Providing Notes to Students with Dyslexia

Students with dyslexia find it almost impossible to take notes during a class lecture. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disorder. Dyslexia makes it hard to read, write and spell, and taking notes during a lecture causes the dyslexic student to make a choice – do I listen and absorb the information, or do I try to take notes? Students with dyslexia who try to take notes report getting so lost in the writing process of spelling, that they sacrifice cognitive thought used to understand what the teacher is saying, and end up with a lousy copy of notes at the end. Most dyslexic students choose not to take notes.

William Van Cleve, a writing instructor who taught English at US dyslexia schools, states that for dyslexics, writing rarely becomes a “back burner” activity. Meaning that the brain of a student with dyslexia, will spend so much energy thinking about letter formation, spelling, spacing, etc. that they sacrifice the cognitive ability to listen while writing down what a teacher is saying.

The most common and MOST HELPFUL 504 accommodation for a middle-school and high school student with dyslexia is providing pre-printed notes and study guides. It is also the one that schools and teachers balk at providing the most. For traditional students, writing notes is a key tool for learning material. It reinforces what they have heard. However, for a child with a language-based learning disorder like dyslexia, dysgraphia, or disorder of written expression, writing down information hurts the learning process instead of improving it.

I run a dyslexia learning center, and I have a child with dyslexia. He could never take notes, and he never wanted to miss a day of school because if he didn’t hear the lecture, he could not pass the class. Imagine the stress of knowing you can’t take notes, and that you must memorize and learn the information a teacher is giving, the moment it falls from her lips? My son, by his junior year, learned to study in groups, with students who were good note takers. They knew he had dyslexia, and they didn’t mind sharing their resources and studying together. But, prior to his junior year, he was too embarrassed to employ this technique. I, despite all my knowledge of dyslexia, was never able to convince his middle or high school to grant him filled-out study guides for his classes.

College students often are able to print out powerpoints of lectures before class, and have them as a resource during lecture and for test prep. Middle and high school students with dyslexia deserve this accommodation.

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