The talk focused on dyslexia support as a University-wide practice and how the University of Westminster is proposing to meet the needs of students with dyslexia in light of recent legislative and funding changes.
They told the audience that Westminster is building upon the reasonable adjustments already available and is ensuring that there are no gaps left by funding cuts. For example, printer and photocopying credits have been doubled for students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD). The University has a means-tested computer cost assistance fund for all disabled students applying for the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) which can pay £200 towards a laptop. This is important as recent changes in DSA funding mean that students are now required to pay this amount in order to get a laptop for specialist software, which often cannot run on their existing laptop. Also, specialist mind-mapping software is available via the main network to support planning of work, as well as text to speech software which can support proofreading.
Additionally, Westminster now has more permanent staff available to provide specialist one-to-one tuition for students with specific learning difficulties. Disability learning Support has provided training to staff, across all faculties, on what it means to have an inclusive curriculum and continue to work towards this in the University.
Held at Richmond American University, the conference titled ‘Diverse Learning: The challenges and opportunities of working with dyslexic, dyspraxic and dyscalculic students’ was attended by leading thinkers in the subject, students as well as academic and professional members of staff.
The topics covered included student experience and how to support students with dyslexia across different academic subjects and processes such as mathematics, languages, creative imagination, and developing an inclusive curriculum. The link between well-being and dyslexia was also discussed.
The Westminster Specific Learning Difficulties Advisers received an overwhelmingly positive feedback, and the relationship between the two universities is expected to develop and allow for continued sharing of good practice to further enhance the student experience.
Rebecca Parkin said: “Individual support is about recognising an individual’s strengths and successes and collaboratively building on these, and developing robust and transferable strategies to allow students to demonstrate their abilities and achieve their potential. This is further supported by working towards greater accessibility and inclusivity across the University which will further improve the student experience.”
A third year student with dyslexia, who has previously accessed the University’s SpLD support services, said: "One-to-one tutorials have helped me improve my writing skills and time management. My tutor has shown me new effective and efficient writing styles and has given me tools to manage my time more appropriately."