Literacy is a prized skill in our society. It underpins educational experience and outcomes and provides access to information across all walks of life. Whilst this is not a surprise, what could be a surprise is how poor literacy skills can result in individuals potentially experiencing poor mental health.
One ‘source’ of the problem with poor literacy skills in society is the lack of knowledge and awareness of the impact of dyslexia. Dyslexia is described as a language disorder that affects approximately 10% of the UK population with 4% severely so.
In 2019, the British Dyslexia Association provided a report to MPs across England and Wales about the ‘human cost of dyslexia’. In the resultant report from the meeting of the APPG for Dyslexia, they said the following:
“ Whilst dyslexia is not directly linked to emotional or mental health issues, failing to diagnose dyslexia early, and inadequate support – both academic and emotional – during education and beyond leads often to a short and long term human cost of dyslexia.”
Pennie Aston, founder of Dyslexia aware counseling charity GROOOPS, said in the same report:
“at the extreme end you have someone convinced they are good for nothing and at risk of becoming disconnected with normal humanity.”
These comments relate to the potential knock-on effect on the mental well-being of a person with dyslexia.
With 80% of young people with dyslexia not getting diagnosed at the point of leaving school, it is likely that many young people will be experiencing challenges to not only their engagement with literacy but also with their mental health.
The National Literacy Society summarised a report that they produced about literacy and mental health for young people. They found the following:
“Children who are most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than their peers.”
In a classroom scenario with high levels of teacher and peer pressure focused on getting ever higher levels of grades, it does not take much to understand how a child with dyslexia or challenges with literacy will feel about themselves when compared to those who do not have difficulty with literacy.
It makes sense that organisations such as the British Dyslexia Association are calling for better identification and support of children with dyslexia within early years and onwards because once they start receiving the support they are more likely to be able to unlock their academic potential ultimately boosting self-esteem and positive mental wellbeing outcomes.
Poor mental health outcomes related to poor literacy skills and Dyslexia are avoidable.
At undergraduate levels of education, students with learning difficulties including dyslexia are eligible for support from the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). The impact of awarding a DSA to a student with dyslexia was found to improve their ability to engage with their courses as well as be successful.
In a report from the UK Government, about 60% of students receiving DSA support said that they were satisfied with the support that they received.
The support received includes assistive technology support, AT training and study skills coaching.
A common example of assistive technology that is supplied under the DSA is known as ‘text-to-speech’ technology. This is technology that can read out texts for the user. The video shows how text-to-speech works on a computer:
With all this support being made available at undergraduate level and it being seen to be an effective measure in terms of outcomes, why is this not made available earlier within the academic lifetime of a child or young person especially as many without support then do not go on to experience the benefits of life at University with the DSA providing what they need to be at their best?
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