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You are reading: Experiences of dyslexia and the transition to university

A case study of five students at different stages of study

Ciara O’Byrne, Caroline Jagoe and Margaret Lawler (Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)

Published in Higher Education Research and Development
14 April 2019


Dyslexia is a common specific learning difficulty. In higher education two models of disability are prevalent, ‘disorder’ and ‘difference’, which each differentially conceptualise dyslexia and the nature of supports required. A lack of research has been undertaken in Ireland regarding students’ experience of dyslexia, and the move from second to third level education. A greater understanding of the challenges encountered is necessary to inform provision of resources to help students with dyslexia excel in higher education. Semi-structured interviews were completed with four undergraduate students and one postgraduate student with a diagnosis of dyslexia to explore their experiences of transitioning into university. Thematic analysis revealed four common themes: dyslexic identity, self-advocacy, transition experiences, and future advice. Various difficulties were identified regarding lack of appropriate academic resources, inconsistencies between supports provided in secondary and third level education, and low self-confidence which serves as a barrier to success. However, strengths including self-directed learning techniques and communication and self-advocacy skills were also evidenced, supporting a ‘difference’ view of dyslexia. The findings highlight the need to re-evaluate the current academic service provisions, in alignment with a model of dyslexia that allows individualisation and enables students, as opposed to disabling them.

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