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Dyslexia Learning Strategies

Quick tips for time management, studying, test taking, and tools you can use.

Formal Evaluations & Accomodations

Don't rely on formal accommodations

Don't rely on being notified of students with formal accommodations, because not everyone is eligible or has access to formal accommodations. Here's why:

  • Formal evaluations are often needed to get approved for accommodations
  • Not everyone has access or the funds to be evaluated
  • Formal accommodations require students to self-report
  • Therefore, not everyone is eligible or has access to formal accommodations 
  • Formal accommodations don’t always fit student needs
  • The strategies on this guide help all learners, including those without formal accommodations

Teaching Strategies to Support Neurodivergent Students in the Classroom

UDL vs. Individual accommodations

  • We need both
  • Universal Design: "useable by all people to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation or specialized design."
  • UDL is awesome, and it’s not a magic solution to all our problems
  • UDL provides options, get feedback from students about those options so students can choose what works best for them
  • UDL as a starting point, work with individuals on top of that

Reduce complexity

  • Use headings
  • Short paragraphs & sentences
  • Simple, clear language; avoid jargon and idioms
  • Avoid acronyms, spell them out

Simple course design

  • Clear action items: establish one place to go to find deadlines, what’s current, what’s next
  • Give advanced notice and multiple reminders for upcoming assignments, tests, etc. 
  • Consistent formatting for assignments

Course content

  • Break lectures into shorter chunks with breaks in between. Long lectures can be overwhelming
  • Provide clear, step by step instructions for assignments, activities, etc.
  • Provide detailed grading rubrics. Be clear on expectations.

Clear outlines & timelines

  • Provide outlines of each lesson at the beginning of class (or agendas for meetings)
  • Give estimated timelines for each topic (or agenda items)
  • Stay on track with outlines and agendas, and avoid tangents when possible

Consider sensory needs

  • Try to eliminate background noise, harsh or flickering lighting, visual distractions, color clashes, etc.
  • Allow fidget toys and movement breaks to help students focus. 

Provide content ahead of time

  • Share lecture slides, notes, handouts, etc. ahead of time.
  • This allows students to follow along and process information more easily

Provide multiple formats

  • Provide info verbally & written, in print & online
  • Provide alternative formats: PDF, Word, html, EPUB
  • Use visual aids like charts, graphs, images etc. where possible, including a Graphic Syllabus; visuals can help concepts stick better.
  • Record your lectures, either in advance or the live lecture, and provide a recorded copy with captions for students to reference later. 
  • Consider alternative exam formats: oral exams, presentations, create a website, etc.

Follow accessibility & UDL best practices

  • Check your instruction materials follow accessibility best practices including alt-text, color contrast, heading structure, intuitive hyperlinks, etc.
  • Utilize Universal Design for Learning guidelines, which helps make instruction more accessible to all students. 

Questionnaires & Feedback from students

Ask about sensory needs

  • Ask what’s been helpful and allowed them to be successful in the past
  • Opens the door to self-advocacy, but doesn’t put the burden solely on the individual to bring up their preferences, etc.
  • Ask for feedback multiple times throughout the semester. 

Share resources

  • Share information about the Office of Disability Services and accommodations that students can pursue if it would be helpful. 
  • Share tools available to students, including software such as Read & Write Gold. 
  • Offer individual help: research consultations, chat, email

Mainly, it boils down to: get organized, and plan ahead

  • It’s challenging to find the time to get organized and stay organized, in the midst of an overwhelming to-do list. 
  • If you have too many other things on your plate and never seem to make the time, it could be helpful to make this a project and call it something like “review and revamping instruction with accessibility best practices, to support neurodivergent learners”
  • If you need help prioritizing and saying no, use the Essentialism Toolkit: Doing Less to Accomplish What Matters

Teaching Strategies to Support Neurodivergent Students Outside a Traditional Classroom

Instruction happens in many forms and locations. When you work with neurodivergent individuals outside of a regular classroom setting, here are some strategies:

Examples of instruction outside a regular classroom:

  • Field research
  • Field trips
  • Extension work
  • Meetings in non-traditional locations

Ask about individual accommodations ahead of time

  • When setting up a field trip, field research, meeting time outside of a classroom, etc., ask participants to let you know if there are any accommodations that will help improve their learning experience. 

Provide a visual outline of what to expect

  • Give a written overview of how the meeting/field research, etc. will be structured, including time estimates
  • Supplement with visual aids when possible, including icons, pictures, flow charts, etc. 
  • Provide a physical copy of the outline or agenda when you meet in person
  • Try to follow the planned outline or agenda as much as possible

Provide a recap

  • After the meeting or session, verbally recap what was discussed and provide a written overview of the content or meeting discussions
  • Reference the original agenda or outline, and note the items covered, and any items that didn't get covered

Provide content in multiple formats

  • In addition to providing written agendas, outlines, etc. try to incorporate visual aids as much as possible including pictures, icons, flow charts, etc. 
  • Provide and review content verbally, in print, online, or through video as much as possible. 

Plan breaks 

  • Plan at least one break, especially if the meeting or session is longer than one hour.
  • If you don't have time for a break, that's an indicator that you might need to plan a second session and break up the material into more than one session

Incorporate movement

  • Movement can increase the ability to learn
  • Have a walking meeting, or take a walk or stretch during a break

Consider Outdoor Learning

According to Wild & Immersive, part of the University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry, there are many benefits of outdoor learning for everyone, including: 

  • "Improved short-term memory – walks in natural environments have shown to increase memory and boost memory in depressed individuals 
  • Restored mental energy – natural beauty can help heal “mental fatigue” and give a mental boost 
  • Stress relief – studies have found lower levels of cortisol and decreased heart rate in participants when among trees rather than in the city 
  • Reduced inflammation – studies have shown that those who spend continuous time in the forest have reduced signs of inflammation within their body 
  • Better vision – in children it has been found that outdoor activity may have a protective effect on the eyes, reducing the risk of nearsightedness 
  • Increased creativity and problem-solving – research has shown that those who spend repeated time outdoors are better at creative problem-solving and improved cognitive function 
  • Improved mental health – walks in the forest and time spent in nature has been shown to decrease anxiety levels and increase self-esteem and positive mood."