Dyslexia Awareness Week: schools must embrace technology

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes this Dyslexia Awareness Week and let’s see how we can improve approaches to dyslexia

With an average of three children in every classroom that are dyslexic and struggle with literacy (around 1.2 million children), it is an extremely important subject for discussion.

That is why this week, Dyslexia Awareness Week, with World Dyslexia Awareness Day being celebrated on 4 October, is a great time to think about how dyslexia affects the lives of students.

Today’s technological advances are certainly giving these students a more level playing field, with products such as speech recognition software making vital progress towards a future less daunting for dyslexic students.

Organised by The British Dyslexia Association, there will be activities in classrooms, competitions and more. Today, schools and organisations including M Shed and Brunel’s SS Great Britain in Bristol, will be lighting up green for Go Green for Dyslexia. No Pens Day will celebrate how far we have come with communication technology, as using pen and paper is something people with dyslexia can find difficult.

Mark Geremia from Nuance spoke to individuals with experiences going through the education system with dyslexia. “One thing that connects them all is their observations of the sometimes ‘blanketed approach’ that institutions can have towards supporting people with dyslexia,” says Mark.

“Furthermore, despite the definite improvements made in the last 20 years in identifying and helping dyslexics, they all feel that there is still more to be done to shift common misconceptions of the condition.”

We have technology at our disposal, and we should be using that confidently

History undergraduate Evie Bruton tells her story:

“Dyslexia is so much more than not being able to spell or read. I used to shuffle on my bottom instead of crawl – a sign of me developing at a different rate and in a different way to other toddlers. Luckily, I had vigilant parents – I was in primary school when I was diagnosed, and while, on one hand, I feel lucky that I was diagnosed earlier, there is a danger of the label restricting you and at points I felt like the early diagnosis combined with outdated misconceptions lead to me being pigeon-holed as less intelligent.

“I think it’s because of this misconception that institutions provide outdated and alienating solutions for students with the condition. I always think that we should follow the logic that everyone is different. Dyslexia comes in lots of forms, like my bottom shuffling, others struggle with organisation and spatial awareness, I think that institutions often overlook that and end up providing blanketed methods of aid that focus on the wrong areas.

“I think that now is the time to talk about change in attitudes and approaches to dyslexia. We have technology at our disposal, and we should be using that confidently. Schools need to embrace technological advances, it wasn’t until university that I was really given and properly shown how to use speech recognition software – it cut my essay time in half. As a dyslexic I am no less able than my peers, I just have a different way of approaching work, and I believe that technology like this could provide a level playing field for the future generations of dyslexic students.

“Dyslexia brings me benefits as well as negatives, and as an aspiring teacher, I hope to have an impact on kids like me one day. Perhaps that is where we start – more people at the heart of our school systems with a better understanding of the myriad of effects that dyslexia has on its sufferers. That way they could get the kind of assistance earlier on, which could change the way they perceive their academic ability.”

It is time we all educated ourselves better on the signs of dyslexia to help young people going forward in education and encourage schools to do more to accommodate them. People will be sharing their events and experience through the week using the hashtag #21stcenturydyslexia.

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