Everybody learns differently. If you have dyslexia your brain tends to have a more developed right side which means you learn in a more holistic rather than linear (step-by-step) way. People with right-brain dominance learn intuitively, reaching answers without necessarily knowing how they got there. They have a strong spatial awareness and an ability to see patterns rather than to understand sequences.
The key to successful studying is to play to your strengths and to develop compensatory strategies to help you overcome difficulties. Here we share some tips.
Help your tutor to help you
Make a list of areas you find difficult and share these with your tutor. Together you can work out useful strategies to help you. For example, ‘When I read my notes back they don’t make sense to me’, or ‘I know what I want to say but I can’t write it down’.
If reading is an area of difficulty then focus only on what is absolutely necessary. Your tutor can help you to identify the most important material. Allow plenty of time for reading in your study planning. Make use of technology where you can (see below).
You could consider visiting an optometrist who will be able to assess you for specific needs that might be affecting your reading. Scotopic sensitivity, for example, can cause print instability and visual discomfort.
Listening to text rather than reading it can be a useful strategy. You could read text into a recorded device. Even though it will take you time initially, it saves time later on. Some people find that the very act of reading aloud helps them to understand. Alternatively you could ask somebody else to record the material for you.
Spelling can be a big concern when you have dyslexia. You may forget a spelling each time you need to use it and have to spend time looking it up. Check with your tutor about what level of accuracy is required and discuss how they can help you.
Sometimes an incorrect spelling changes meaning. It’s a good idea to identify which spellings in your area of study are most important and focus your efforts on these.
You may have an excellent understanding of a topic but have difficulty organizing your knowledge into a written assignment. This might be because you lack confidence with spelling and grammar which interferes with your flow of ideas. By breaking down the writing process into stages you can help to clarify your thinking.
- Read the question carefully to identify exactly what you are being asked to do.
- Gather all the information you need from notes etc.
- Plan an overview of the assignment as a mind map (or whatever works best for you).
- Plan paragraphs. Look at your plan and group ideas by topic, perhaps using a coloured highlighter.
- Draft the assignment. Take each paragraph at a time and jot down what you want to say under each. Use short, simple sentences.
- Review the draft. Read the question again and check you have answered it. Do your paragraphs lead smoothly from one to the next?
- Write your final draft and then read it aloud, or ask somebody else to read it to you.
- Make any amendments.
Understand your memory
Break studying into manageable time slots of 20-40 minutes followed by a ten minute break. The amount of time you can concentrate will vary day-to-day depending upon how fresh and motivated you are feeling.
When we learn something new we are most likely to forget it again within the first 24 hours. That means it’s important to revisit what you have learnt within that time. You might revisit material just before you go to sleep or first thing in the morning. Decide what works best for you.
Every time you revisit material do it in a slightly different way. This will help to really embed it into your memory. For example, you might write or record questions for yourself about what you have learnt today and then answer those questions (verbally or in writing) in a slightly different order each time.
Manage your time
Time management is a challenge for most people but it can be even more of a problem if you are dyslexic. Be generous with the amount of time you allow yourself to give you time to develop new strategies. Discuss reasonable time allowances with your tutor.
Make yourself a timetable to plan exactly what you are going to study when. Plan in breaks and vary topics to sustain your interest and keep you motivated.
Being organized can save you lots of time and stress. Here are our tips:
- Organize your materials. Make sure you can find what you need, topic-by-topic, when you need it. Think about your computer files. What folders and subfolders do you need? Make sure everything is easy to find.
- Set up your computer so that it’s ready to go. Make sure the brightness, font style, and text justification are all set up to your requirements. Add any control buttons you need to the toolbar so you don’t get distracted searching through menus.
- Arrange a comfortable working space. Some people prefer a ‘organized chaos’ and others need their space to be tidy. Make sure the room is at the right temperature for you and that your study timetable is up and visible.
Make use of technology
Make the most of available technology. Computer programs like Excel and Word have many useful tools, but there are also other options. See ‘Our guide to assistive technology for dyslexics’.
Take notes effectively
The ability to take notes is essential for successful studying, but places demand on your working memory. The purpose of note taking is to be able to understand and recall key concepts.
Take the time to experiment with different ways of note taking to find what works best for you. There are flow charts, block diagrams, mind maps and more. Use different coloured pens to help you to differentiate between topics and subtopics in your notes.
Would you like support with your studies?
Our sister company, TutorMyKids, can match you with a specialist tutor who will work with you to develop effective study strategies.
To find out more email, firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01223 858 421.