Regardless of which stage of study a dyslexic student is at, by the nature of being dyslexic there will be common challenges that many dyslexic students will face when it comes to study skills. So often though, despite these challenges being common, students can so often feel that they are ‘in it on their own’ and so as a result some students opt to not seek help for fear of being seen as inadequate amongst their peers or teachers.
Under-graduates reading this post will find some great tips for understanding what is happening for them and finding out what they can do to get support.
So let’s take a look at some of these challenges:
If there is one thing that I have learnt in my years of exploring dyslexia and actually for that matter human nature, is that behaviour happens for a reason. So many young people with dyslexia get told that they are lazy as it would appear that they are avoiding doing excessive amounts of study when the reality for many is that they are feeling unmotivated. The sheer thought of having to spend a couple of hours on writing an essay, revising or any kind of study leaves them with a feeling of dread because they may feel excessively tired, not find that they are absorbing the information (thus making the content boring) or that it could be a huge battle to sit in one place doing hours of study when there are so many distractions that just seem to get in the way.
I remember when I was doing my undergraduate studies, I would be full of energy to make a start studying and find the whole experience frustratingly unfruitful. I remember berating myself for being a terrible student whilst trying to stop yawning all through the process. Any motivation that I had to study just seemed to be sapped away from the actual process of studying and revising. It got to a point when I would sit down and force myself to work for a couple of hours knowing that I would end up procrastinating and not really getting anything done.
What’s the point in bothering if the process is only going to deliver zero value to me?
For me, I absolutely loved science which is what my degree was in, but the studying process made enjoying that topic unpleasant.
Does this sound familiar? If it does then there is good news. YOU ARE NOT ALONE AND YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.
So if you feel unmotivated, then just know that you are not lazy, you are probably just trying to avoid a difficult process because you feel like you can’t do anything about it.
Focus & Concentration
Referring back to problems with motivation, as I eluded to earlier, one source of challenge with motivation is experiencing low levels of focus or concentration. Low levels of focus and concentration can be extremely common for anyone with dyslexia and in this society where everything electronic on our desks are designed to pull our attention from pillar to post, it can be really hard to get into the zone for effective study. When we experience this we can feel extremely unfulfilled and it can lead to problems with self-esteem and levels of anxiety and overwhelm.
Anxiety & Overwhelm
For a student exams are never far away, there is always a tonne of coursework that needs completing and the amount of time left before deadlines always seem to be too short. It can sometimes seem that there is no light at the end of the tunnel and all we can think about is the work that we are struggling to do in what seems such little time. Not everyone feels like this, but if a student has dyslexia, it can be common especially when they know that they are struggling and are not sure who to turn to for help. A student in this position could be feeling quite alone in all this and not keen to share that with peers as they all seem to be fine.
Time management can be a real challenge for a student, even more so when exams are on the horizon and the student needs to ensure that they have a self-motivated plan of study in place to prepare for those exams.
Sometimes it can be really difficult to try and step away from all the details and look strategically at what needs to be done, especially if in the grip of overwhelm and anxiety. It is possible that we avoid planning because that seems like a chunk of study time is being taken up.
Time management is essential though, having a timeline in place and knowing when to do what can give a student confidence that they are making headway with their studies, sometimes it is hard to sit down and put all this in place.
So what can a student with dyslexia do to help with these challenges?
Importantly, if you feel that you are struggling with the challenges mentioned (and it is not an exhaustive list) are you aware of whether or not you have dyslexia or any of the other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD)?
If you have a diagnosis then the good news is that you are eligible for the Disabled Student’s Allowance, a government backed scheme which can provide a student with the necessary support to improve their study skills and unlock potential. Support can be in the form of study skills coaching, assistive technology provision and training. Whilst there is a relatively small initial cost for the support, it is a cost worth making as the benefits really do outweigh the cost.
More information on the DSA can be found at https://www.gov.uk/disabled-students-allowances-dsas
If you are struggling with motivation, anxiety and overwhelm, then I recommend that you discuss this with your student well-being service in your college or university. They will have a wealth of information and resources that will be helpful to you as well as trained counsellors who can support you as you find strategies that help.