By Deborah Jones
To the student affected by dyslexia, learning can be a battleground. The pressures of deadlines, troubles with concentration, issues with time and study management, problems with sequencing and short term memory; even navigating a campus map can be daunting. These problems are often encountered by people with dyslexia, along with the literacy difficulties of automaticity of word recognition and spelling.
Research with dyslexic adults has shown that the brain has a physical difference; there is a gap (or an inefficiency in processing) between the Broca’s area (where we process hearing) and the Wernicke’s area (where we process what we see). In a study by Paulesu and Frith (1996), it was suggested that the bridge between these two areas (the insula) works inefficiently in the brains of dyslexic adults. Thus, the auditory code is difficult to translate to the visual code and back again. This inefficiency can lead to problems with developing spelling and writing skills, and the issues mentioned above.
One tried and tested method to help bridge this physical gap is to use the multisensory approach to learning. If we seek to use all of our sensory modalities, along with a significant amount of overlearning, there may be an effective result. The technique of synchronising auditory, visual and motor modalities has been developed as a specific teaching strategy by many dyslexia specialists and is particularly effective in the learning of irregular words using the MUSP spelling strategy (Jenny Lee, 2002). Think back to your childhood. Is there a particular song that takes you back? Do you remember the sights, sounds and even smells at the time? This is how the multisensory theory works. The more senses we include as stimulus for the input, the more efficient the retrieval will be.
Practical research solutions for the student affected by dyslexia include breaking reading into chunks, writing down a question you need to answer before you research, reading the text aloud and making use of skimming for specific information; use words in italics and sub headings to guide you.
All Universities have a student support department who can help with specific literacy issues such as dyslexia. A robust individual learning and support programme should be agreed to ensure that the student experience is positive and that the teaching strategies are appropriate to the individual’s needs.
One thing to note, however, that the intellectual strengths and abilities of the adult with dyslexia often far outweigh the problems faced. The ability to adjust to situations and specific coping mechanisms have often been established through a gritty determination and dedication, which can help in an array of vocational and academic situations, along with the massive capacity of holistic thinking.