Top 10 tips for an inclusive classroom

As a dyslexic pupil and student Primary Teacher I feel passionate that the classroom should be a welcoming place for each individual, irrespective of how you learn. 

My top 10 tips for an inclusive classroom are:

  • Allow children thinking time when asking them a question.
  • Use a voluntary approach to reading out loud in class as reading aloud can cause stress to dyslexic learners.
  • Use of technology such as an iPad, Read, Write Gold and a calculator for maths are very helpful.
  • Keeping resources in the same place as this frees up space in the working memory. 
  • Giving children time to prepare, for example: planning and mind mapping their story is useful. Allowing additional time to complete tasks is beneficial. 
  • Providing them with resources such as word mats, and skills such as mind mapping can make the classroom a better place.
  • Capture and praise children’s strengths and be mindful of your comments. The words that you use can last a life time. 
  • Making homework relevant and allowing homework to be presented in various ways. For example a picture or mind map can hold as much information as a written passage. 
  • Speak slowly and in simple sentences.  Make written instructions available. Allow learners to photograph notes on the whiteboard, or make hand outs available.
  • Provide breaks where children have time to think and interact in a creative way. 
  • Ask a child what works best for them. We are all different and different strategies help different people. 

by Rachel Miller, Dyslexia Scotland Young Ambassador and student primary teacher.

Want to learn more about inclusive classrooms in Scotland? Use The Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit , designed for educators to support dyslexic learners in school classrooms.


My dyslexic college experience

by a dyslexic student

At school I didn’t think I was different to anyone else. I was not a low achiever but found exams stressful. I hated being asked to read aloud in class. I was a slow, not very fluent reader. I wasn’t very good at spelling and was rubbish at languages. I’m not artistic but am OK at maths and sports. Looking back, I used coping strategies such as watching YouTube videos rather than reading lots of text. Doesn’t everyone in my generation?
A college friend had dyslexia. It wasn’t discussed much. She was regarded
as non-academic and used a reader and scribe to get through exams. My
difficulties were not on the same level.

Looking back, I used coping strategies such as watching YouTube videos rather than reading lots of text. Doesn’t everyone in my generation?

Discovering I’m dyslexic

Two things suggested to others that I may have dyslexia. Firstly, my mum
was aware of how stressed I became preparing for exams. I spent more
time studying than my friends because text-based learning took me longer.
I thought my stress was a family inheritance.

Secondly, my maths teacher commented that in exams, I used every second available and was always one of the last students to leave the room. I thought I was being persistent,
working hard and that I wanted to achieve more than my fellow students.

Mum wanted me assessed for dyslexia as it runs in the family. I put off having
the assessment at school as I thought it would be more stress in addition
to studying for GCSEs. When mum mentioned assessment to my college
teachers, they didn’t believe dyslexia would be confirmed as I was a high
achiever. They were amazed when it was.

I found my dyslexia assessment tiring. It was 3 hours long with lots of
questions. I felt stupid giving some answers and particularly frustrated with
the pattern recognition test. I was surprised by how bad my memory was in
some tests.

Coping with university

I am now at university and get 25% extra time in exams. I chose a science
subject to avoid too many essays.

I still had difficulties keeping up with lectures. In first year, I wanted to write
down everything the lecturers said and felt their slides moved on too quickly.

My university had an online system for recording lectures even before COVID,
which helped. Some lecturers would not record their classes. I called mum
for moral support when I found my course challenging. She also did my
proof reading.

The university provided software and a printer/scanner. I get a Disabled
Students’ Allowance which pays for this. But all the tech can be scattergun
and overwhelming. Looking back, the training sessions could have been
shorter and more frequent.

COVID changed university life. All lectures were recorded and I was able to go
over them as often as required. Lockdown meant limited social activities, no
clubs, sports or practical classes. This was particularly challenging as I learn
best doing hands-on tasks. However, I shared a student house and garden
with friends. This helped us all cope with the sudden changes to the university
experience. I would have hated being stuck in halls with no outdoor space
and people I didn’t know.

Succeeding in work

I am now working for my industrial placement year doing practical laboratory
work. There is a standard report template which everybody uses. I am able to
joke with my colleagues about my poor spelling, telling them it’s my dyslexia
and asking them to spell words for me. As it’s a small company, my boss
reads over almost everything, including my work.

Later this year, I return to university for my final year. I still expect it to be
stressful as I want to do well. My dyslexia means I know why I have to work
harder than others. I have grown in confidence as the last year has proved to
me that I can hold down a job.

We know that being a dyslexic student can be lonely and hard work. Having a safe space to talk about the emotional experiences of dyslexia in Further and Higher Education can help you through your studies. Sign up to Dyslexia Scotland’s Dyslexic Student Network to get support from others just like you.

Join the Dyslexic Student Network

My Dyslexia Story

Hello, my name is Monty. I have known I was dyslexic since I was 10 years old in the summer of 2018, a few weeks before I turned 11. Before I found out about having dyslexia, I always thought I was not intelligent and found school very difficult from primary 1-6.

When I found out about having dyslexia, everything started to make sense to me, it wasn’t that I didn’t have the intelligence, it was that I didn’t have the right resources in place to help me learn and understand things the way I do now.

Certain things in earlier years at school were certainly difficult, such as Big writing, which was when we had to write a story once every week. It became far easier once I found out about my dyslexia and certain things were put in place to help me such as using a laptop and programs to check my spelling.

If someone came to me asking about what to do with their dyslexia, I would tell them to use any assistance offered to find out what way helps you learn and grow whether that is through a computer, extra time or any other guides offered. Finding out about my dyslexia has been something that has helped me so much in these past few years and have allowed me to become a far better student, have much higher overall scores and enjoy school life.

Blog by new Young Ambassador, Monty Saunders

Did you know that we have a website dedicated to dyslexic young people. See Dyslexia Unwrapped

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We’re moving (the blog)

It is with a mixture of sadness and excitement that we let you know that our blog is moving. Our fantastic community-made content is now set to become part of Dyslexia Scotland’s website.

The transfer of this blog will happen during summer when we launch our new, up to date website, which brings together all of the content we’ve had across different platforms, to the same space.

The move helps us to amplify the dyslexic community’s voice by giving your content space on our main platform. For visitors to our site, this helps join up the support that a dyslexic person may need throughout their whole life journey, by having it all in one, easy to navigate place.

This WordPress space has been a happy home for our blog for many years. While we’re sad to be closing the account, we are also really looking forward to being able to host blogs directly on our new site.

We look forward to connecting with you there soon.

Dyslexia Scotland’s new website will launch this summer as a major part of our  strategy for a dyslexia-friendly Scotland.

Make sure you catch all the news and updates from Dyslexia Scotland first. We’ll announce the launch of our new website on our newsletter. Don’t miss a blog, sign up today.

See you on the other side!

From Dyslexia Scotland’s Directors, Chief Executive, staff and volunteers.

Me, Myself and I + Dyslexia (Part 2)

Leading on from my Part 1 blog, here is a list of my top 5 tips, that I want to share, in the hope that it might help other people.

My Top 5 Tips

  1. Technology – I love Grammarly. My work pays for me to have the premium edition, which is great, but even the free version I think is excellent as it works across so many different platforms. Plus, I know there are other similar pieces of software out there, so use the one that you like the best. I also use voice notes and audio readers. Like everything it is trial and error to find the software that you like the best. The only piece of advice I would give, is don’t get overloaded with different plugins, apps or software as you might find you then get overwhelmed. I would say find two or three that you enjoy using and help you in whatever task it is you are trying to achieve, if it doesn’t then don’t use it, just delete it and move on. Technology really is the dyslexic’s best friend.

2. Alarms – I struggle with time, still to this day I don’t understand why there is 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour, why isn’t it 100 it would make life so much easier? It wouldn’t surprise anyone that I was a late developer when it came to being able to tell the time! Anyway, I can easily forget about time, or how long something is going to take. So, I often write down when I need to leave and then try and work back the way. I also set alarms to remind me when I need to leave the house.

3. Taking notes – I am a prolific note-taker in meetings, as I know I might not remember what was discussed once the meeting is over. Also, now that so many meetings are over zoom or teams, I sometimes ask for it to be recorded so that I can listen back to it. Which alleviates the pressure to write and listen at the same time.

4. Regular breaks & rest – This is something that I have got better at as I get older. As I understand my brain better, and when it is going to function at its best. If I am tired I find writing copy extremely challenging, which then leads me to be frustrated and develop negative feelings as to why I cannot do this. So now, depending on how I am feeling, I will re-organize my to-do list so that I can maximize my brain energy for that day. I have no problem with numbers, I can work on them even if my brain is tired.

5. Ask for help – Now, this is one I still struggle with, as I have always thought it was a sign of weakness, but actually, it is the opposite. When I have asked for help, and usually it is around proof checking, everyone is always happy to help. And by doing this one small step it makes my life so much easier, and at the end of the day I also know the content I am then producing is perfect, so a win-win for everyone.

Full disclosure, this blog took me about two months to write. Not because I am lazy, but because I procrastinated over it. As I was putting off the feelings that came with me writing about my dyslexia, however, the more I write about it, the easier it becomes. Also, here is a list of the tools I utilized to write this blog:

  • Voice notes
  • Grammarly
  • Text to Speech software
  • One supportive husband
  • Helen, who kindly proof-read the blog

There probably are spelling or grammar mistakes in this article, but this is me, and I have done my best to minimise mistakes. I am hoping that if you do notice any mistakes, it does not take away from the message I want to communicate which is: If you are dyslexic, you have amazing potential and an incredibly unique skill set and if you have an employer that does not harness them and support you, then it is their mistake, because in the right culture and environment, you will thrive. Trust me.

P.S Do you think we could put together a petition to get a word that is easier to spell or an abbreviation for dyslexia? It is such a faff to remember how to spell it. I mean, come on; the spelling of the name does not exactly support our strengths!

Lindsay Miller, Dyslexia Changemaker

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Me, Myself and I + Dyslexia (Part 1)

When you read a blog, you want to come away more knowledgeable about a topic, gain a new perspective or at the very least laugh out loud. Let’s hope this blog about my journey with dyslexia delivers all three!

Key Fact About Dyslexia
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia. Please take a few seconds and let that statistic sink in.

My Early Journey with Dyslexia
As I write this blog, I am a 41-year-old dyslexic woman who has worked in marketing for 15 plus years and has had a bumpy journey embracing her dyslexic self.

I was ‘officially’ identified when I was 16, and the catalyst for me getting an assessment was that I spectacularly failed all my higher prelims. It was expected that I would be able to achieve five Highers in 5th year, which was a big undertaking, but it is what my teachers thought I should be aiming for. Throughout my school years, I had always struggled with spelling, reading and writing. My parents flagged this continually to my teachers; however, their response was always the same, she is not dyslexic. After not getting the support from the school, my parents decided to pay privately for an assessment. I still have that report. When I read it now, I realize how the education system let me down. I had to struggle and work so much harder than my peers to achieve good grades with no extra support or advice on strategies or that I was not stupid. It was just that the system unfortunately was not designed to extract the best from dyslexic brains, in fact unfortunately it often highlights their weaknesses. With exams being the determinate tool to decide if you were succeeding at school.

Moving on

Not surprisingly, I left school after 5th year, as basically I had had enough. I went straight into Uni and began a degree in Accountancy. I went to Glasgow Caledonian University where they had an inclusive approach to students with dyslexia. I was given a laptop, access to software, extra time for exams, and I was allowed to use a computer during exams. It made a massive difference. At school, all I was given was extra time, and in the same room as all the other students, which at the time was humiliating, as 100+ pupils stood up to leave, and I just sat there with everyone asking, ‘why aren’t you leaving?’.

Now, remember I was at school over 20 years ago, and there wasn’t the awareness there is now or the positive language used around the dyslexia skill set. Looking back, I can see that it was those negative and traumatic experiences I had in school, particularly secondary school, that made it that much harder for me to embrace my dyslexic self.

Fast forward, to now and I have carved out a successful career within marketing. For the majority of my working life, I have not been open about my dyslexia. This was entirely down to me not being confident about that part of myself and extremely scared of being held back from career opportunities or my peers, and managers not thinking I could deliver my objectives. Especially when you work in marketing, being able to write and proof check is a key skill.

Why the change of heart towards my dyslexia?
Well, the reason for this change in mind-set is that last year my amazing, funny and intelligent niece, Isla, received her ‘official’ identification. My sister and brother-in-law are both teachers and were very quick off the mark and engaged with the school to start the process. Isla’s attitude to being dyslexic is that it is part of her and nothing to hide or feel ashamed of and is immensely proud to be dyslexic. She understands and accepts that her brain is wired differently from most, and she wears that proudly knowing that it makes her extraordinary. This made me think, I need to embrace what I call ‘my inner Isla’. I contacted Dyslexia Scotland, where I was connected with Helen Fleming who has been amazing. I joined their volunteering team as a changemaker, with the purpose of raising awareness of dyslexia, what it means and how businesses can make their culture and working practices dyslexia friendly.

The Road to Embracing My Dyslexic Self
I have accepted that actually it is the fact that I am dyslexic that has so far led me to have a successful career. I am an excellent communicator, I strive for perfection in my work, I am a great problem solver, I embrace change, and I find it easy to see the bigger picture. So by not being open about my ‘pal’ dyslexia, I am not giving her the recognition she deserves. I am also incredibly lucky to work for a company that embraces neurodiversity. They are happy to make any adjustments that I might need and provide me with any additional tools that I need to deliver my job.

Read Part 2 of this blog here.

Lindsay Miller, Dyslexia Changemaker

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Jay Blades and the Demystifying of Dyslexia

While many celebrities speak openly about their experiences of dyslexia, I have never been so moved as I was by the recent BBC documentary Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51. Anyone who has seen The Repair Shop knows that Jay is an articulate and talented man, who highlights that dyslexia can affect anyone and is no barrier with regards to the possession of immense determination and talent. That said, dyslexia can still be hard to live with. Thanks to Jay, hopefully many more people now know just how hard.

Dyslexia is more than just a reading problem – Jay correctly states that the learning difference impacts how the brain processes information – but that doesn’t mean reading can’t be a hardship for some people, even resulting in physical pain. That’s bad enough, but reading struggles are much more than actually finding it difficult to read. For instance, the impact on someone’s mental health and specifically what people who have dyslexia internalise when they are labelled “dumb,” as Jay was, which resulted in him labelling himself as a “loser.”

I imagine this could constantly be reinforced given how much people have to read in everyday life. Jay recalls a particularly poignant incident where he had to ask a stranger in the street to read a letter concerning a medical matter because nobody else was in the house. The fact this was a real event is one thing, but to see him telling it highlights the reality of the situation – in terms of him and others who have experienced similar – and all its sadness and urgency, because in being in need of help from a stranger to digest personal information, they also need help to master the skill of reading. Not only that, but it got me thinking about lots of other scenarios where struggling to read may be dangerous or harmful to someone’s quality of life. Medicine labels? Road signs? Contracts?

Jay admitted he is lucky in that he has a support network that helps him out when he needs it and that technology makes managing easier, but I wonder how many people may be struggling to cope with reading difficulties because they can hide behind technology. Far from meaning literacy is less important now than before, I would argue the opposite; Jay’s literacy journey shows that such difficulties have significant impacts on people irrespective of their age and every effort should be made to make sure that nobody who has dyslexia is denied help. Jay says he would never have passed his degree without assistive technology, and even so, a former tutor makes a point of saying he got a B in an essay despite not being able to write in academic language, which highlights how important the correct support is in a very real way.

Whether support fails to occur as a consequence of late diagnosis – Jay himself was diagnosed at 31 as a mature student – lack of resources, or as a result of feeling ashamed, it is no less vital. This isn’t just important for the individual themselves, but those around them, something that was beautifully illustrated by Jay’s family, and particularly in Jay’s determination to read a bedtime story to his daughter before she turned 16. It’s apparent that this mattered a great deal to him, as did his improved literacy meaning he could read a letter she wrote him. These things hint at the ability for reading difficulties to impact relationships and is perhaps the reason why Jay highlights the vicious circle of parents being unable to read to their children and the impact that this has the potential to have, both in terms of job prospects and the relationship between a child and a parent who struggles with reading.

The documentary’s power comes from Jay’s honest account of how dyslexia has affected him. To see it is to have a better understanding of dyslexia because he doesn’t shy away from how hard it can be; for example, his struggle to pronounce the ‘e’ sound in the word egg.

For those in a similar position, it validates the reality of their struggle and has the potential to make them feel less alone. That’s a gift anyone who is struggling with dyslexia deserves, and in making the documentary he has given it to more people. Relatedly, there is also the fact that in being someone who perseveres with dyslexia so openly and is undoubtedly a skilled craftsman it proves two things; one, dyslexia need not be a barrier to achievement, success and a fulfilled life and two, someone is so much more than the difficulties they encounter. So not only does the documentary educate people with regards to dyslexia, it inspires too.

If you didn’t see the programme, here is a 6-minute summary of the documentary:

Gemma Bryant, Dyslexia Scotland blogger

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Oh yes – I’m disabled

One of the things that I recall when I discovered in my sixties that I was dyslexic, was the news that I was now classified as a disabled person. The Equality Act of 2010 says so. The first outcome was that I felt closer to my disabled students: I was disabled too – one of them. I was disabled. It wasn’t something that I was going to recover from. So, of course, I became more interested in disability as such – and avidly read any news reports about disability. Now, I always look for what the Scottish journalist Melanie Reid has to say. She became disabled as an adult, when she was injured in a horse riding accident and became a tetraplegic.

Melanie delivered a powerful column at the end of March, writing about if and how the Queen could attend the Memorial Service for the Duke of Edinburgh. “Up went the cry “use a wheelchair!” she wrote, and then started to explore the issue wondering what the Queen herself might want. After all, it was her body people were talking about. Melanie went on, ‘people were genuinely trying to be helpful, but it made me shudder’, and then she said this, ‘If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that there’s nothing quite as limited as the imagination of the able-bodied. They’re well intentioned, but they don’t get it.’

Those words leapt off the page. I read it again…and in my head changed a word ‘there’s nothing quite as limited as the imagination of the non-dyslexic. They’re well intentioned, but they don’t get it.’

Does this ring bells with other dyslexics? For example, mentioning ‘dyslexics’ when I’m asked where I want charitable donations to be targeted often triggers remarks about ‘spelling’ or ‘coloured acetates’ or ‘children with reading difficulties’. There you go – ‘They’re well intentioned, but they don’t get it.’ Not all dyslexics have spelling problems. Many dyslexics don’t need or use coloured acetates. Many young dyslexics don’t have reading difficulties, they love books and reading. Many well known and successful writers are dyslexic.

The fact is, that each dyslexic is different, one from another. Yes, many dyslexics (perhaps most) recall with terror being called upon to read aloud in class, but a few loved it. Some dyslexics, but by no means all, pride themselves on their spelling. But that does not mean they are ‘word perfect’ – they might forget or misread, mispronounce or misuse words. Many dyslexics read and write very well – just very slowly. The dyslexic’s biggest problem, surely, is connected to the working memory – whether it’s directions or scheduling…or reading or spelling or word use…we just have to work hard at ‘getting it right.’ And, we also have to work hard to help non-dyslexics ‘get it.’

Vin Arthey, guest blogger and Dyslexia Scotland Speaker Volunteer

Top 10 tips for an inclusive workplace

In my last job, I was lucky enough to experience a dyslexic friendly workplace. It allowed me to see first-hand that an inclusive workplace is real possibility in 2022, especially as hybrid working becomes the new normal and digital assistance is now a realistic addition to our everyday work environments.

It’s the small changes that make a big difference to us, allowing for dyslexics to reach our full potential and focus on work. With this in mind, let’s take a look at our top 10 tips for an inclusive workplace in 2022.

  1. Awareness of dyslexia amongst colleagues
    This tip is probably the most important. If colleagues are aware of the challenges faced by dyslexics, then staff are more likely to get on board with the steps listed below. Information forums to spread awareness on dyslexia could help with this. This would also work for any other learning difference, and could definitely help create an inclusive workplace.
  2. Assistive technology
    There are all sorts of assistive technologies that can make a massive difference to a dyslexic’s work environment. Just some examples include smart pens, speech recognition software, text-to-speech software or even on a more basic level spell checkers. Especially with online working much more established since the pandemic, assistive technology is a small addition to our desktops that can make a positive difference.
  3. Practical training
    Receiving practical training as opposed to written instructions can be hugely beneficial. Having a tutorial where a colleague shares their screen and walks you through something new, or even having a video recording teaching you the steps, is often the preferable way to learn.
  4. Dyslexic Fonts
    Specially designed dyslexic fonts have become more widely available in recent years. They are often free to download or purchased for a small fee and can make a huge difference to dyslexics.
  5. One-on-one time with manager
    For dyslexics, having a short one-on-one meeting from time to time with our managers allows us to ask any questions, clarify information and in general have a space to discuss any dyslexia-based challenges. It also creates an open dialogue about dyslexia, contributing to a positive and inclusive workplace culture.
  6. Visual Aids
    As dyslexics are often visual learners, creating visual aids for presentations or communicative means can be a simple and straightforward way of creating an inclusive workplace. This could include flowcharts, diagrams or even simple, sketched out drawings.
  7. Communication format
    Simple changes to communication format can create a more inclusive workplace. For example, printing information on coloured paper, writing in a larger, clear font or making information available on an audio file can be incredibly beneficial to dyslexics.
  8. Concise meetings (where possible!)
    I know, this tip is probably unrealistic (and something non-dyslexics could also benefit from!). But it can’t be denied that keeping meetings concise would help create an inclusive workplace. Dyslexics struggle when there is an overload of information, and it already takes us extra time to read through notes and sift through information.
  9. Quiet working environment/work from home
    Providing a quiet or private working environment can help us when we are trying to read through lots of information. Working from home often works for dyslexics, but having a quiet place at the office as an option is important when creating an inclusive workplace.
  10. Clear calendar system
    Last but not least, having a clear and effective calendar system will really help to build an inclusive workplace. As dyslexics sometimes struggle to keep on top of deadlines, having a visual and collaborative calendar system could be very beneficial. This could also include personalised alarms and reminders. Like with the assistive technology, there are so many free/low-cost collaborative calendar apps that could really help with productivity and create an inclusive workplace.

Maddy Shepherd is a volunteer blogger for Dyslexia Scotland

For more information about workplace reasonable adjustments, please have a look at our Dyslexia and Work page

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Defining dyscalculia

If you know about dyslexia, you will probably have heard about dyscalculia too – a difficulty in understanding number and number processes. Sometimes they can co-occur.

For young people in Scotland who have dyscalculia, it can be hard to engage with maths and numbers at all, leaving them feeling excluded from some learning.

Since Scotland’s curriculum is designed to be inclusive, it’s really important that teachers can understand, recognise and support dyscalculia.

On Monday 25 April 2022, Education Scotland published the Scottish Working Definition of Dyscalculia.

View the definition of dyscalculia on the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit.

Follow the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit on Twitter for further announcements about support resources.

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