Study tips for students with dyslexia
To get the most out of your university education, it is important to develop good study habits. Many of the study tips that work well for dyslexic students are also useful for all students. As a student with a dyslexia diagnosis (or other diagnosed reading and writing disorders), there are a number of special tools and support services available to you, such as audio books and student mentors.
University studies are more demanding than upper-secondary studies. You will need to read large amounts of text quickly. As a university student, you must take responsibility for planning your studies and using your time well.
We would like to offer you some tips on the following topics:
See the big picture
Make a rough plan for the whole term.
Make weekly plans for each class.
Use electronic resources
You can download the following programs for free:
TorTalk – a speech-recognition program for Swedish and English texts
SpellRight – a program that corrects spelling and grammar errors in English
It’s a good idea to listen along as you read in a printed book. Students with dyslexia (and other reading and writing challenges) have the right to get their course literature in audiobook form, and have access to an audiobook database called Legimus. Make sure to find out in advance if your course books are already available as audiobooks – an audiobook version can be produced for you if not, but it takes time.
Lectures – attend them ALL!
Lectures help you focus on important points in your course literature. A good strategy is to listen to the course literature that the lecture will be about before going to the lecture. After the lecture, read and listen through the literature a second time.
Take notes and record lectures
Only write down key words during the lectures so that you can concentrate on what is being said. Some students have the right to have lecture notes taken for them…you can ask your dyslexia coordinator at Student Services about this service. You can also ask the teacher for permission to record their lectures.
Seminars and gruppwork
Seminars and group work provide opportunities for you to work with your classmates and gain a deeper understanding of difficult points. Make sure you are prepared for seminars and group work!
Talk to your teachers
Don’t hesitate to ask for help! You can ask your teacher:
to give you the list of course literature in advance
for detailed reading instructions
to upload lecture slides in advance
for short summaries during lectures
for help prioritizing your reading among the course literature
for extra study material
for old exams
Use a pencil, computer, or recording device (such as your phone) to make short summaries of what you have read.
Get an overview
Get an overview of a new book! Read the back of the book and the table of contents. Look at pictures, graphs and tables. This will give you a rough idea of the contents, and will aid your comprehension and memory when you read.
Read topic sentences
Read the first sentence in each paragraph of text. These are called topic sentences. Note down key words in these topic sentences. For some students, it might be helpful to make a mind map…other students prefer a more linear note-taking system. See what works best for you! No matter what kind of notes you take, writing down key words will help you to remember main points when you read the text in more detail.
Now it’s time to move on to deep reading. But it’s still ok to skim over the details! They are usually just there to provide examples of the main points. Try to take notes or record short summaries of what you’ve read. Ask yourself what the author is trying to say.
Take breaks and review
Try not to read for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Then take a short break. Continue this cycle until it’s time for a longer break. Review the new things that you have learned. The more often you review, the easier it will be to remember.
Writing has many challenges – from organizing your thoughts logically to being able to proofread and see the details in what you have written. Try to begin by planning what you want to say in your text. Make sure you understand the assignment…what “job” is the text supposed to do? Is your text supposed to persuade the reader? Or is it a neutral discussion? Or something else?
Once you have planned your text, you will start the practical work of writing. You may wish to activate a language-checking program that can help you identify grammar and spelling errors. Another tip is to listen to your text – you can often hear things that need to be changed. You can either read aloud to yourself or listen to your text by using a free resource such as TorTalk.
When you think that you are finished, ask someone you trust to proofread your text.
You can contact The Language Workshop for an appointment at any point during the writing process.
Make sure to talk to your teacher and/or study counsellor if you need a specialized exam format, such as more time or a quiet room. You will need to show your “Nais” certificate from the disability coordinator.
ADVICE AND ENCOURAGEMENT FROM STUDENTS WITH READING AND WRITING DISORDERS
Studying gets easier with time.
It can take a while to find out the best way to handle your disability in a new situation.
Don’t give up when things are hard! Your efforts will pay off.
Try out the resources that are available to you and see which ones you like! Everyone’s needs are different.
Writing university-level texts may seem scary at first, but you will get used to it!
Create informal study groups with your classmates.
Make use of support services right from the start, like The Language Workshop.
Study counsellors are a valuable resource.