Dolphin Computer Access Ltd.
The high incidence of dyslexia and reported literacy issues within the UK's prison population has sent alarm bells ringing over literacy levels across the board in the UK. In this article, Dolphin's Education Consultant Sarah Smye-Rumsby discusses why it is so important that support for learners with dyslexia and low literacy is provided from an early age.
The incidence of dyslexia in the UK is thought to be around 10% of the general population. However, when you look into different demographic groups the estimated incidence of the reading and writing disorder gives a far more startling impression. For example, the British Dyslexia Association's "Teach dyslexic Britain" campaign estimates that up to 50% of the prison population have dyslexia.
Beyond dyslexia, the number of people who are reported to have low literacy levels is even higher. The National Literacy Trust's 2011 "State of the Nation" report suggested that 1 in 6 adults (around 16% of the population) in the UK have a reading age below that of an 11 year old. Further, their 2008 "Literacy Changing Lives" report found that:
The point here is not that people who have dyslexia, or who have low literacy levels are predisposed to commit crimes. The point is that literacy forms a big part of getting by in today's society. If you can't read or write, your opportunities in education and employment are severely hampered. Are the learners with dyslexia and low literacy today going to end up on the government's NEET statistics tomorrow?
The estimated social, employment, health and offending costs of not supporting dyslexia in schools is £2.5 billion annually. In an era where every penny of Government spending is under scrutiny, supporting learners with dyslexia and low literacy is certainly a solid place to start.
The costs associated with not providing opportunities for people with dyslexia and low literacy can be avoided. To do this, provision needs to be in place to support literacy across the board in the UK, in our schools, colleges and workplaces. Supporting disaffected readers now will help create more opportunities for young people in the future.
Every single day, school leaders, teachers and teaching assistants up and down the country are taking proactive steps to provide opportunities to every student who walks through their school gates. In addition to this, there are new campaigns, services and products which are available to support the work teachers are doing. Here's a few of the more recent ones:
Both Dyslexia Action and British Dyslexia Association are campaigning for dyslexia to be mandatory for all teacher training, which is essential to ensure that all teachers understand dyslexia, its impact on learning and what constitutes dyslexia friendly practice.
Sign the BDAs petition at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20674
The use of text-to-speech computer software has been proven to not only assist learners with their reading and writing, but provide a degree of independence in the classroom and at home. The 2010 Department for Education Accessible Resources Pilot Project found that 71% of learners with dyslexia showed an improvement in their reading and writing through the use of simple technology to read back text and offer spell checking options.
Off the back of these findings, Dolphin launched My Accessible School. My Accessible School offers schools an onsite accessibility assessment, software to create accessible versions of learning resources, full access to text-to-speech software for reading and writing at school and at home, and training in how the software can be best used to benefit learners with dyslexia.
The RNIB and Dyslexia Action have recently launched Load2Learn, a service to provide accessible curriculum materials to learners who cannot use standard print materials. Find out more on the Load2Learn website.
Meet Sarah Smye-Rumsby