Reader/Writers for Students – A blessing or a curse

Recently I interviewed a young man who had successfully completed a degree at university. He was looking to pursue the career dreams and had hit a hurdle. He was dyslexic and he was unable to read or write. He was the second twenty-something that I had interviewed in recent months facing the same dilemma – how to operate in the real world?

As parents of children with learning differences, we do our very best to help them through school. Getting the academic support required to be successful in the educational environment is financially (and emotionally) draining. Costly reports have to be obtained to “qualify” for special provisions of readers and/or writers and/or time. In the early years, they rarely produce additional support in school, but once formal exams are looming, the reports become essential.

For the dyslexic, the provision of a reader and/or writer for exams seems like a blessing – at last they can show their true potential without the barrier of reading or writing. My pseudo research tells me that girls are more open to reader/writers than boys and boys will usually, after much persuasion, accept a writer but rarely a reader. Once the dyslexic reaches university, assignments can be done in various ways and reader/writers are available for exams. It all sounds too good to be true – unfortunately, it is.

We have come a long way since the word dyslexia is only whispered or thought to be a nonsense made up by lazy people, but how far have we come? Have we really accepted dyslexia as a learning difference or have we really made provision for it so that the human rights people get off our backs? 

Providing reader/writers is not leveling the playing field, it is papering over the cracks. Rather than providing reader/writers, why not provide voice recognition software or laptops along with typing tuition? Why not give dyslexics the tools to be successful in the school system as well as giving them life skills to equip them for the work place?

Special provisions for students with learning differences are essential. Let’s make sure that when we make the provision, we are providing life skills at the same time so that they can become independent, successful people in whatever they choose to do.

In New Zealand, we appear to be undergoing a technological explosion in our schools. The local rural college made headlines by making iPads compulsory for all students. The argument is that technology is a fact of life and the earlier our students get used to integrating it into their studies, the more successful they will be in life. Let’s hope consideration is being given to our students with learning differences, so they can also participate in this learning revolution.