Overcoming literacy challenges in adult learners is possible
Reading, writing and math skills are needed more than ever in today's workplace, but despite rising levels of education, they're skills that some people still struggle with.
For Wendy Silva, being recognized by Literacy London for something that had once been a dream - being able to write her own speech - was a proud moment.
With the help of a volunteer tutor, Silva has come a long way.
"I've always ran away from writing. And I was an expert at avoiding writing. I was a pro. I could help anyone at avoiding it and I just decided, you know what, what am I doing, I need to fix this."
As our knowledge-based economy evolves, Irene Wilmot, the executive director of Literacy London says the bar is getting higher.
"We have very few people who are at the very basic level in terms of the letters of the alphabet. Literacy is not about ‘Can you read?’ It's ‘How well do you read?’"
Wendy upgraded her skills through one-on-one tutoring with Literacy London and it was at Fanshawe College that she was tested and found out she had a learning disability.
"Then I was able to use assistive technology and I began to soar,” Silva says.
Jennifer Meksula, a counsellor at Fanshawe College, provides education support.
"Any accommodation that we put in place here at Fanshawe is very individualized so each student's plan is unique to them," she says.
Some students are helped through a voice-assisted reading computer program.
Dean Edwards at Fanshawe College explains "It helps you get through a big paper that you might have to study as well as it pulls the information out and puts that in a study note for you."
Peer support is another tool in the toolbox, Meksula says.
"We have academic coaches or academic strategists. And they sort of help students with planning, organization - learning to sort of break down some of those overwhelming assignments into manageable pieces."
But can people who upgrade basic learning skills later in life expect to catch up to those who learned them when they were young?
Marie Savundranayagam, professor of health studies at Western University, says yes.
Savundranayagam teaches courses related to older adults to Western students and says upgrading may be challenging, but it’s possible.
"Yes they can absolutely learn. But it's going to take a lot more practice and it's going to take a lot more dedication, sometimes it’s going to take a lot more persistence. Maybe something won't come as easily as it came in earlier years."
Silva has simple advice for adults faced with literacy challenges, “I would say quit running and get busy helping yourself."