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Top Tips for Transition to University for Dyslexic and Disabled Learners

melaniethorleymelaniethorley Posts: 74Volunteer community advisor Pioneering
edited June 18 in Guest blogs

Whilst the new academic term does not start until September, I thought it would be timely to share our top tips for transition for disabled and dyslexic learners. University can be very daunting and/or scary for many learners, but this can be more extreme for disabled learners. Being prepared is our biggest tip!


Here are six top tips for transition as suggested by previous and current disabled university learners:

1. Different names in universities

Schools, colleges and universities have different names for the same sort of things. At school, you often hear about special educational needs or SEN; most schools have a SENCO who arranges class support. Some universities also refer to SENCOs, but not very many. Instead, universities have disability advisors and dyslexia tutors. The names of these roles depend on which university you go to. The disability and dyslexia support team is normally located in Student Services, Student Support or similar.

Some universities also have a section specifically for D/deaf and hard of hearing support services. Not every university will have specialist staff dedicated to supporting these students but will know how to arrange for notetakers, interpreters and communication support workers (CSWs). The best thing to do is to look at the websites of the universities you are interested in to find out what support they can provide.

2. Visit the universities you are thinking of going to

Without visiting the university campus, it is difficult to see how accessible it is, and how big it is. Some universities have very big sites with lakes and parkland as well as classrooms and accommodation. Others are smaller and more compact. You may need to consider the size when you are making your decision, especially if you get tired easily or if you have difficulty moving around.

3. Visit the disability, D/deaf and dyslexia support staff

While you are visiting the campus, try to visit the staff who are responsible for making sure that all disabled students are supported properly. This will give you an idea of what support you can expect if you enrol there. Some universities use other students to provide support whilst other universities try and employ qualified staff only. You may also want to know if the support staff will have any knowledge of the subject you want to study, for example, having an engineering student taking notes for a sociology degree may not be very successful.

In general, universities have access to specialist dyslexia tutors. These tutors can provide advice and strategies to ensure dyslexic students can access and understand what they need to do when they are studying. Tutors can also work with students’ essay structure, revision techniques and organisational skills.

Mentoring schemes in universities are also becoming more popular. This type of scheme usually involves having a mentor who is also a student who may be able to provide tips on university life you may not get from a member of staff.

4. Specialist equipment and exam arrangements

The majority of disabled and dyslexic students are entitled to a variety of support which may help them with their study. Technology such as specialist software can make studying at university a bit easier. A blind or partially sighted student may benefit from voice activated software whilst a dyslexic student may benefit from a digital recorder for lectures.

Students may also benefit from extended time in exams, either because they require a scribe or because they prefer to use a computer instead of writing by hand.

5. Applying for the Disabled Students' Allowance as soon as possible

This is probably the most important top tip. The Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is the funding which pays for all of the specialist equipment and support staff. The allowance provides funding for equipment such as specialist software and human support, such as dyslexia tutors. It is vital to apply for this funding as soon as possible. Although some universities will provide support if the funding has been delayed, unfortunately, not all universities will do this. Again, this is something you can check with the disability and dyslexia staff when you visit.

6. Join STAART: Support Through *AccessAbility Retention and Transition

This is a unique model of transition for disabled university students. Building on our previous projects, we have realised that a number of disabled students who had accessed our outreach support wanted to continue their relationship with us as they entered their university of choice. We have social media, workshops on site, workshops in schools/colleges, external events and transition days. More information and a link to book a place can be found here: https://www.gre.ac.uk/for-schools/activities/accessibility-project

Please post any questions you have or share your own experiences which may benefit new disabled students. What do you wish you'd known before you started university?

Dr. Melanie Thorley

*AccessAbility and STAART Lead

University of Greenwich

[email protected]

Replies

  • AilsAils Posts: 567Community champion Pioneering
    These tips are great for Disabled Learners about to start university.  I loved my time at university and found the facilities/support there excellent for disabled students and was able to iron out any difficulties before they became "real" problems for me; although I realise this would not always be the case for everyone and I guess I was just lucky in having such a great experience.  If there is anything I wish I had known before starting university it would be that the realisation of living away from home actually kicks in eventually, even although you try to hide it, and you need to deal with that quite quickly and enjoy weekends at home again, but also appreciate that you are at uni and so should immerse yourself into life there also.  Also I wish I had known how much my social life was going to improve and try to remember now and again that I was actually there to study and pass my exams - haha!  :smiley:  Good luck to everyone about to start university or college.  :smile:
  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 1,679Member Disability Gamechanger
    These tips are great. As a dyscalculic student I recommend finding out about support offered by the university. When I claimed the allowance I used it to pay for a pocket sized calculator and a resource pack. 
  • melaniethorleymelaniethorley Posts: 74Volunteer community advisor Pioneering
    Glad people have found the information useful and lovely to hear of two successful university students.
  • GeoffBosworth195661GeoffBosworth195661 Posts: 162Member Pioneering
    Education is a way of flexing the areas of the brain that is mostly not used. Over the years of gaining a variety of qualifications that helped me through life putting the years behind into practice. When I became disabled my education started up again from previous physics masters to other ongoing qualification in Business Studies, Psychology, Law, IT programmer and so on. After years of pushing myself by working around my work, it made life a lot easy later in life. Travelling in learning six different languages was continued learning impact and enjoyable. The ignorant thing to this with me being disabled no one would employees me which the positions were just right with the work I knew I could go. I decided companies were shying off with my disability situations that led me further into education. My own company I set up became an instant success taking the knowledge I learnt abroad to expand. I always say to people in education enjoy and put all your dedication to what you do to make life much easy and enjoyable. My final thing for me to say life is how you make it and it becomes your choice to what route you want to take. Life is far to short we have a world to enjoy and a world of carnage. It is what route you want and has it will make you happy no matter what disabilities we all can have a share of the journeys that you want even though doors of employment shut in your face. Education can guide us through and make us feel we have achieved something in life.   
  • dolfrogdolfrog Posts: 218Member Pioneering
    So do these university support staff have a full understanding of the three underlying cognitive Subtypes of developmental dyslexia - auditory, visual and attentional. Are they trained and qualified to clinically assess assess and diagnose the three types of underlying conditions Auditory Processing Disorders, Visual Processing Disorders, Attention Disorders, or any combination of these conditions which can cause the developmental dyslexia symptom. And from there are they trained to provide support for these underlying cognitive causes of the dyslexia symptom.
    There are  various types of Auditory Processing Disorders, a listening disability, the brain having problems processing what the ears hear, which different from being deaf. Hopefully thewse so called support staff are adequately trained and qualified to provide the various thypes of support that those who are identified as having the dyslexic symptom may require, including these many other symptoms these various conditions may have, 
  • April2018momApril2018mom Posts: 1,679Member Disability Gamechanger
    dolfrog said:
    So do these university support staff have a full understanding of the three underlying cognitive Subtypes of developmental dyslexia - auditory, visual and attentional. Are they trained and qualified to clinically assess assess and diagnose the three types of underlying conditions Auditory Processing Disorders, Visual Processing Disorders, Attention Disorders, or any combination of these conditions which can cause the developmental dyslexia symptom. And from there are they trained to provide support for these underlying cognitive causes of the dyslexia symptom.
    There are  various types of Auditory Processing Disorders, a listening disability, the brain having problems processing what the ears hear, which different from being deaf. Hopefully thewse so called support staff are adequately trained and qualified to provide the various thypes of support that those who are identified as having the dyslexic symptom may require, including these many other symptoms these various conditions may have, 
    Good points
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Posts: 3,007Administrator Scope community team
    Great tips @melaniethorley.
    Thank you for sharing. :smile:
    Senior Online Community Officer
    Scope
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