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Now that the A-level results are out, then getting organised to go to university is now in full swing.  It is a worrying time for any student, but being dyslexic and going to university adds a whole new dimension to the experience.

For some dyslexics, that journey may have been a long and challenging one. Some of the less pleasant memories might have started to fade, but those tears of anger and frustration, the self-doubt; the constant battle with the school to try and get the help that was so desperately needed may be still be deeply felt. Luckily that is all in the past; all those years of hard work and determination have paid off and that university offer is just waiting to be taken up.

Being worried or stressed about A-levels and university is not something that is purely confined to students. No doubt there are a great many parents who lay awake at night worrying about how their dyslexic son or daughter will cope; not only will this probably be their first time away from home, but mum and dad won’t be around to provide that help and support which they have come to rely on.

Added to this can be the realisation that their offspring may have inherited that dyslexia gene from a close family member. Having watched their son or daughter struggle throughout their lives, then they feel they are in some way to blame. Perhaps they could have done more to help. If only there was something that they could do now that would make studying at university easier.

It is of course only natural to feel this way, but having spoken to parents with a dyslexic son or daughter, then they are often relieved to realise that they are not alone and that there a great many other parents who feel exactly the same.

That is why I am saddened that there are so many dyslexic students and parents of dyslexic students, who are totally unaware that there is help available in the form of Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

This is a pot of money that every dyslexic student, (regardless of age), who is studying for a higher education qualification that is eligible for student finance has the opportunity to claim. Even better is that fact that it doesn’t have to be paid back, neither is it means tested, so income or savings are not taken into account.

In order to claim DSA, students must have an up to date formal dyslexia diagnostic assessment, which has been carried out by a Dyslexia Specialist who holds an Accessing Practising Certificate (APC) and is therefore qualified to carry out DSA dyslexia assessments. The accompanying report, which is used as proof of dyslexia, is then sent off with the DSA claim form.

A full DSA diagnostic assessment complete with report usually costs in the region of £400 – £650, but the benefits of claiming DSA far outweigh this initial cost. Students eligible to claim for DSA can receive up to £5,161 for a laptop/computer, Dictaphone, scanning pen, including assistive technology software that reads text books and speech to text editors to make assignment or essay writing easier.

There is an additional sum for a study support tutor or non-medical helper, which can be up £20,520 (dependent upon need). For general expenses, such as photocopying, etc, then up to £1,724 may also be claimed to cover these costs.

To be eligible to claim for DSA, then students must:-

  • Have a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia
  • Be an undergraduate or postgraduate student (including Open University or distance learning)
    • Have a condition that affects their ability to study
    • Qualify for student finance from Student Finance England
    • Be studying on a course that lasts at least a one year

The course must be in the UK and the student must be studying for one of the following qualifications:-

  • First degree –  BA, BSc or BEd
  • Foundation Degree
  • Certificate of Higher Education
  • Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)
  • Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE)
  • A postgraduate course
  • Initial Teacher Training
  • Further training of youth and community workers

Having worked with clients who have claimed DSA, then I know how it has made studying easier and in a number of cases, has made the difference between a dyslexic student getting or not getting their degree.

Having asked Kate, one of my ex-students, just how much of a difference DSA had made to her, then her reply says it all.

‘What is so great is that I can now work in real time. The software helps me to write reports and proof read my own work and I am now definitely reading more. I would say to anyone who is dyslexic and studying at university or studying for a degree with the OU – don’t waste the fantastic opportunity to claim DSA. I am so glad that I didn’t.’

©Jacqui Flisher 2013