Quick Guide to Supporting Adult Learners with Dyslexia: Strategies, Resources, and Best Practices in Tertiary Education

Supporting Adult Learners with Dyslexia

Supporting Adult Learners with Dyslexia: What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a neurological condition primarily affecting an individual’s ability to read, write, and in some cases, comprehend spoken language. 

Importantly, it is not a measure of intelligence or potential. Dyslexia presents as a specific learning difficulty, making tasks like decoding written words, spelling accurately, and recognising words quickly more challenging than for those without the condition.

Context and Key Considerations

Here are some things to think about if you’re a position where you need to be supporting adult learners with dyslexia.

  • Individual Variation: Dyslexia is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Its manifestations and severity can differ significantly from one individual to another.
  • Adaptive Mechanisms: While many adult learners have developed coping strategies over time, these mechanisms are not foolproof. Challenges can still arise, particularly in formal educational settings.
  • Practical Application: This short guide is designed with a focus on actionable, practical strategies. It aims to equip educators and others in tertiary settings with the tools they need to effectively support adult learners with dyslexia.

Effective Strategies for Educators: Supporting Adult Learners with Dyslexia

  • Multi-Sensory Approaches: Leverage teaching methods that engage multiple senses. Utilise visual aids like charts, auditory tools such as podcasts, and tactile activities like hands-on experiments to reinforce learning.
  • Information Chunking: Simplify complex topics by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable segments. This aids in easier processing and retention of material.
  • Clear and Explicit Instructions: Offer step-by-step guidelines for tasks and activities. Complement verbal directives with written instructions to cater to different learning preferences.
  • Assessment Flexibility: Rethink traditional assessment methods. Consider alternatives like oral presentations, portfolio submissions, or project-based assessments that allow learners to demonstrate their understanding without the limitations imposed by dyslexia.
  • Tech-Assisted Learning: Employ technology wisely. Text-to-speech software and spell-check tools can be invaluable aids, but exercise caution as they may not always provide accurate results.
  • Balanced Feedback: Offer constructive feedback that not only highlights areas for improvement but also celebrates strengths. This balanced approach can significantly boost motivation and self-esteem.
  • Time Accommodations: Allocate extra time for assessments and in-class tasks. This can help alleviate the stress and pressure often experienced by adult learners with dyslexia.
  • Resource Diversification: Ensure learning materials are accessible in multiple formats. For example, provide readings in both text and audio formats to cater to varied learning preferences.
  • Ongoing Professional Development: Educators should continually seek training and workshops that focus on understanding the specific needs of dyslexic learners. This commitment to professional growth ensures that teaching methods remain inclusive and effective.

The Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark (DFQM): A Commitment to Inclusive Education

The DFQM is a distinguished initiative led by Ako Aotearoa, New Zealand’s national centre for tertiary teaching excellence. 

This programme serves a dual purpose: it acts as both a framework for best practices and a benchmark for quality in dyslexia-friendly education. 

By earning the DFQM, educational organisations make a public commitment to creating an inclusive learning environment tailored to the needs of dyslexic learners.

The DFQM is not a one-off certification but an ongoing process. It provides comprehensive guidelines that enable organisations to continually assess, refine, and improve their teaching methods and support systems. 

This ensures that educational settings remain adaptive to the evolving needs of their diverse learner base.

For more information on the DFQM and how to get involved, visit Ako Aotearoa’s DFQM page.

Dyslexia-Friendly Style Guide: A Resource for Accessible Content Creation

For educators looking to make their teaching materials more accessible, the Dyslexia-Friendly Style Guide is an invaluable resource. 

Offered as a free download by Ako Aotearoa, this guide serves as a comprehensive reference for creating both print and digital resources that are not only easy to read but also accessible to individuals with dyslexia or those requiring additional literacy support.

The guide covers a range of topics, from font selection and text layout to the use of images and colour schemes, all aimed at enhancing readability and comprehension. 

By adhering to the guidelines in this style guide, educators can ensure that their materials are inclusive and cater to a diverse learner base.

To download the guide and start creating more accessible educational resources, visit Ako Aotearoa’s Dyslexia-Friendly Style Guide page

Additional Resources: Expanding Your Toolkit for Dyslexia Support

For those interested in diving deeper into the subject, Ako Aotearoa offers a wealth of additional resources specifically tailored for educators working with dyslexic learners. 

These resources cover a broad spectrum of topics, from teaching strategies and assessment methods to technological tools and case studies, all designed to enhance your understanding and effectiveness in supporting dyslexic learners.

To explore these resources and further enrich your teaching practice, visit Ako Aotearoa’s Dyslexia Resources page.

For More Neurodiversity Information and Resources 

There are more resources and posts on neurodiversity and supporting adult learners with dyslexia here on my blog.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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