Dyslexia Awareness Month

To mark dyslexia awareness month this October, many individuals, organisations and charities are getting involved with the movement #GoRed, to raise awareness of dyslexia around the world.

Here’s Head of Education, Julia Clouter’s take on the #GoRed movement.

In association with Succeed with Dyslexia, the team behind #GoRed are asking us to get involved with the campaign – whether that’s lighting up a building, hosting a fundraising event or simply rocking a red t-shirt for a day or two.  

For over a decade, schools and colleges in the UK have been shouting from the rooftops in a bid to increase awareness of dyslexia – traditionally during the second week of October, which marks dyslexia awareness week.

Image: Julia Clouter at Tes SEN Show

Image: Julia Clouter at Tes SEN Show

This year, hundreds of schools are hosting activities that stimulate peer awareness and promote kindness, for the whole month of October. Hopefully, the word is spreading, and everyone will be proudly wearing their red t-shirts and looking for an opportunity to get involved.

The aim of the campaign is to help dyslexic learners feel less isolated by their learning difficulties and be better understood by their peers. The message is about the impact of dyslexia on learning and self-esteem, and is being delivered through assemblies, activities and innovative ideas like ‘No Pens Wednesdays’. On these days, learning tasks are achieved through multi-sensory learning opportunities, including, drama, games, art and listening activities. Some teachers welcome this opportunity to get creative; while others detest the shake-up of the status quo. Notwithstanding the teachers’ viewpoint, many students will be enjoying different types of learning activities, and hopefully becoming a little more sympathetic and aware of their dyslexic peers’ learning challenges.

In my experience of working with learners who have dyslexia, simple tasks often cause feelings of tiredness, confusion and an overwhelming dread of the tasks in front of them. Feelings of failure and frustration, if unsupported and mis-understood can spark a lifetime of self-recrimination.

The classroom experience is just the tip of the iceberg.

Failure to diagnose dyslexia early, and to provide adequate academic and emotional support inevitably shapes a learner’s outlook about their skills and abilities.

We need to address the emotional and psychological impact of poorly supported dyslexia. Without good literacy skills, you are far less likely to be successful when gaining employment or achieving a promotion at work. Without support, the emotional toll is far too high and at worst can results in reduced life chances and opportunities.

Recently, there has been a strong message about the value of dyslexic strengths in a changing world. Companies like Apple, Microsoft and GCHQ have been seeking out dyslexic individuals who have neuro-divergent talents. Valued skills include improved reasoning, that can help an organisation to meet its business objectives. The skills of connecting, imagining, exploring and visualising are equally in demand. This is a huge boost for a few individuals who may well be set on a journey to fulfilment in their working lives.  

The reality for many is that they have not been blessed with a compensating skill. Dyslexia does not feel like a superpower, it feels like a curse. It causes doubt of self-worth and damages the confidence needed to earn, learn and achieve success. There are many bright people who, despite doing fantastic work, do not put themselves forward for promotion, or try to achieve advancement. The hurdles of reading and learning are just too difficult. Without the right tools, dyslexia feels insurmountable.

Here are a few common experiences that dyslexic learners experience in school:

  • Getting teased because you have been identified as being ‘stupid’ by your peers.

  • Feeling a lack of self-worth because your work is returned to you covered in corrections or has been crossed out.

  • Being directed to re-write your spellings in order to learn them when you know it will make no difference to your ability to write the word correctly.

  • Being taught the same way as everyone else and it not making any sense.

  • Looking through your work and being unable to read what you have written.

  • Having notes that are so hard to read you are unable to revise for tests.

  • Looking at your homework book to realise you have no idea of what you are supposed to do.

  • Being disorganised and unable to remember information on demand.

  • Feeling upset because your friends are making learning connections and you are not. 

  • Becoming brain fogged and exhausted.

  • Having a very short concentration span that leads to missing important information.

  • Acting out in order to avoid reading aloud then getting into trouble for that behaviour.

  • Working slowly and always being the person who is catching up.

  • Being unable to correctly transfer information from the board to your page.

  • Doing the same phonics learning intervention over and over again and not making any progress.

With the right tools it is possible to succeed with dyslexia.

There are assistive technology tools like the ReaderPen, audio files, speech-to-text applications and mind mapping tools that can make a huge difference.  Getting these tools into the hands of the students is the challenge that we need to address. 

Here at Scanning Pens, we will be supporting the #GoRed campaign this dyslexia awareness month, to help ourselves reflect on the ways we can better support and understand dyslexia in the classroom – and beyond.

Join in with #GoRed this year and share the message that we must better identify learners with dyslexia and effectively support them with the right tools and the right strategies at the earliest opportunity.

Thanks for reading!

Julia Clouter, Head of Education.

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