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Dec 21, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The proportion of university students in the UK who are dyslexic has been steadily rising in recent years. And while dyslexic students now comprise five percent of the total population, there is still a significant attainment gap. Which begs the question: since there’s no link between dyslexia and intelligence, what explains the disparity?

Here’s a closer look at why experts say this gap exists, along with what universities can do to fix the problem, as reported by The Guardian.

Outdated Attitudes

A major contributing factor to the attainment gap? Outdated attitudes among university staff. But this is just part of it. Politics lecturer Christopher Byrne argues, “Even where it is accepted as a condition rooted in an inability to match spoken sounds with their written forms, the accommodations made to level the playing field for dyslexic students are often inadequate.”

Specifically, most universities take only basic measures, such as giving students with dyslexia extra time and marking their work “for content”, and in doing so fail to acknowledge other struggles faced by many dyslexic students, including everyday tasks ranging from timekeeping to using short-term memory.

Closing the Gap

According to Byrne, universities can do their part to reverse the trend by committing to make themselves more amenable to dyslexic students. This can include everything from using dyslexia-friendly fonts to implementing clearer procedures for dyslexia screenings to catch undiagnosed dyslexia. Byrne also calls for stricter guidelines for teaching staff regarding monitoring student action plans.

Moving beyond the concept of one-size-fits-all accommodations is also in order. “Given that dyslexia is a highly variable condition, and one better thought of as a continuum than a categorical diagnosis, it is not possible to specify in advance which accommodations individuals might need. What we do know is that promoting a wider range of accommodations will help level the uneven playing field for dyslexic students,” explains Byrne.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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