Summary of the Disorder
Dyslexia is one of the widespread learning disorders that affect the population on a large scale. According to some estimates, as much as twenty percent of individuals have it in some form or another (Lapkin, 2014). Despite such an impressive presentation and a growing body of studies that add to our understanding of the condition, most people still know little about its actual symptoms, causes, and effects. Unfortunately, such lack of understanding also creates significant difficulties for dyslexic individuals, especially in the academic environment.
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Dyslexia is probably best known as a reading disorder. Simply put, a person with the condition has problems with the comprehension of written information. This simple fact is often distorted and misinterpreted to the point where dyslexic people are thought of as seeing the text as written backward (Abel, 2013). It is important to note, however, that aside from the inaccurate description, popular understanding of the phenomenon omits the important fact that dyslexia is not limited to difficulties with reading. On most occasions, it also disrupts spelling, writing, and speaking (Dyslexia Reading Well, 2014). The scholarly definition distinguishes between several subtypes of the disorder based on the affected sensory system, deficit type, and the time of onset (Dyslexia Reading Well, 2014). However, on most occasions, the chief barrier is the inability to decode the received text into information. The current evidence suggests that the condition is at least partially genetic in origin, but can also be triggered by trauma in adulthood (Lapkin, 2014). Presently, there is no known way to treat dyslexia. However, an appropriately organized learning environment can greatly minimize its adverse effects.
Difficulties Faced by Students with Dyslexia
The effects of dyslexia such as additional time required to process information and the need to read the text aloud for better comprehension lead to another common misinterpretation – that dyslexic individuals are inferior in their intellectual capacity (Abel, 2013). Unlike the misconceptions mentioned above, the latter poses several problems for university students. First, the academic environment in higher education is more intense and demanding than that in school – it requires more readings to be done in the same amount of time and generally exposes students to more information, not to mention the increasing role of independent inquiry and limited support from instructors. All these factors put additional pressure on students suffering from dyslexia.
Second, the likeness of its symptoms to the academic underperformance can mislead both teachers and students and eventually convince them that the affected individuals are lazy. Since most cases of the condition pose no immediate risks and introduce relatively minor inconveniences, the disorder can remain undiagnosed throughout school (where it is easier to spot) and, in some instances, the lifetime (British Dyslexia Association, 2016). Unfortunately, such a setting often results in stress for students who perceive the situation as a sign of their incompetence and inferiority. The situation is aggravated by incompetent educators and other staff members of the university who are unaware of the condition and attribute the underperformance to laziness instead of providing needed assistance or at least pointing in the right direction.
Positive Side of Dyslexia
It is also important to mention that dyslexia is not entirely detrimental to student performance. Limited evidence suggests that dyslexic students also show more creativity in problem-solving tasks once the barrier of text comprehension is overcome, and demonstrate better visual-spatial skills (Lapkin, 2014). Currently, there is no conclusive evidence regarding the cause of this creativity, or research that would establish the magnitude of the phenomenon, but it is suggested that the structure of the brain which causes the disorder also creates unconventional conditions and leads to improved creativity. Another possibility is that the techniques used by dyslexic students to overcome its adverse effects help them to view the problem from an unusual angle and think outside of the box. Either way, students with dyslexia can be considered special, and a custom approach may yield positive results.
Academic Support for Dyslexic Students
Currently, dyslexia is officially recognized as a disability in several European countries and can be qualified as such under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (British Dyslexia Association, 2016). Gradually, more organizations, including educational establishments such as universities, adopt policies aimed at assisting dyslexic individuals. The most common types of assistance include additional time allocated for familiarizing with assignments, both in class and during tests, and specific learning assistance programs that may or may not include individual tutors (British Dyslexia Association, 2016).
However, it is important to note that such an approach is still far from ubiquitous, and dyslexic students are expected to provide the documents confirming the diagnosis, which may be difficult and time-consuming to obtain. Even more importantly, such programs are still in the early stage of development and do not cover all possible drawbacks. To improve the situation, it is important to raise awareness among faculty staff regarding the symptoms and effects associated with the condition and develop comprehension tools and techniques. The former will eliminate unnecessary tensions and stress, and allow students to timely identify the cause of their underperformance. The latter will provide additional opportunities for them to realize their potential. With these improvements in place, we can expect an overall increase in academic performance and a contribution to the individual development of students who lack proper support and guidance.
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Abel, A. (2013). Dyslexic students like me need more support at university. Web.
British Dyslexia Association. (2016). What learning support can you get at university if you have dyslexia? Web.
Dyslexia Reading Well. (2014). Types of dyslexia. Web.
Lapkin, E. (2014). Understanding dyslexia. Web.