I’m dyslexic. Will I be able to cope in college?

Ask Brian: Students with additional learning needs can get specialist support at third level

Students with additional learning needs can get specialist support at third level. Photograph: iStock

Students with additional learning needs can get specialist support at third level. Photograph: iStock


I’m dyslexic and struggled a bit in school but managed to secure an offer of a degree course through the CAO’s second round. I’m keen to accept, but am worried that I’ll be a weak fish in a big pond. Can you offer any advice?

It is perfectly natural that you feel a bit apprehensive about moving to college. However, there should be no need to feel worried. Students who have a recognised disability or specific learning disability can get specialist supports.

Most universities offer a wide range of supports to all students once enrolled. I will use UCD as an example of what is replicated in degree awarding colleges throughout the country.

All their academic programmes have a dedicated student adviser who assists students in addressing personal, social and emotional issues. They also offer a wide range of specialised student supports for under-represented students through the access and lifelong learning centre.

This centre has a team of expert staff including a dedicated disability officer, a needs assessment service, academic skills provision, an assistive technology officer, a learning support service, and an occupational therapy service, to assist and support students with disabilities.

Students with disabilities are invited and encouraged to undergo an individual needs assessment.


This process results in the identification of a range of access supports typically including specialist orientation, academic skills, examination supports, learning support, disability support, assistive technology, and digital tools for learning.

Students who require examination supports due to recent injury or illness are also accommodated. Students are actively encouraged to engage in a comprehensive transition programme to assist them in gaining the skills required to become as independent as possible.

This approach affords students with a disability the opportunity to achieve at the highest level and to compete with their peers on the job market post-graduation.

You also mentioned that you are concerned about your stamina. In that case you could consider finding a programme or course where you could take a part-time load.

For example, colleges like UCD now offer open learning, where students can register to a whole range of modules and accumulate the credits at their own pace.

Open learning means you can fit university around your life whether you’re looking to dip your toe in the water or you’ve just finished school and wondering if university is for you. In a nutshell, it gives the benefits of being a full-time student, without the full-time commitment. You could then exit with a certificate and be guaranteed entry to a range of the university’s degrees. The beauty of this programme is that you can also get recognition for your learning when you start your degree later.

I suggest that you reconsider your options and investigate the supports that are in place in your future university. Make contact with their support team and arrange to meet someone to discuss how you can be accommodated.

Email queries to askbrian@irishtimes.com