Preparing for Higher Education with Dyslexia


Transitioning into university can be a challenging time for everyone, let alone those of us with learning disabilities.


The structure is different. The lessons are more content-heavy. The courses are more reliant on you being self-motivated, rather than your teacher providing the motivation for you.

 It’s a whole new world of education that often presents substantial challenges to students with dyslexia, from its structure all the way down to support.

So, what can you do to prepare for higher education with dyslexia? Let’s explore!


Reading Lists


The reading lists at university are far more extensive than they were in high school, with a combination of required and suggested readings.

This is where it’s important to get your highlighter out and distinguish between the two. There will be texts that are essential, often in the form of textbook readings that highlight important theoretical knowledge that is relevant to your course. But there are also additional readings that are thought to add value, but are not critical to your success in the area of study.

For students who get overwhelmed by long lists of heavy reading, focus on the required readings, start earlier than you think you need to and allow for deep focus. An in-depth study of a small number of texts is often more manageable than a broad study of many, so let’s focus on that!

You can also make the most of assistive technologies available, with audio books and text to speech apps making it easy for you to listen, rather than read the course material. Our go-to app is Speechify, and it reads your textbook for you so you can focus on the content, not the process of reading.


Presentation of Material

Course material is often presented in one, very structured way. Not only does this make us want to sink into our seats out of boredom, it often makes us feel restricted to reading the course material, rather than getting creative with other ways to absorb the information.

If your lecturers and tutors are rigid in their approach, it can be helpful to mix up how you consume your reading material at home. Lists, flow charts, concept maps, mind maps – all of these visual diagrams are great for holding your interest and presenting information in new, exciting and memorable ways.

So, get creative and find ways to change up the course material to work for you!


Ask For Help


There is a range of options available to you in higher education, from disability support people and tutors to support groups full of like-minded people.

A lot of new students don’t know that the Access and Equity unit at your university should be able to connect you with a tutor that can help, usually at little to no cost. You can also access tutors through organisations such as the Tutor Association Australia or SPELD, both of which offer paid services across Australia.


You can also find yourself in support groups, full of people who have a similar experience of their transition into higher education. Not only are you there for moral support, you help each other with practical tips on making your studies easier and more accessible.

At Dear Dyslexic, we run a PhD support group, aimed at providing peer support to those with dyslexia who are embarking on, or undertaking, their PhD. If you’re interested in learning more about the group, you can visit our information page here.


Advocacy Work


There is a lot of you can do to help make your higher education experience a good one, but there’s still a long way to go in making all spaces more inclusive and accessible to people with learning disabilities.


But you can advocate for yourself, and students like you, to change the story.


Here at DDF, we were invited to the Victorian Government Parliamentary Inquiry Hearing to discuss access to TAFE for those with learning disabilities. The Committee put forward 44 recommendations with DDF referenced 37 times, showing that our advocacy work will help make TAFE more accessible for those with learning disabilities.


Working with us is just one way you can help advocate for better experiences in higher education. If you’re interested in getting to work in the advocacy space, you can campaign with us to help change the story. Find out how you can get involved here.


Putting Yourself First


With any new adventure you embark on, it’s essential to put yourself first and take care of your mental health.


We have a range of tools on our website to help guide you through mindful practices, which you can find in our Mental Health & Thriving Series. In this series, Shae speaks with psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist Kristal Lau about what’s involved in dyslexic assessment and how they can be helpful in navigating study and work.

We wish all the best for new students embarking on higher education in 2022. And if you need extra support, know that we’re here to help.