Studying with SEND

Studying with SEND

By Induction and SEND Specialist Luke Eames

‘I really struggle with learning.’ ‘I find it difficult to study independently.’ ‘I found school really tough so would be no good at University or distance learning.’ 

These are common statements from learners with some form of special educational need (SEND) whether that be dyslexia, ADHD, Autism or another learning difficulty, but they shouldn’t be limiting factors in progressing to HE. Whilst the level and type of support you receive is slightly different to school it is still there and there are lots of tips and tricks to help you succeed with your studies. So; if you have SEND and have found yourself saying one, or all, of those statements, this is for you.  

Before you even get to university there is lots that you can do to help yourself. This may be through the use of technology or individual study techniques.  

Voice to text – Most people nowadays are familiar with voice to text. Whether it’s briefly to write a text message or to construct whole documents; it’s part of everyday life and widely recognized. You can set up voice to text for free on most devices and speak whilst watching your words effortlessly transform into an essay. This form of access arrangement will be accepted by most if not all universities and usually do not carry penalties (confirm with your university), some universities have their own software available when you get to them which will enable you to practice for your exams.  

Text to speech – Like voice to text software this is also used regularly; it is readily available for free and easy to use. If you struggle with reading, then this will definitely help you. There are lots available, so it is difficult to recommend one, but do some research and find the one that suits you best. Most of the popular internet browsers will be able to assist you with this very successfully.  

Visual stress – if letters and words move around when you’re reading, or you struggle to focus when reading, then you may be struggling with visual stress. Take the colour test here and see if your reading improves when on a certain colour. If it does, and you find a colour that best suits you, then change the colour of your screen or document to that colour. If reading physical books, then a coloured overlay (available online) might be really useful for you.  

Break your work down into small steps – if you feel you have trouble with processing then it is really useful to break your work right down. Essay writing for example – rather than planning the whole essay break it down into sections, use headings to outline what you want to say and write it section by section giving yourself time between each section to think, process and then perform.  

Use visual prompts – if you are a visual learner then it is very useful to use visual prompts to support your studies. These can be doodles, using different colours or finding videos to help you better understand what you are learning. There are so many platforms online that will be able to support you no matter what stage of your learning you are at. Most universities also record their lectures so you can watch them back – you can also record them yourself for future reference.  

Note and annotate – when reading texts it can be difficult to understand what it is telling you, particularly if there is lots of new vocabulary in there. Make note of new vocabulary and research it. This can be a really good practice for processing what you are learning. Vocab wheels are really useful for learning new words, understanding them and using them in other contexts.  

Reach out – if you find yourself struggling with your studies then reach out to your tutors. It might not be that you do not understand something, more that you do not understand that particular way it has been presented. Teachers and tutors are all trained in the practice of ‘chunking and scaffolding’ which ultimately means making the work accessible to you. You may have a question re-worded and instantly become a pro, knowing the answer straight away! 

So, should SEND stop you from studying? Absolutely not, all universities are equipped to support you in your studying and to be successful.  

When applying for university make sure you make contact with the SEND department and arrange a conversation with them, find out what they offer in terms of support and what can be put in place for assessment.  

Here at Access Courses Online we are more than happy to make reasonable adjustments to enable your progression to HE.  


So, what's stopping you? Let’s SEND you to uni! 


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