4.5 Dyslexia, neurodiversity and written work

One matter on which you may wish to seek further specialist advice is where you know, through a student ISSA, or have an idea, through your own concerns, that a student may be dyslexic or neurodiverse. Some students have been identified as dyslexic or neurodiverse from an early age and have developed study strategies which may have been successful so far, but which may not be so effective at university. Others, faced with the greater academic challenge, or perhaps coming from a different culture, are belatedly referred and assessed. This can lead to ambivalence and some loss of confidence, which will be compounded if faced with a 'dyslexia does not exist' attitude. It does and students who have made the grade and secured a place at LSE have already experienced additional barriers. It is important to celebrate neurodiversity as part of the diversity of the LSE community. Neurodiversity is associated with strengths such as originality and strategic thinking. 

LSE also has many dyspraxic students who can be overlooked as they may have strong spelling skills. Dyspraxic students characteristically have difficulties with organisation, prioritising and structuring ideas and information in written work.

If you feel that a student may be neurodiverse, talk to them. Reassure them with an initial positive statement about some aspect of their work, but go on to indicate that there are certain elements in their writing/organisation/reading that might be worth investigating. Suggest that they talk to somebody in the Neurodiversity team (based in the Disability and Well-being Service), who can provide one-to-one consultations, a screening interview or ideas for support. It might also be worth encouraging students to take advantage of the learning development opportunities offered by the Teaching and Learning Centre, via a series of events, its Learning World Moodle site and the one-to-one sessions – see Study advice in the Glossary for further details.

Further information about supporting neurodiverse students can also be found on www.brainhe.com| website and the DEMOS project, which has produced an online learning package aimed specifically at academic staff and those who teach in HE (http://jarmin.com/demos/index.html|). The box below reproduces some of the DEMOS guidance for marking written work produced by dyslexic students.

Typical mistakes made

  • bizarre and/or inconsistent spellings even of 'common' words, eg said, what, when
  • incorrect use of homophones, eg hear and here, there and their
  • omission or transposition of letters, syllables and words, eg siad for said
  • poorly constructed sentences, eg very long rambling sentences with no punctuation
  • tenses used incorrectly and inconsistently
  • restricted or poor vocabulary
  • some word-finding difficulties in written and oral work

Please note: The assessment criteria for individual courses should apply to the marking of a dyslexic student's scripts. If written English skills are an important element of the course then these guidelines should be used alongside the criteria as a means of developing an individual's skills.

Marking aims

  • To mark work fairly, neither compensating nor penalising for dyslexic difficulties, mark for content and ideas only.
  • To disregard an individual's dyslexic mistakes.
  • To enable markers to give positive feedback to students, enabling them to develop as learners, ie use the error analysis marking system below.

General guidelines for marking

  • Read fast, looking for ideas, understanding and knowledge.
  • Ignore mistakes in punctuation, spelling or grammar - do not comment on these mistakes.
  • Do not penalise poor handwriting.
  • If marking on ideas alone, tell the student.
  • Write legibly and use good English.
  • Explain clearly any comments made.
  • Try to highlight what a student has done well and indicate why it is good.

Further points to consider

  • Do not use a red pen for corrections (because of negative associations).
  • Discuss with the student which errors he/she would like you to identify (he/she may only want certain spellings correcting).
  • Select poorly phrased/expressed ideas for the student to rewrite.
  • Be sensitive towards individuals and their work, as many dyslexic students will have experienced negative reactions throughout their educational lives.

Previous| | Next|