Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) provides help for higher education students who have to meet extra costs while studying because of their disability or ‘specific learning difficulty’. Many of the students who claim DSA funding have been identified as dyslexic. A significant number of these students appear to be assessed for dyslexia for the first time after they start their higher education studies. I am interested in why this occurs and therefore decided to undertake a small-scale piece of ‘action research.’
I felt it would be interesting to examine in more detail approximately how many students were identified for dyslexia after starting their Higher Education studies. From the DSA ‘needs assessments’ completed at one assessment centre, I selected all of those that were related to dyslexia in one academic year. I then selected a random 100 students and noted when they had first been assessed for dyslexia.
• 24 had been assessed at primary school
• 10 at secondary school (between age 11-16)
• 10 during their level 3 studies (A levels or BTEC courses) – of these 8 had changed their place of study at age 16.
• 52 were assessed for the first time at University during their undergraduate studies
• 4 were assessed after completing their undergraduate studies and had just started postgraduate courses or a PHD programme.
Common problems amongst students that had led to them seeking a dyslexia assessment appeared to be related to taking notes in lectures, running out of time in exams and taking longer than others to complete reading and writing tasks. In some cases students had experienced stress and anxiety and had initially sought advice from personal tutors or mental health support services at their place of study.
It also appears that students feel into two main groups:
• Those that recognized they ‘learned in a different way’ and wanted to investigate this difference so self-referred for a dyslexia assessment.
• Those that were referred by others (for example tutors) for ‘dyslexia screening’. For many of these students this initially came as something of a shock.
I would like to investigate this further. Although very small scale, I feel that this confirms that a significant number of students are identified for dyslexia after leaving school. I would appreciate any comments from others in different settings who have experienced similar findings.
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