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Georgia Niolaki dyslexia research – Bath Spa University

BSU lecturer explores creative thinking and support for people with dyslexia

Thursday, 11 April, 2024

According to the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), around 10% of the British population is dyslexic. Senior Lecturer in SpLD/Dyslexia and Inclusion, Dr Georgia Niolaki, is increasing awareness and helping create systems to better support people with dyslexia through her research and outreach initiatives. 

Supporting dyslexic learners 

Georgia, along with colleagues from the Gloucestershire Dyslexia Association (GDA) and Birmingham City University, is working on a knowledge exchange project with schools in the region to increase dyslexia awareness and help create bespoke support plans for learners with dyslexia. 

Talking about how the project came about, Georgia said:  

“I was aware at the time of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Impact Accelerator award. This sparked the idea to approach [GDA Chair of Trustees] Clair Penketh and my colleague from Birmingham City University, Dr Aris Terzopoulos. We were all very excited about the project as there is research evidence that to support students with dyslexia, teachers need a sound knowledge of it first.” 

With advice and feedback from the GDA, the group developed and delivered a series of workshops in six schools around the region. They also created a pre-workshop survey to capture the specific areas and topics the teachers wanted to receive training on. 

“In that way, the support workshops and the knowledge exchange initiative would be meaningful and tailored to their needs and the needs of the local schools,” Georgia said. 

To further support learners and the local community, the project received an HEQR seed funding grant to create bespoke interventions to support reading, spelling, writing and coping strategies, and target the need for teaching and managing dyslexia. Importantly, they are tailored to the specific needs and strengths of each learner. 

The group will present evidence for the effectiveness of the intervention at the British Dyslexia Association International Conference later this year. 

Dyslexia and the creative sector 

Georgia was also recently invited by BBC Bristol to talk about dyslexia in the creative sector. The panel discussion was recorded and is being shared with other BBC branches in the UK as part of their inclusion agenda. 

During the discussion, Georgia explained how dyslexia isn’t just one thing; it affects people in different ways, and while people with dyslexia may face a lot of challenges – particularly within a learning environment – they also bring their own unique strengths: 

“Whenever I do an assessment of an individual who has dyslexia, I always start with their strengths. So it might be visual memory, it might be reasoning, it might be verbal abilities, or they may be an amazing communicator.”

There’s also evidence to suggest that dyslexic people make up a large proportion of people in the creative sector. Reflecting on this, Georgia said: 

“There was an amazing study about art students, and there was a huge proportion of dyslexic learners in the representation of artistic subjects that were explored in this particular study. We need more research, but definitely there is evidence that individuals who have dyslexia are drawn towards the creative industries.” 

Georgia’s work ultimately strives to raise awareness around the challenges that dyslexic people face and how to better accommodate them, but perhaps more importantly, it’s about recognising each person’s strengths and creating an environment in which they can thrive. 

Georgia said: 

“If someone says that dyslexia is a disability, then basically that’s society putting up barriers for and disabling the individual. It's not a disability. Dyslexic people have amazing strengths and amazing abilities, if we allow them to express themselves in the best ways that they can.” 

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