When it comes to resources for those with dyslexia, it can often feel like most help or information is focused on children, parents or educators. So, who’s looking out for us adults? Where do we turn when we need help, guidance or advice? Well, after a little digging, it turns out, if you know where to look, there’s more help out there than you might have first realised.
When I started The Codpast, it was in part a response to the lack of resources I found when looking for help for high functioning adult dyslexics. I did find some help for those who were really struggling and needed to go right back to basics. I also came across a practitioner ‘that worked with adults’, their service basically involved, sending me a tutor that had had a few days training in phonics, who proceeded to attempt to teach me to read using fridge magnets.
Three years later, I’m happy to say I’m a bit more in the know and aware of some great groups and organisations that cater specifically for the needs of adults with dyslexia. It’s also great to know that there’s financial support from the government for individuals; for students, through The DSA and if you are in work there’s the Access to Work scheme. If only there was one place I could have found all this information in my time of need.
So, students and employees are covered, but what happens if you slip through the gaps and are in that limbo where you’re not in education, not in work and there’s no government assistance?
Well although I don’t think they shout about it loudly enough, many UK charities are able and willing to step in to lend a helping hand. For instance, Dyslexia Action* has a learning fund that can be applied for through any of its regional centres, and is open to applicants of any age. This fund allows the charity to offer advice sessions, assessment and tuition free of charge. Free advice sessions are offered to everyone and assessment and tuition is means tested. Bella MacLaren – Deputy Area Manager at Dyslexia Action explains, ‘Individuals can apply for an assessment or tuition. We often ask for a contribution towards it, but each application is reviewed on their individual circumstances.’ She continues, ‘We need evidence that they need the lessons, that would be in the form of either a dyslexia assessment or a screening.’
*On Thursday 13 April 2017, Dyslexia Institute Limited t/a Dyslexia Action has gone into administration.
As always applying for any kind of funding unfortunately means filling in forms, Dyslexia Action recognise this can be a barrier for many dyslexics. Bella MacLaren: ‘What we actually do is we get them to contact the centre and arrange an appointment with one of our staff. They come in and they bring evidence of their financial information and we actually complete the form with them like an interview.’
Unlike the ‘support’ I got when I first had major issues with dyslexia, as you’d expect, Dyslexia Action are acutely aware of the difference in support needed by children and adult dyslexics. Bella MacLaren: ‘With the children, we tend to do a structured literacy program…with adults, they tend to come for much fewer lessons because obviously, they’re not developing their skills for life in the same way that a child would… It’s often more work-focused coaching. We do the lessons completely bespoke to the individual, so in the very first lesson we look at whatever kind of report or screening they’ve got, if they have one. We would talk to them about what their immediate needs are, what their aims are, what they’re looking to get out of it, and we develop a set of targets that are kind of specific and measurable to that individual. If this sounds like something that could benefit you the first steps are easy, Bella MacLaren: “We do offer something called a free advice session for anybody that wants some support about their individual circumstances. They can come into any one of our centres, ring us up, make an appointment, come in and see one of our specialist teachers. Or, we can do them over the phone as well if distance is a bit of an issue.”
To check if you might be eligible for the learning fund contact your nearest Dyslexia Action Learning Centre.
Another charity that you might not have realised have bespoke services for adult dyslexics is the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre in Surrey (HA). Assessor, teacher and trainer at the centre Glynis Lavington explains, “I’ve always worked with adults, people post 16. Now, probably over 50 percent of my week is spent in the workplace with adults. We are, at the Centre, expanding the services that we provide for adults, because, we like you, have realised there wasn’t an awful lot of good support provided out there for people. What we do is offer them a place to come and talk to us about what it is they’re experiencing problems with. We can then give them some guidance and advice as to what to do next.” Glynis continues, “A lot of the people I work with are mid-30s onwards. I don’t know why that is, whether it’s because younger people have accessed support at Uni, and have got strategies to help them, and are more likely to have asked earlier, before they’ve run into problems in their job roles, I don’t know. Certainly, there’s a trend for a lot of the people I’m working with to be mid 30’s onwards.”
Again, HA are aware that helping adults with dyslexia is not just about helping improve literacy. Glynis Lavington: “[It] can be anything from teaching them how to read, to teaching them how to write a 300-page report. Whatever they need is what they get the help with.…people’s perception of dyslexia is so varied. I often say to adults I work with, if you tell somebody that you are dyslexic, their understanding of what that actually means for you, is going to be very vague, or very different from the person sitting next to them. Many people think it’s still to do with problems with reading, or problems with spelling, they don’t often think it’s to do with a weakness in working memory, which is what actually causes probably 80 percent of the problems that many would be experiencing.
I spend a lot of time working with adults on how they would like to tell colleagues about their dyslexia in order to get help. For example, if they’re in a meeting, and they’re going to find it hard to take notes, then we would work together on how they’re going to deal with that. One of the best ways would be to point out their strengths first. ‘I’m really good at listening to what you’ve got to say, I’m good at coming up with solutions to problems, but if you ask me to write minutes, then okay, I’ll have a go at that, but it’s going to be really difficult for me. You’re not going to get the best side of me, my strengths aren’t going to be coming to the fore if I’m focusing all the time on trying to write notes, so could someone else do them?’ Is a lot better than saying, ‘Oh, I’m dyslexic, I can’t take notes.’ It doesn’t give the same impression, and it doesn’t help people understand why that might be a problem, but other things are not.”
Although Helen Arkell are physically based in Surrey their aim is to provide services much further afield, Glynis Lavington: “That’s one of the areas that we are expanding, with the help of technology, to be able to reach a wider audience. We would like to put a lot more things online that people can access. The whole concept of Helen Arkell is to help anybody, and everybody, whatever age, that may have dyslexia.”
Helen Arkell also offers bursary funding to support adults who may otherwise not afford their services and is a DSA-QAG Registered NMH Provider.
You can find out more about these and other services available for dyslexics of all ages, via The Dyslexia Directory.
The Codpast is a multimedia production from www.extraordinaire.tv