Swinburne partners with SPELD Victoria

The Australian, May 2017: In an Australian first, Swinburne University has become the first to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with SPELD Victoria to help students with dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties.

Swinburne University has become the first to sign a new agreement to help students with dyslexia and learning difficulties.
Disability organisation SPELD Victoria expects to partner with two more universities by the end of the year as the demand-driven system brings in a broader student cohort.

Annabelle Duncan, vice-chancellor of the Armidale-based University of New England, is one of those interested.
SPELD patron Keith Houghton said: “Universities are no longer elite — more and more people who are dyslexic or have other learning disabilities are getting within the population of universities.”

The agreement with Swinburne will involve a range of measures — including internships, research, workshops and professional learning opportunities — to support those with learning difficulties.
Professor Houghton, who has been in the news because of his research into university efficiency, was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 12.

“I basically read none of my books in high school, in my case it was my mother who read me everything,” he said.
“Dyslectics often have really good memory.”

Although a teacher had called him “dumb dumb” in class he went on to graduate from the University of Melbourne, returning 15 years later as Fitzgerald professor of accounting.
He retired as emeritus professor and dean of business and economics at the Australian National University, and is the principal of Research Coaching Australia. “The point is that you can be academically talented and dyslexic,” he said. “I am good quantitatively.”
“I’m in the rather odd position of having written more books than I’ve read. I’ve never read my PhD thesis, my wife read that.
“I outed myself (as dyslexic) when I was a professor at Melbourne.”
Having others read for him had helped level the educational playing field. “Now there’s all sorts of technology — amazing technology — and there are other interventions that are more effective,” he said.

Professor Houghton handles email with text-to-speech and voice-activated software now available at a fraction of the cost 10 years ago.

SPELD cites research by La Trobe University’s Matt Brett that there are more than 100,000 students in higher education who have some form of disability.

Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus is the venue tomorrow evening for a SPELD workshop — titled “Transition to TAFE or university with a specific learning difficulty” — aimed at students and parents.

SPELD — the letters refer to specific learning difficulties — is a charity.