In a bid to put the spotlight on the need for higher education institutions in India to enable students with dyslexia to pursue education seamlessly, academicians, practitioners, industry experts, parents, students, and policymakers recently discussed pathways for making these institutions inclusive for such students.
“40 per cent of the world’s self-made billionaires are dyslexic. Yet 35 per cent are likely to drop out and never get a higher education. It’s time we started these conversations to make our institutes of higher learning more inclusive,” Noopur Jhunjhunwala, monitoring, evaluation, and partnerships coordinator, UN Women India MCO, said at a virtual conference titled ‘The Dyslexic Mind: Thinking Differently about Higher Education’ hosted by Ashoka University in collaboration with Change INKK Trust.
Jhunjhunwala highlighted that dyslexia is a lifelong condition that impacts 20 per cent of our population.
Meanwhile, Dr Nandini Chatterjee, cognitive neuroscientist, UNESCO MGIEP opined that identifying children early is key to making a difference in policy including them. “Children must be assessed in their mother tongue and the second language whenever assessments happen,” Dr Chatterjee stressed.
Further calling for the implementation of universal screening for dyslexia and specific learning disabilities, she added, “reading acquisition in multi-literate societies must mandate assessments in all languages of instruction and must include the mother-tongue.”
At the same time, Dr Sally Shaywitz, co-founder and co-director, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, remarked that dyslexia is powered by exciting scientific discoveries.” Reflecting on this new data, US federal law defines dyslexia as an unexpected difficulty in reading in a person who has the intelligence to be a better reader. While slow readers, dyslexics have an incredible sea of strengths in big picture high-level thinking,” she said.
Dr Shaywitz asserted that dyslexics are intelligent, innovative, and resilient and can succeed in any field including medicine, science, writing, business, architecture, and engineering. “With the right support aligned with science, they excel in every part of their lives,” she said.
Explaining the practical implication of making higher education more inclusive, Marie Saddlemire, assistant director, Academic Center for Excellence, Access Services, Bryant University, talked about focussing on all students rather than limiting design concepts only to cater to students with disabilities. “For instance, adding captions to videos played helps students to know better on what is being discussed in the classroom and to better access the material,” she pointed out.
Experts also evaluated the need to encourage a neurodiverse student body in universities and set up support offices for students with dyslexia in higher education institutions.
Further, the conference discussed various issues in two other panels. One of them titled ‘The Voices – Braving the Stigma’ explored the journeys of panellists with dyslexia who went from seeing it as a disability to accepting and turning it around as a gift.
Panellists also discussed ‘dyslexia and future of work’ that highlighted the need for recruiters to explore ways on how to make work environments best suitable for employees with dyslexia as workspaces continue to change rapidly.