Murdoch University Researcher Kathleen Tanner surveyed 150 participants from ages 18 to 80 about their experiences with dyslexia. Dr Tanner tracked their progress while working with them while they studied a Certificate I in Foundation Skills for Adults with Dyslexia at TAFE.
She found most participants had negative experiences at school and work that related to their literacy prior to the TAFE course. Four of the participants in the study had no idea they had dyslexia until they were adults.
“So many people have gone through the education system without acknowledgement of this condition,” she said.
“We live in a society that says if you have good literacy you’re competent but if you don’t then you’re worthless. All the people I interviewed felt that they were dumb because that’s how they’d been made to feel even if they were successful in many other ways.”
Dr Tanner said while there was some education out there for adults with dyslexia, such as the Certificate I in Foundation Skills for Adults with Dyslexia, more understanding was needed among teachers.
“We need to realise that dyslexia must be acknowledged in all educational paradigms and if that happens then teachers will recognise characteristics of dyslexia and this will encourage more dialogue about it.”
Dr Tanner said she found a major shift in the quality of lives of many who participated in her study.
“Prior to the TAFE course many were extremely unhappy with their lives. Some even spoke of ending their lives. We helped them understand the great things they were capable of.”
One of the participants, Shahna Macrae, said the involvement in the study changed her life for the better.
“Kath gave us the confidence to believe in ourselves. I’m reading books and attending courses that I would have never have dreamed of before.”