needs presented by pupils in their class group. Reasonable accommodations can often be negotiated with a class teacher, i.e. advance notice of reading assignments or exercises; reducing the number of spellings to be learnt.
As well as the class teacher, there are two types of additional teaching supports:
Resource Teaching - specialised one-to-one tuition hours which are granted by the SENO (Special Educational Needs Organiser) for students who have been diagnosed with a specific learning disability (SpLD) such as dyslexia, who have average or above average intelligence and whose basic skills in reading, writing or maths fall at or below the 2nd percentile. Students who are above the 2nd percentile are the responsibility of the Learning Support Teachers and/or the Class teacher. Application for the purchase of equipment which may be deemed necessary (i.e a laptop) is also mae to the SENO.
Learning Support Teaching - targets students whose literacy and numeracy falls below the 10th percentile. Students with SpLDs such as Dyslexia, which is not severe enough to qualify for Resource teaching, may instead receive supplementary support at school from the Learning Support teacher. This help is usually in a small group setting, typically organised on a withdrawal basis from the regular class.
|In 2014 the NCSE (National Council for Special Education) proposed a new model for allocating teaching resources to primary and post primary schools in the document Delivery for Students with Special Educational Needs. In this new model both learning support and resource teachers will become support teachers. Click here for further details.
[See also the Dyslexia Association of Ireland 'Suports Available in School' for the most up-to-date information]
Exemption from the study of Irish - Students in primary and post-primary schools with specific learning difficulties, including those arising from dyslexia, in the area of English may be granted exemption from the study of Irish (Gaeilge), subject to specific criteria.
The psycho-educational assessment should show that student has average or above average cognitive ability (a standard score of 90 or 25th percentile upwards) and is achieving at or below the 10th percentile on a standardised test of literacy. There is a lack of clarity as to whether on literacy attainment or two is required.
[See also Dyslexia Association of Ireland 'Suports Available 'Irish Language Learning' for the most up-to-date information]
The parents make a written application to the school with a copy of the psycho-educational assessment (less than two years old) which recommends the student should be exempt because the criteria have been met. The school issues the certificate of exemption and informs the Department of Education and Skills (DES).
|Note: An exemption from the study of Irish granted for a student at primary school is recognised at post primary level and for the entry to the National University of Ireland (NUI) colleges.
At Secondary Education Level:
Students with special educational needs may be in ordinary classes in mainstream post-primary schools, or in special classes in mainstream schools or in special schools.
Second-level pupils with dyslexia are normally integrated into ordinary classes. Support for post-primary students with learning difficulties arising from dyslexia may be provided by subject teachers, learning-support teachers and resource teachers. Year heads, guidance counsellors, and other professionals may also provide input.
Interventions at second level may include teaching basic skills in reading and spelling, and may extend to developing self-regulated learning strategies, note taking skills, study skills, exam strategies, occupational exploration, accessing knowledge and skills, and obtaining reasonable accommodation in exams. For some students, the increased use of ICT may be warranted.
Resource teaching is only available to qualifying students with dyslexia at second level and generally comes from the schools allocation of High Incidence Resource Teaching hours, meaning that an individual application is not usually required.
Students who have been in receipt of resource teaching support at primary level can avail of continued support at post-primary level, subject to an application being made by the post-primary school. New assessments may be required when a previous one is out of date.
Exemption from the study of Irish - Students in primary and post-primary schools with specific learning difficulties, including those arising from dyslexia, in the area of English may be granted exemption from the study of Irish (Gaeilge).
Spelling and Grammar Waivers - students with dyslexia may request spelling and grammar waivers in language subjects
RACE (Reasonable Accommodation in Certificate Examinations)- specific learning disabilities are recognised as giving rise to certain difficulties for students, including students with dyslexia. Under the RACE scheme, students with permanent or long-term conditions*, which will significantly impair their performance in state exams, may apply to the State Examinations Commission (SEC) for a reasonable accommodation(s) to be made to facilitate them taking the examinations.
See School & College Guide for a detailed description of Junior Cert Supports, and Leaving Cert Supports, including Exemption from Irish and RACE.
Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE)
The Race scheme aims to assist students who are at a disadvantage due to a disability, by facilitating access to the state certificate examinations. The scheme has been the subject of much discussion and controversy in recent months and is currently undergoing changes.
Details of the revised 2017 scheme of reasonable accommodations will be available here on the State Examinations Commission website soon.
At Third Level Education:
Dyslexia is one of the specific learning difficulties covered under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) system.
DARE - Disability Access Route to Education - School leavers with SLD (Dyslexia / Dyscalculia) who are under 23 years old (at 1st January of the application year) can apply for a college place through DARE:
Applicants complete the CAO application by 17.15pm on 1st February. CAO opens for applications on 5th November at 12.00 noon. See www.cao.ie
By 1st March, applicants must answer YES to Question 1 ('Do you wish to be considered for DARE?') on Section A of the Supplementary Information Form (the SIF is a part of your CAO application).
Applicants with SLD are required to provide:
Evidence of their disability (Full psychoeducational assessment AND Evidence of Disability Form 2016 and report from a Psychologist that is less than three-years old i.e. dated after 1 February 2013 for 2016 applicants).
Educational Impact Statement - must be completed by the applicant and your School Principal, Teacher or Guidance Counsellor and returned to the CAO by 17.15pm on 1st April.
Full details of the DARE screening criteria are available here.
|Research findings from AHEAD released in 2015 show that, of the total disabled student population (9,694) at Third Level 2013/14 represented in the research, 4,939 (50.9%) have a Specific Learning Difficulty. The full report is available here.
Exemption from a third language requirement - Most colleges will consider applications from students with dyslexia seeking an exemption from a third language requirement.
The NUI has a stated policy that it is prepared to consider applications, for an exemption from the third language requirement from students who are certified by a qualified professional as having a serious dyslexic condition. (NUI
Standard entry requirements for NUI colleges state that a student must pass six subjects in the Leaving Certificate (two at higher level) and that English, Irish and a third language must be included. NUI recognises the DES exemption from Irish. Students with the Irish exemption are eligible for an exemption from the 3rd language requirement. In the case where a student is not exempt from Irish, NUI will consider applications for exemption from the 3rd language requirement.
The student needs a psycho-educational assessment certifying that there is a specific learning difficulty present. This should be no more than 3 years old. Since 2012 NUI have tightened the criteria for the granting of such exemptions. These state that literacy attainment should be at or below the 10th percentile (standard score 81) in two literacy abilities and are significantly lower than might be expected from the student’s cognitive ability. NUI Application forms are available here.
TCD and UL both have a two language entry requirement. Students with dyslexia can apply for an exemption from this requirement by making a direct application to the respective college.
Note: It is the responsibility of the student to ensure the CAO is informed of the existence of these language exemptions.
Applications for language exemptions are considered on an individual basis.
Common Educational Supports - a range of common educatinal supports are in place at Third Level for students with specific learning difficulties, including Dyslexia. These include:
- Priority registration
- Reader service
- Use of audio-tape to record lectures and tutorials
- Assistive technology
- Materials in alternative formats
- Word-processing facilities
- Photocopying Facilities
- Copies of lecturer's notes and/or overheads
- Time extension on out-of-lecture assignments
- Special Library Arrangements
- Counselling and Medical Services
- Study skills courses
- Examination provisions
These and other supports available are outlined in detail in our 'Third Level Supports' area.
|Note: The student should always link in with the Disability Support Service in their college as soon as possible.
See also :
In the Workplace
Many organisations now make public claims to be an "equal opportunities employer". This suggests the existence of an equal opportunities policy (EOP), which is a policy statement adopted by the organisation declaring an intent not to discriminate and, further, to promote equality by taking steps to aid disadvantaged groups. Such employers are in effect promising to avoid discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status, and may also make such a commitment in relation to people with a disability and racial and ethnic minorities.
Most adjustments to allow a dyslexic person to succeed in the workplace are simple and low-cost, for example:
- Having a colleague proof-read work or
- Allowing protected time to plan and organise workload.
Impact on Career Choice
Skills for workplace success fall into two main categories: hard skills and and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific and they vary, depending upon the industry or field in which you want to work. For example, a graphic artist must have the computer skills that go with that job.
Soft skills are the personal characteristics that go with a variety of jobs - they include social skills, problem solving, communication, time management, and organisation. For example, a person who prefers to work alone might find a research job particularly appealing. Explore Career Skills in more detail here.
While people with dyslexia typically struggle with verbal information and expression, they may also have many strengths and abilities including:
- Vivid imagination
- Think in pictures instead of words
- Capable of seeing things differently from others
- Superior reasoning
- Simultaneous multiple thought processing
- Curiosity and love of complexity
- Drive and ambition
- Not following the crowd
- Mastering new concepts quickly
Dyslexics typically seek job-fulfilment far from the world of books and paperwork. They are 'big-picture' thinkers who are able to easily see how different components relate to each other. This explains why many go on to become successful artists, designers and film-makers.
Dyslexics succeed in career areas that allow them to exploit their ability to understand and work with spacial relationships such as: the visual arts (painting, sculpting), in trades such as carpentry; or professions like architecture, landscape design and urban planning.
The imaginative strengths of dyslexic people gives them a certain natural ability for careers in the performing arts (musicians, actors). Imagination, combined with an ability to visualise, makes jobs in photography or film attractive. Another area is graphic design, where the communication of ideas using images is central to the work.
The ability to quickly master new concepts and understand how things work is a significant advantage in career areas such as the manufacturing sector. Machinists today work with computerised factory equipment are in demand in areas such the medical devices industry.
Visual thinking is a major asset for jobs in auto mechanics, computer repairs, plumbing, building management and maintenance.
People with dyslexia also succeed in fields such as chemistry and biotechnology because of their ability to visualise and understand molecules and micro-organisms.
The world of business is not out of reach of the dyslexic person. Accepting setbacks and failure is a key trait of successful entrepreneurs. Children with dyslexia read slowly - many learn form early-on to sift out the most important information. As adult entrepreneurs, dyslexics understand the value of getting straight to the point. As children, dyslexics often rely on others to accomplish tasks - another key feature of success as an entrepreneur - knowing how to delegate!
No career is necessarily completely out of bounds for a dyslexic person, although some environments may be more difficult than others.
It is useful to note that not studying languages may impact on some careers (for example, Irish is required for primary school teaching, but it is no longer required for any other public service role).
Famous people with Dyslexia
TV Chef, Jamie Oliver; Actors, Orlando Bloom and Tom Cruise; Entrepreneurs, Richard Branson and Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop); Writer, Lynda LaPlante.