In 2023, The Dyslexia Assocation of Ireland, with funding from The Toy Show Appeal, lauched The Dyslexia Hub, a hub of information for young people and their parents or guardians to learn more about dyslexia and empowering them to understand the condition, in addition to providing information on technologies that could aid them and how parents can access supports and manage the young peoples emotions .
I interviewed the CEO of The Dyslexia Association of Ireland, Rosie Bissett, to find out more:
- What’s the mission of The Dyslexia Association? How do you advocate for dyslexic people in Ireland?
The Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI) works with and for people affected by dyslexia. We work to empower individuals by providing information, offering support services, engaging in advocacy and awareness raising. Our vision is a society that values and meets the needs of people with dyslexia, and where dyslexic individuals reach their full potential in all aspects of life. Services offered by DAI include: information; assessment for dyslexia and dyscalculia; specialist tuition for children and adults; courses for parents; training for teachers and other education personnel; dyslexia awareness training for workplaces; and lobbying and advocacy.
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty or difference that affects 1 in 10. It occurs on a spectrum with some people mildly affected and others more severely. Everyone with dyslexia is different but there is a commonality of difficulties with reading, spelling and writing and related cognitive/processing difficulties. Dyslexia is not a general difficulty with learning, it impacts specific skill areas. The impact of dyslexia can change according to the environment (i.e. what a dyslexic person is being asked to do and under what circumstances). With the right understanding, accommodations and support dyslexia individuals can achieve success in education, the workplace and in wider society.
Our advocacy work is informed by our daily engagements with those affected, and research data from surveys which evidence the needs and barriers faced by dyslexic individuals. We work to raise awareness of these needs and barriers and engage with government departments, agencies and public officials to try to get positive change made.
- What is The Dyslexia Hub? How does it benefit dyslexic people or their parents?
The Dyslexia Hub was an idea which we developed during Covid lockdown and which was generously supported by the Community Foundation of Ireland and the RTE Toy Show fund. The Hub is a free to access online learning site aimed at parents and children to learn. The information is presented in bite-sized chunks and primarily in video format for ease of access. You can access the material anytime, from anywhere – there are no login details or passwords. A key focus was to make the Hub easy to access and free, as many families cannot afford to access training or specialist tuition for their dyslexic children. The Hub seeks to address this need.
- You did a huge amount of research before you launched the Dyslexia Hub. How did this research inform how the Dyslexia Hub was developed?
The Hub was informed by our extensive engagement with our members and the public which enabled us to focus on the priority areas to be addressed. We also had key principles which underpinned the development work. We wanted the content to be accessible and not overwhelming so we focused on priority areas. We also wanted the content to be evidence based, in particular the literacy lessons were developed carefully and informed by the science of reading to maximise effectiveness. In terms of tone, balance was very important, acknowledging the challenges that dyslexia brings and the barriers that can be faced, while also acknowledging the personal strengths that dyslexic people can have. We were also keen to avoid toxic positivity – we do not describe dyslexia as a superpower or make exaggerated claims about gifts that are not evidence-based. The aim was to create informative, free, accessible content that is honest, balanced and evidence-based.
- Can you tell me about the different sections of The Dyslexia Hub? What resources are available in each section?
The Hub has 5 sections. The Structured Literacy section provides video literacy lessons for primary age children based on the science of reading; currently we have 16 levels, and further levels will be launching soon. The Empowering Parents section guides parents through the key information they need from first steps post assessment, talking to your child about dyslexia, to engaging with school and advocating for your child’s needs. The Emotional Wellbeing section aims to support the emotional development of young people with dyslexia covering concepts such as self-esteem, confidence, resilience, motivation and managing negative self-talk. Without support and understanding, dyslexia can impact a person’s self-esteem and we hope to give some guidance to ensure we all do the best we can in promoting strong, stable self-esteem development. The Technology section (developed in collaboration with Wriggle) demonstrates useful assistive technology for the most commonly used devices and software. Our focus is on the free and inbuilt tools that enable text to speech (read aloud) and speech to text (dictation or voice typing) as well as some other useful accessibility features relevant for individuals with dyslexia. The Voices of Dyslexia section shares personal journeys from those with first-hand experience of dyslexia – they are honest, insightful and hopeful, and designed to prompt discussions and reflections within families as they watch them.
- How did you go about launching the Dyslexia Hub? What advice would you have for launching a service in this area?
The Hub was launched in December 2023 via a social media and email campaign to our existing network of members and to all primary schools, and includes some online advertising. We are engaged in ongoing promotions which will also be linked with the addition of further content to the hub. Online promotion is very effective, especially for reaching parents of primary age children, who are the primary target group for the Hub. Our Facebook has the widest reach, and Instagram is also growing very strongly.
- You have a very powerful video of dyslexic people describing how their dyslexia affected them in the past, and how it still affects them now. How did the video come about? How did you go about selecting the people to appear in the video?
The Voices of Dyslexia section is one we are particularly proud of. We wanted to share a diverse range of experiences, different ages, genders, different careers, to showcase the spectrum and diversity of the dyslexia experience. We reached out to a cross section of individuals who we had previous engagements with to give us a broad cross section of experience and voices, and we are so thankful to those who took part and shared their personal stories and insights with such passion and honesty.
- How is The Dyslexia Hub funded? Would you have any advice on how to go about funding a campaign such as this?
The development of the Dyslexia Hub was funded by an RTÉ Toy Show grant from the Community Foundation of Ireland. The timing of our idea during lockdown coincided with the first RTE Tow Show appeal, and the strong focus on free, accessible, evidenced based learning strengthened our application. The move to online learning during lockdown also showed what was possible and opened many up to the benefits of online learning.
- The campaign has received a lot of media attention and paid advertising. What channels has the organisation found most impactful for the service?
We have worked to maximise our existing networks and databases to help promote the channel. Paid advertising was only done on social media, as it is more affordable on a charity budget. The concept has been well received, and we are delighted to have secured some mentions in the mainstream media to help disseminate the Hub to an even wider audience.
- What has been the impact since the hub launched? How successful has it been?
We have had very positive feedback to date from those who have been engaging with the hub and the videos. Parents have found the content easy to access and digestible. The literacy lessons are popular and parents are reassured as the content is evidence-based. The lessons are also not too long to keep children engaged – little and often is key, building in reinforcement of learning and opportunities to repeat and consolidate the learning. The Voices of Dyslexia section in particular has been very popular as the videos are so impactful and really deepen understanding of the spectrum of dyslexia experiences.
- Are there any other businesses in the Irish Diversity and Inclusion areas that you are big fans of? Particularly in the area of empowering people with Dyslexia?
We admire any organisation that is working towards being inclusive of dyslexia, both deepening our understanding of dyslexia and ensuring that their organisations are dyslexia inclusive, approachable and affirmative.