Assistive Tech and Exams

Georgia Ryan

By Georgia Ryan, Youth Ambassador, Dyslexia Mid North Coast, Australia.

“I know that teaching is the one occupation that has the potential to change the world. With your help we can change the world for every student that may be struggling.”

Georgia Ryan

Georgia Ryan is a student and Youth Ambassador for the Dyslexia Mid North Coast in New South Wales, Australia. Georgia was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia in her last year of primary school. Since then, she has become a passionate campaigner, petitioning for the inclusion of a compulsory module on learning difficulties, for all teachers.

Georgia is a creative musician and a formidable global advocate, raising positive awareness for people with dyslexia. Nessy asked Georgia to write a blog piece about advice for teenagers with dyslexia. Here she talks about standardised testing and helpful technology.

Part 2

Standardised Testing

OK I’m not going to lie but this to me is the worst part of being a student with dyslexia. EVER.

Unfortunately, these hugely important, formal, ‘my-whole-future-depends-on-this’ exams are scary for everyone. But when you have dyslexia, the stress and anxiety can be magnified beyond compare.

In our one-size-fits-all education systems, there is no escape from these sorts of tests. Our brains are wired differently to how most education systems teach, and it seems like no matter how much I study and revise, my marks never, ever seem to reflect my efforts.

Unfortunately, I have no suggestions to make these tests easier. But here’s the thing, I NEVER let these marks define me. It’s ok to be disappointed when you don’t do as well as you had hoped, but then remember this, you are so much more than a mark on a test. You know what you know, and standardised tests are never going to be able to reflect this. All they really tests are how good you are at remembering things, and whether or not you can complete questions in a given timeframe. Standardised tests can never test for things that really matter. Your exam results DO NOT define you.

In Australia we also have a standardised test called NAPLAN, that tests literacy and numeracy in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Each year there is a big debate about whether those of us with a learning difference should sit this exam or withdraw, and each year I get so many people messaging me to ask if I did them. I can never begin to answer this question for anyone else, as there are always other issues like anxiety and stress involved, but I personally have always sat these tests. It is the only way that students of all abilities are going to be counted. We need these results to reflect EVERY student. It is also good practice to show you what it is like to sit a formal exam, so you can have the experience, knowing that the marks will have no bearing on your grades.

Assistive Tech

This is where us teenagers excel. We are the champions of using tech and could probably show the rest of the world how it’s done! OK, this is one thing I feel comfortable giving advice on, and not just a suggestion: use every piece of assistive technology that you possibly can. I even wrote this piece using multiple forms of assistive tech.

There is no denying that early identification and intervention for anyone with a learning difference is the most important tool in helping those of us with dyslexia, but if you’re like me, and didn’t find out you had dyslexia until you were almost in high school then assistive tech will be helpful to you. Or perhaps you have a Learning Plan and accommodations in place, but you still need some extra help or you need something that helps you to participate more in the classroom and keep up? This is where assistive tech helps us. Do not let anyone tell you that assistive tech is cheating. It is NOT!

Assistive tech is just a tool we use to help us complete a particular task. Assistive tech includes things like, speech-to-text, text-to-speech, spelling and grammar checkers, audiobooks, mind mapping, C-Pens, scaffolding, software and digital hardware, as well as using a device to type rather than write.

Using a device also allows me to listen to music whilst I work, which helps me to concentrate, but this might just be me! (In case anyone is interested I’m currently listening to Lime Cordiale as I write/type this).”

Check the Nessy blog next week for more advice from Georgia!

You can visit Georgia’s social media here:

By Georgia Ryan