Lifelong Learning Programme

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Title of Product
Getting around my dyslexia: a personal evaluation of coping strategies
Name of Author(s)
Neil Cottrell
BDA Young Achiever of the Year 2010&Founder of LexAble Ltd.
Name of Producer
PATOSS Bulletin, Vol. 23 N. 2
Date of Production
Winter 2010
Language of the review
Language of the product
Type of product
Web Site
Thematic Area
Students with learning difficulties
Target Group
Students, Parents
Website of the Product
Description of Contents
In his article, Neil Cottrell, reflects on and evaluates some of the coping strategies that had helped him in education and beyond.
The overarching coping strategy and the most important he had learned, was to be open and honest. When he could not use his regular coping strategies he learned to ask. Also when someone asked him, for example, why he used a laptop, he answered frankly, allowing people to ask more questions and eliminating any element of the unknown.
To cope with organization and memory problems, he carried a small notebook (and later a mobile phone) and a pen everywhere he went and trained himself to write down everything that came into his head. In the front page of the notebook, he had a colored-coded school timetable, to check where and when he had to go at any time. The Dictaphone was less useful for him but everyone has to try and decide individually. Moreover he learned to do lists for everything, for the things he had to bring to school, on holiday, to band practice etc.
To reduce the reading difficulties he found three solutions: the first was to build a pack of cards that had letter combinations on the front and examples on the back, the second was to ask people to read for him, and the third, the most important of all, was to use text to speech software. Over time, more material became available in electronic form, but for all the information that was still locked into the printed word he used a scanner.
For the problems related to his spelling, he also found three solutions. Two of them; trying to ignore spelling while he wrote and the autocorrect feature in his word processor, were abandoned, to create a software tool for himself to automatically correct his spelling as he typed in different programs. Over many years Global Autocorrect was born. This enabled him to focus on his ideas instead of on spelling and to learn of his most frequent mistakes at the end of the writing.
- Clarity of structure, logical sequence of contents :

The article has a simple structure: even if it is only 6 pages, it is divided into small paragraphs that clearly show the main themes. It starts with a presentation of the story of the author, and goes on to tell the problems and the solutions he found, and ends with some conclusions and useful links.
In the first part the author explains why he has needed to learn these coping strategies and which difficulties he has had to overcome related to the dyslexia.
The central part is organized into “problems-arguments”; each of them puts into light the difficulties, what he needed to face them and the strategies or the instruments he used to overcome them. For each strategy he gives a comment of the effectiveness’ level.

- Educational and learning value

The article has a high educational value for two main reasons:

1) It reports the experience of a student who faced his disability and reached his full potential, helping other people with the same problems
2) The article is set in an area of the web site BRAIN.HE dedicated to the section Learning Strategies, together with that of Real Stories. This enables comparisons between different stories and the possibility to visit other sections of study and help, which are deeply analyzed.

- Quality and relevancy of content
This article has a high quality level because it clearly analyses many compensative and dispensatory tools for dyslexia, used by the young author who not only lists them but underlies the advantages/disadvantages he found for his problems.
For this reason it offers to the reader, at each point, the possibility to reflect on the strategies used by the author and it stimulates him not to take them passively but to build new ones or adapt the ones proposed to his/her own individuality.

- Compatibility of the content with the target group

The article is set in a site dedicated to Higher Education but it is also very useful for pupils of secondary high school, as the story starts with the experience of the author at school, when he begins to give structure to his compensatory learning method.

- Please also give an overall evaluation of the product

The writing is an effective synthesis of what a pupil with specific disabilities needs to face with his problems and how he needs to relate with the others. It introduces the dyslexia as a “specific” learning disorder, which does not obstacle the understanding, but that, on the contrary, encourages the research for decisive strategies. The author underlines clearly both the aspects of the automatisms’ problem of the specific learning disabilities and the problems related to the short-term memory, which is “less” accepted by the school context and that is wrongly considered as the excuse of a pupil who does not fulfil his school engagements.

Please dedicate a specific section to:

- The transferability potential
The author seems to speak more to the teachers than to the students, but the simplicity and the clearness of the article makes it accessible also to the target group of this form.
Moreover, as the story has a positive conclusion, it can be used as an educational tool to motivate all those students that have learning difficulties, low self-confidence and a serious risk of dropping out the school.

- Points of strength and of weakness
1) The best solution is the balance between self-help and asking for help
2) The consciousness of his own limits is the evidence of his intelligence and the starting point to face his difficulties. The personal engagement and the effort needed to improve his performances are constantly reminded to the reader.
3) Dyslexia is seen as a “disability” as it influences the whole life of a young student.

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.