Advice For Dyslexics Who Want to Attend College


I just came across your web site, but I'm not sure if I am in the right place.

I am trying to help my 17 year old daughter in her college search – we want to help her select a school where she can succeed. She has had an IEP since she was in first grade – she has a type of learning issue memory/dyslexia. I know some students with dyslexia are able to find work-arounds to be successful; my daughter struggles, spelling simple words – and often reading them – is daunting. She has shied away from the hard work as much as she can, so her writing abilities are really not grade appropriate. Some folks have told us that maybe college just is not her thing, though she has two older siblings currently in college so she desperately wants to go.

Do you have any suggestions on how to determine what type of a school is good for her? How to set her up for success? Any places with dyslexia-specific programs? How to get a mentor or tutor to help her make the transition?

Any info would be great!

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

First, your daughter should absolutely NOT give up on her dream to attend college! Many dyslexics are successful in undergraduate programs and beyond.

That said, she will need to have the proper skills and tools to succeed. Since she has an IEP, the transition planning should have begun when she entered high school – the school team should be teaching her the skills she needs and her accommodations should be in place.

    She should be learning how to use all of the myriad technology that is available for dyslexic students, including dictation software, such as Dragon Dictate & audiobooks. She would benefit from a subscription to Learning Ally which, if she doesn't have, someone on her special education team should have hooked her up with long ago. Here are other suggestions that might benefit her (depending on her profile of strengths and weaknesses:
  • Text-to-speech conversion tools (such as Balabolka, Capti Narrator, Kurzweil, Learning Ally, Natural Reader, Read and Write Gold, or Read Please)
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology (such as The KNFB Reader) is becoming more advanced and allows for text to be photographed and then converted to speech. This would be of value when electronic versions of text are not available.
  • Spelling and grammar checkers (such as Ginger or Grammarly
  • Notetaking
  • Writing

She should have self-advocacy goals and she should know her diagnosis and how to communicate her strengths and challenges to teachers, as well as know her accommodations and how to request them.

Dr. Ryan has many more pieces that might be of interest to her. He is dyslexic and succeeded in college. Today, he has a Ph.D. in psychology and assesses and diagnoses dyslexia.

Your daughter should also read some of the Success Stories on DyslexiaHelp. And, she should start with this one. Shaun has many helpful suggestions for the young dyslexic.

This information regarding dyslexia in college should also be helpful. For some students, beginning at a community college is a viable option, so if that rings positive for her, she might want to look into that. And this page with general help for your child going off to college.

As I said at the beginning, she should not give up on her dream. It may take a different route than the traditional one, but the main issue is for her to be able to reach her potential and pursue her dreams!