What role might UDL (Universal Design for Learning) play for Dyslexics?

Last Updated on October 6, 2023 by Editorial Team

How to make classrooms suitable for a diverse student population? It is certainly a point worth pondering and a lot has been done in this direction. Schools, colleges, and universities in the US accept students from all age groups, professional backgrounds, linguistics, and those managing difficulties like Dyslexia. The concept of genuinely accommodating classrooms gets the tangible manifestation in the form of UDL or Universal Design for Learning. 

It is the reformative resource pool to make education easier and educators accessible to all in classrooms or other preferred places. How is UDL changing the situation for Dyslexia-struck students and other people for the better? We will explain in this post through:

  • UDL – Laws and their support for Dyslexia
  • Role of UDL in a class to support dyslexics
  • UDL strategies to apply for accommodating Dyslexia
  • Conclusion

So, let’s begin!

UDL –  Laws and their support for dyslexia 

Americans with Disability Act came into force in 1990 and underwent updation in 2008, the year in which fair opportunities to learn and work were proposed for students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties. 

The staggering figure of 20% of the US population suffering from some of the other learning difficulties and concentration issues propelled the education reformers to keep working in this direction. The ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act and Every Student Succeeds Act are some of the conscious and sincere laws that have leveled the playing field for enormously talented and gifted learners who cannot come forth and meet the curriculum requirements due to the neurobiological composition of their minds. 

Keeping with the working formulas as proposed in these acts, UDL implementation in classrooms and curriculums has become a fiery movement. The school authorities are working on various levels to make their environment, classroom routines, and instructions for studying collectively suitable for all. 

Not only for dyslexia and learning difficulties but UDL is also needed to add features in the classrooms that are growing more diverse with changing times. According to a paper[1], a few of the recommendations that see UDL principles in action are:

  • Accommodations of time: Allowing extra time to express the learning attained in the class
  • Scaffolding: Breaking the lecture into parts to allow better grasping and building skills gradually
  • Accommodations of space: Uploading the lectures and instructional videos on YouTube or e-learning platforms to help students learn on devices at the place of preference
  • Use of additional media: Voiceovers, video transcripts, text-only sources, etc. to ease imbibing of ideas
  • Need-based group learning: Offering scope for discussing the topics and making projects in groups to help students share their understanding and fill the learning gaps.

Laws definitely have provided the framework to implement UDL and make learning a seamless process for all. If you are a teacher or a parent trying to make UDL work for your dyslexic ward, take a clue or two from the roles and strategies as explained below.

Role of UDL in a class to support dyslexics – content review

UDL implementation in the classroom environment gets its support from various educational researchers. The authorities, too, adopt a proactive approach to make the environment ‘ready-to-use’ and effective in delivering a sense of belonging to all incumbents. A few observations made in regard to the role of UDL in a classroom in the works published in various years emphasize learner satisfaction among various other outcomes.

According to CAST, 2020[2], the UDL stimulates the brain networks of representation, expression, and engagement. Thus, the classroom provides a fostering environment as per the cranial framework that students apply in learning and internalizing new skills.

UDL offers a disruption-free learning environment[3] with the help of flexible learning spaces. The use of floor mats, bean bags, space for movement, and sitting in homogenous groups (groups of people with common needs) led to a streamlined and distraction-free classroom design.

The use of UDL can help deepen interest in learning as the students get the freedom to take up the instructions in the ways comfortable to them. Also, the flexibility of using different modes of expression like text-to-speech converters means to express through models, projects, etc. provides a sense of ownership of ideas to students, helping them become more confident.

Goal-directed learning is enabled by UDL as the goals posters, reminders, emails, or notices provided as support tools to students make them acutely aware of the lessons to learn and the timeline to follow[4]. They find it challenging in a positive manner and are constructively driven to reach them. It justifies the enormous learning potential learners with Dyslexia are born with. 

UDL promotes the use of software and digital solutions as well, which can simplify learning complex topics like chemical reactions[5]. Thus, Dyslexia does not stop avid learners from studying sciences or taking up professional courses at colleges and universities. 

UDL strategies to apply for accommodating dyslexia

UDL strategies are not limited to improving the learners’ mindset towards upskilling only. These strategies encompass the teachers’ requirements and the need to alter pedagogical as well as andragogical approaches too. 

1. Strategies of engagement

  • Learn about weaknesses and strengths through informal interviews, observe the tools that attract students, take regular feedback, and prompt students to suggest strategies to solve assignments. 
  • Use of cultural references and real-life examples, demonstration methods that are in tune with students’ varying sensibilities, etc. 
  • Introducing more relatable resources like applications, games, and manipulatives to beat the phobias of subjects. These resources are to be employed keeping dyslexia requirements in mind.
  • The think-pair-share approach is another UDL-enabled engagement strategy where the students apply their previous knowledge and think of the connection with the ongoing lesson, pair with groups or individuals to enrich it further, and then, use the correct sharing method to express to a bigger audience.

2. Strategies to encourage the expression of knowledge

  • Employing collaborative learning tools, encouraging the use of projects and models, and doing group activities where concepts are employed.
  • Giving extra time to write papers or solve assignments or come up with flexible modes of delivering assignments 
  • Promoting the use of language translators, etc. to help students express themselves freely and comfortably 

3. Motivational strategies to remove psychological barriers

  • The role of Dyslexia in developing psychological withdrawal symptoms is adequately covered by various studies. The motivational strategies help manage phobias and learning anxieties.
  • The teachers need to follow the principles of empathy, encouragement, normalizing the ways of expressing, and appreciation to move students to try harder and be consistent learners. 
  • Inducing the ideas of befriending the environment and adopting ways to make it familiar to the students are some actionable strategies that aim at improving motivational levels.

4. Instructional strategies to make the classroom inclusive:

  • Use of tools that promote visual learning, such as graphs, organizers, calendars, posters, etc. to offer an engaging replacement for text-based materials.
  • Planning course routines and lesson plans and designing instructional PPTs to bring all the students on the same page and encourage them to become proactive learners is a buyable idea that suits dyslexia and the related difficulties like keeping track of time, organizing thoughts and course of action, etc. 
  • Pausing in lectures to prevent instructions from overwhelming students. It is also used to monitor the interest level and find difficulty in learning if any. It certainly helps in situations where dyslexia makes it challenging for the students to keep up with the pace.

All these strategies (retrieved from Prince George Community College Instructional Strategies Guide) can provide fair opportunities to learn to students with dyslexia and also help them become active learners.


‘How to make my child driven towards learning even when he is suffering from Dyslexia?’ It is, perhaps, the most important question raised during parent-teacher meetings when parents are aware of their children’s additional needs.

Either they have the option to put them in a special education curriculum, or they need to search for homeschooling options. But, none of these options justify the immense talent and intelligence that dyslexic children might have. With the correct approach, UDL offers the best environment to learn, which is the basic right of everyone including those dealing with dyslexia and other learning difficulties.


  1. Boothe., et al. (2018). Applying the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in the College Classroom. Journal of Special Education Apprenticeship. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1201588.pdf
  2. Center for Applied Special Education . (2020). Until learning has no limits. https://www.cast.org
  3. Navaitienė, J., Stasiūnaitienė, E. (2021). The Goal of the Universal Design for Learning: Development of All to Expert Learners. In: Galkiene, A., Monkeviciene, O. (eds) Improving Inclusive Education through Universal Design for Learning. Inclusive Learning and Educational Equity, vol 5. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-80658-3_2
  4. Hartmann, E.(2015). Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Learners with Severe Support Needs. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 11(1), 54-67
  5. Baumann, Thomas & Dr, Insa. (2019). Evaluation of a digital UDL-based learning environment in inclusive chemistry education. Chemistry Teacher International. 1. 10.1515/cti-2018-0026.

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