Barriers to learning

Dyslexia is a type of learning difficulty that affects one’s reading, writing, and spelling skills. It is estimated that about 10% of the population in the UK is dyslexic. Despite this high number, people with dyslexia often face significant barriers to learning and achievement. In this blog, we will discuss some of the barriers that people with dyslexia face and some strategies that can be used to help overcome them.

Barriers to Learning for Those with Dyslexia

1. Phonological Awareness Difficulties

Phonological awareness is the ability to recognise and manipulate the sounds that make up words. People with dyslexia often have difficulty with this skill, which makes it harder for them to learn to read and write. As a result, people with dyslexia may struggle with letter-sound correspondence, word decoding, and spelling. This difficulty can create a barrier to learning, which can impact their ability to access curriculum content.

2. Working Memory Deficits

Working memory is the ability to hold and manipulate information in one’s mind for a short period of time. People with dyslexia often have difficulty with this skill, which can make it hard for them to remember and apply the rules of language. This inability to maintain focus on the task at hand often leads to frustration and disengagement. This consequently creates a barrier to effective learning.

3. Difficulty in Processing Speed

Another major barrier to learning for people with dyslexia is their slow processing speed. They are often unable to decode words at a speed equivalent to their peers, which makes reading time-consuming and tedious for them. Poor processing speed can also affect other areas, such as writing and mental maths computations. Comprehension and learning are therefore greatly affected due to slower processing.

4. Visual Processing Challenges

People with dyslexia often struggle with visual processing tasks. This means that they have difficulty with tasks such as tracking and following lines of text, where they often lose their place, skip lines, or jump around words. People with this challenge find it hard to distinguish between letters and words and may get easily distracted by visual noise, leading to a lack of focus for extended periods, which results in low learning yields.

5. Attention and Executive Functioning

Attention and executive functioning are essential skills that enable the organisation of information, pronunciation of sounds to make words, monitoring of learning, and taking subsequent action towards the specific task. People with dyslexia often have significant difficulties in these areas, making it hard for them to stay on task and concentrate. Moreover, they frequently have trouble with specific aspects of executive functioning, such as initiating tasks or shifting their focus from one task to another.

6. Self-Esteem Issues and Anxiety

People with dyslexia often feel stigmatized and judged, which can wear on their self-esteem over time. Also, this leads to the development of anxiety, leading to a decline in engagement in learning activities. Therefore, paying attention to how they feel about themselves, how they process feedback, and how they interact with peers is essential to establishing the most effective learning frameworks for dyslexic learners.

Overcoming Barriers to Learning for Those with Dyslexia

1. Early Identification and Intervention

Early identification is key in setting up dyslexic learners for success. The earlier the difficulties are identified, the more of an opportunity there is to put support structures in place that can aid learning. This requires skilled professionals who can screen, assess, and provide targeted educational programs to minimize learning difficulties.

2. Effective and adapted teaching and learning strategies

It is important that educational institutions design curricula that incorporate teaching methods adapted to meet the learning needs of those with dyslexia. For instance, teachers should integrate multi-sensory teaching strategies, which involve the use of touch, such as labeling physical objects, and visually organising abstract ideas. Also, audio support, colored overlays, graphic organizers, and computational aids to encourage self-exploration and understanding of concepts.

3. Assistive Technology

Assistive technology, such as text-to-speech, speech recognition, and word prediction software can help to modify the way tasks are performed. These technologies can be used to enhance the understanding of reading material, ease written composition, make accessing class content more efficient, and promote overall interest in learning.

4. Mindfulness and Goal-Setting

Encouraging learners to be mindful and focusing on goal-setting is especially important for dyslexic learners who may struggle with self-esteem, anxiety, and attention. Mindfulness can help to improve emotional regulation and decrease anxiety levels. Learners should develop positive self-talk and visual aids that can aid in setting realistic goals and boost confidence, leading to improved learning engagement.

Dyslexia is one of many learning difficulties affecting many people worldwide. It is important to recognise the unique challenges that dyslexic people experience and find ways to help them navigate these challenges. With a deeper understanding of these difficulties and the application of appropriate learning solutions, we can help to foster an environment in which people with dyslexia can flourish academically and socially. Ultimately, setting up these structures not only helps dyslexic individuals but also builds a culture that advances educational equity and success for everyone.

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