View Full Version : Dyslexia

this is my username
17th May 2009, 18:14
Hi Guys

I have got a student who has told me he is dyslexic - his reading and writing skills are very poor.

Is there any way he can take the PPL exams without being able to read / write?

Does anyone know if special arrangements can be put in place (eg the examiner reads out the questions and records the anwers)?

Does anyone have any practical experience of how that might work in the Nav exam, which requires a fair bit of calculation?

He has held other professional technical qualifications with exam requirements, thougfh I haven't quizzed him yet on how those exams were handled.

I don't know whether Dyslexia is classed as a "disability" and so covered by the Disability Discrimination rules, and / or whether there are any opt-outs to those rules for aviation - anyone know?

I'm not new to pprune but I'm using a different username to better protect the anonimity of my student.


17th May 2009, 18:56
Same boat - my club has passed candidate's special needs assessment from school onto CAA. We await response with interest!

I know that at my university (in my proper job I'm a lecturer), a 'special needs' student can, if the disability is severe enough, get

(i) extra time (10-15 mins per hour);

(ii) a reader, ie someone to read the paper to the candidate;

(iii) a scribe, ie someone to write the answer;

(iv) a computer with special needs software;

(v) special coloured cellophane, to cover the paper to make it more comprehensible.

I believe that appropriate training will compensate for learing disabilities. However, I have experience of a student, when asked to climb from 1000' to 1500' actually climbed to 5100' (I remember thinking, as we passed 2000' that we'd end up at 5100); but that's a very obvious and simplistic example of a special needs student. My employer tells me that all individuals are different, eg numbers, arithmentic, writing, comprehension, etc.

Good luck:ok:

17th May 2009, 20:24
Are you really suggesting that its safe to operate an aeroplane if you cant read the checklist, the flight manual, NOTAMs. Met forecasts and navigation charts?

The last time I heard the question asked the answer was a resounding NO on safety grounds.

this is my username
18th May 2009, 05:50

Are you also going to suggest that it's not safe to have a wheelchair user as a passenger in a commercial aircraft or as an audience member in a theatre because they would need assistance with evacuation in the event of an emergency and would therefore slow things down?

The information you refer to is only an issue because it is normally only made available in written form. If it is made available in other formats then it is possible for it to be comprehensible and an equivalent level of safety established.

That said, you are echoing my concerns ........

18th May 2009, 06:27
Anyone remember Saudia 163? The aircraft burnt out on the tarmac at Riyadh following a cargo fire in flight. From airdisaster.com:

The Second Officer, who was thought to be dyslexic, spent nearly all of his time searching through the aircraft's operations manual, the whole time repeating to himself "No Problem."

All 301 on board died.

18th May 2009, 06:51
Are you also going to suggest that it's not safe to have a wheelchair user as a passengerNo comparison! In order to qualify as a pilot one has to demonstrate certain skills. That involves interpreting information in the formats that it is commonly found in. If you cannot do that, then you do not posses the necessary skill to be given a licence. If you're 4 ft 3 you are not going to become a basket ball player! The fact that information could be provided in another format is not relevant until all information is available in that format.
A passenger can be assisted, a Pilot in Command cannot!

18th May 2009, 10:37
The UK Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) makes the following observation -

A Person has a disability under the DDA if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Dyslexia can constitute a disability if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
These activities do not include work of a particular form, but can include promotion assessments and examinations as these are normal, if irregular, activities.
When assessing the effect of a disability, the comparison is not with the population at large, but with the way in which the individual would carry out the activity if not impaired.

The above statements are largely directed towards the treatment of someone within an employment scenario. Training for a PPL and exercising the priviledges of the license would, I imagine, fall outside the scope of 'normal day to day activities'.

If there is no grounds for disqualification from training on medical grounds then the matter is a safety issue as determined by the competent authority. They may take the position that the format of formal examinations exists in part to demonstrate an ability to read and write which is necessary for the safe operation of an aircraft. However if they are willing to accomodate the provision of a reader and/or scribe to help your student through the exam then perhaps this is a form of approval.

Finally there are varying levels of severity with dyslexia. There are many pilots flying with mild dsylexia but i feel sure they are all capable of reading and absorbing the information required to plan and conduct a safe flight, as well as being proficient at carrying out nav calculations in the air when required to do so.

As an instructor maybe you could help to make this determination of your student. Would you be happy to let this student plan a solo xc flight from scratch, execute a diversion if weather forces one, and complete all the necessary paperwork after the flight - without any input from another person? At this point in time you are probably best qualified to answer your own question.

Best of luck

18th May 2009, 10:53
Morning all,

Interesting question, particularly in these PC times. I suspect however that the issue is nothing to do with whether the student has a disability and is purely to do with whether they can fly safely after a licence is granted.

This in turn should depend on PRACTICAL assessments of their abilities with particular emphasis on what happens in the air. To be a PIC the ability to plan, calculate and take in written information en route is a pre requisite, otherwise an unexpected event could become something of a show stopper.

On the ground, I guess the situation is a little less clear - we all use aids to help us plan (whizz wheels, glasses, computers, other pilot's knowledge) so the measure is whether the necessary information is demonstrably absorbed and understood with normally available help - for exams, the method of asking the question is often unrealistic (seldom are problems in real life presented in written multi choice format) and therefore it is reasonable to alter the method or medium of questioning to make the problem more readily understandable however being able to rely on memory, intelligence and reasoning to provide the correct solution will always be a pre requisite.

Ultimately, there will always be people that are unable to reach the required standard to fly for a variety of reasons and some of these reasons will relate to student capability as measured by the real life requirements of the task.

If capability can be enhanced or the required level reduced through safe technological aid and development then why not?

Regards all, enq.

18th May 2009, 11:11
This might be useful for you as an instructor as you will be forced to adapt your teaching style to suit this particular student.

Dyslexia Learning Styles | Being Dyslexic (http://www.beingdyslexic.co.uk/pages/information/teachers/identification-and-helpful-advice/dyslexia-learning-styles.php)

An introduction to how focussing on particular learning styles can help dyslexics.

Learning should be: structured and multisensory - this bypasses the organisational difficulties in the brain; integrating all learning pathways helps to ensure automatic memory.
Overlearning is vital: practice till automatic: adults with dyslexia have short-term memory difficulties.
Use a variety of ways to practice spelling: let adults choose the ones, which work best for them.
Work on one problem at a time.
Adults with Dyslexia often "overload": Tune into this and you'll save a lot of time!
Use Right Brain skills: like imagination, patterns, colour and visualisation to augment learning.
New Information needs to be given more than once: even if the adult appears to understand it - dyslexics often have distractibility and short-term memory problems.
Dyslexics often find it difficult to generalise.
Develop a holistic approach: another right brain strength - adults with dyslexia like to know the whole and then are happy to tackle the part.
Work to the adult's strengths: avoid reinforcing failure, e.g., seeing incorrect spellings or making him do dictation or words he cannot spell.
Remind dyslexic, if necessary, of a spelling strategy for as long as they need you to: that's "not cheating, but learning".
Give time: for the dyslexic to organise their thoughts.
Encourage use of technology: spelling dictionaries, memory aids, to get round the problem - why rub two sticks together when you can throw a switch!
Present learning material: in a variety of different ways to help student generalise - some dyslexics find this difficult.
Adults who are dyslexic: need to concentrate much more than other students because of their difficulties.
By recognising and discussing the nature of their difficulties with them: we can enable them to come to terms with the condition, put it in perspective and take control of their learning.

Can't help thinking that this could be an interesting journey for both of you and one in which you could learn as much as your student does. Never a bad thing for a professional instructor.

Hope it goes well and it might be worthwhile posting updates - it's always nice to hear about triumph over adversity.

Best of luck

18th May 2009, 11:14
The promulgation of the idea that a person who has dyslexia should be prevented from holding a PPL is appalling and demonstrates shameful ignorance.

Many who have a difficulty reading and writing are also very successful in life, running multi million pound complex businesses. Others I have taught have had diffilculty in reading questions and identifying answering with regard to the 'Otto Cycle' but just the same have no difficulty in stripping and rebuilding an engine in their classic or rally cars and have taught me much about the workings of an engine.

As to weight and balance calculations and flight planning I wish more did it. In my experience individuals who have the common levels of dyslexia are very capable by hardwork to learn the everyday processes of planning by repitition and are unlikely to forget it later. Take a straw pole of the average club member and note how many can remember how to use the 'whiz wheel' or do a weight and balance. If you do not know the answer already then you will be shocked.

this is my user name, the answer is lots of groundschool and encouragement. The cd's that Oxford produce, by example, I have known to be invaluable. By whopity's response don't expect a sympathetic response from the CAA, just get on with it and expect to give the student that little extra bit of support.

Dan Winterland
18th May 2009, 14:59
Quote: "The promulgation of the idea that a person who has dyslexia should be prevented from holding a PPL is appalling and demonstrates shameful ignorance."

Maybe. But you can't get around the fact that a disabilty such as dyslexia and operating a complex piece of machinery in a technically challenging environment are generally incompatiable. You could probably train a dyslexic to a safe standard for flying in a majority of circumstances, but by nature, flying is a passtime/occupation which throws up complex situations, and assessing someone for the award of a licence must take thier ability to deal with such situations into account.

It may be un-PC to say so, but life isn't as simple as saying everyone should have the chance. I've been in the situation of having to make a decision where someone who with learning disabilities could quite obviosuly not get a PPL had to be taken aside and be told after many hours of training,

"Mate, this game isn't for you".

Chesty Morgan
18th May 2009, 15:07
And on the flip side. I flew with an F/O the other day who is dyslexic. I've been flying with him for over 3 years and only found out because he told me. He is just as good as anybody else I fly with.

Of course I understand that there are varying degrees of dyslexia but all hope is not lost.

18th May 2009, 16:22
Dan winterland

There is a big difference between someone who has "learning difficulties" and another who has difficulty learning in a particular way.

Dyslexia has no direct link to intelligence. Many dyslexics are extremely intelligent, quick learners and have achieved considerable achievements in the academic world. The ratio of Dyslexic intelligence is no doubt the same as is generally the case. People who do not have dyslexia have various levels of intelligence also. Chesty Morgan refers to an individual who has had to pass very tough examinations and as he witnesses performs well in a professional multi-crew cockpit.

I genuinely thought that everyone had moved on from the 1950's treadful idea that Dyslexics lacked intelligence simply because they are dyslexic.

18th May 2009, 16:27
The promulgation of the idea that a person who has dyslexia should be prevented from holding a PPL is appalling and demonstrates shameful ignorance.

Well said.

Seen more than one PPL holder with dyslexia, taught another myself and know of at least one ATPL with dyslexia who is also well known on here! None required any special arrangements for their written exams and fly safely on a regular basis.

I suggest Whopity, that you do some research. Some may call it 'PC' but there's nothing clever about insulting people because of ignorance - makes you look very silly.


18th May 2009, 17:11
I'm dyslexic. My skills test is on Wednesday.

Jumbo Driver
18th May 2009, 19:45
I suggest Whopity, that you do some research. Some may call it 'PC' but there's nothing clever about insulting people because of ignorance - makes you look very silly.

VFE, I really don't think Whopity was insulting anybody. He was simply being realistic and I agree with his comments.

Clearly, with any disability, it will depend both on the degree to which the person is affected and also the tasks involved.


18th May 2009, 21:17
I suggest Whopity, that you do some research. Some may call it 'PC' but there's nothing clever about insulting people because of ignorance - makes you look very silly.
I have a son, with a rare form of dyslexia so I think I know something about it. As there are many variations and conditions that qualify as dyslexia, referring to it generically serves no useful purpose. That however is not the issue, its a question of whether someone who has difficulty reading and writing should be allowed to take exams using special help. If they are granted a license as a result of this special help, will they then need special help to safely exercise the privileges of the licence? A licence is a permit, issued on proof of the relevant skills.

I regularly conduct medical flight tests and assessments for disabled pilots, so I am not unfamiliar with the business of assessing whether a particular disability will affect safe operation. I have never said that a person with dyslexia should not hold a licence however, at times a persons dissabilty may mean they cannot operate safely, in which case they should not be granted to opportunity to endanger themselves and others.

18th May 2009, 22:17
Ok Whopity, duly accepted but you didn't really elucidate too well with the wording of your previous postings or by stating...

The last time I heard the question asked the answer was a resounding NO on safety grounds.

Clearly there are many pilots with dyslexia so your experiences do not appear to be indicative of the overall picture.


Dan Winterland
19th May 2009, 03:44
Ok, I was generalising and I think I used the word 'generally'. I should have said "severe dsylexic"'. There is no such thing as dyslexia as a uniform condition. The term encompasses many different disabilities to varying degrees through dyslexia and dyspraxia and it's only recently that these conditions have become better understood .

The original question asked was about a student whose reading and writing was poor, and it was with this in mind, I slanted my answer. This will be a problem for him. There are also others who have mild and different forms of dyslexia which prevent them for recognising symbology for example, an aircraft instrument. The student I referred to in my earlier post had such a problem. His reading and writng were fine, but he kept on misreading instruments. He had a digital watch because, by his own admission he couldn't read analogue watches.

I do know about dyslexia. It runs in my family.

19th May 2009, 07:16
All the previous posts address the original question well.

A further useful dictum is:-

" When I sign this student off, will I be happy for him/her to fly my own family?"

OR when applying for a Commercial Licence:-

" Am I prepared to pay him/her to fly my own family ?"

This surely applies to all Instructors when they pass students.

19th May 2009, 07:30
I know someone who's dyslexic who's now working on a PhD! She had problems at school, but with extra help in the early days, learning coping strategies, and lots of determination, she seems to have overcome most of the difficulties.

There are indeed lots of levels of dyslexia, and some people are better at dealing with it than others. You can't generalise. It depends on the individual. The label often doesn't help, because then we start talking about disability and making judgements and completely muddying the waters. I'd say treat this student like any other, giving him extra help with what he finds difficult, and see what happens. The chances are he can read and write to some extent, just not easily. So he can work on the exams, and he might have to work harder than most other people. So what? We all have things we struggle with.

Unless things prove to be more complicated than this I'd leave well alone and not contact any authorities right now.

Der absolute Hammer
19th May 2009, 09:27
Any disability, perceived or actual, with which a prospective pilot is handicapped should surely be a matter for the medical department of the CAA concerned. It should be up to the state to determine whether or not someone is dyslexic-in such a case-and then to set the guidelines under which they might hold a relevant licence or have a restriction put upon it.(Such as 2 crew' - yes, why not, even for a PPL-the man can still enjoy his flying.) So yes, the man can fly with an instructor, trying to learn to fly, but he should go through a filtering process at the time of his Student Pilot Licence medical, before he goes solo.
It is surely not the business of a flying school or an instructor to enter in to this realm other than by making suggestion to prospective pilot that he contact medical section.
Hard as it is sounding..if an illiterate wandered in to your flight school, wanting to learn to fly-you would tell him to go and learn how to read and write and then come back.

19th May 2009, 11:32
The last time I heard the question asked the answer was a resounding NO on safety grounds.Thats precisely what the CAA said when asked if special arrangements could be made for someone who could not read the exam papers. Which was I think the topic at that point in the thread.
Any disability, perceived or actual, with which a prospective pilot is handicapped should surely be a matter for the medical department of the CAA concerned. Indeed it is, however the final decision is based upon a recommendation from a pilot examiner who determines if the disability has any operational impact. In some cases a person can pass a medical but still have a potential problem i.e. a missing limb!

19th May 2009, 12:39
Leaving aside dyslexia - although I have had a student who is a GP who is dyslexic - does someone really have to be fully literate to be able to fly?

You don't have to be to drive.

Literacy does not mean being able to read Chinese, Greek or Arabic characters!

Some illiterate people can handle road signs, shop names etc but just can't read a book - or possibly an exam question.

To my mind, as long as they know which side of a line feature to fly on: a) the left; b) the right; c) over the top of. then I don't care if they have to be read the question or have someone else write down the answer!

If you know anyone with disabilities, you'll realise there are many many ways of coping.

I'd rather a pilot who phoned the AIS freephone but couldn't read Notams or work the website (can anyone?) than fly with a Professor of English who just never bothered checking anything.

You can listen to an ATIS to get TAFs and METARs rather than reading them - again, why are they still in code? Make life simple and there'd be fewer mistakes.

Many web pages (actually, all, according to law) should be accessible to voice reading to help blind people - but actually good for others with poor reading skills.

And then navigation. An exam where there is no account of GPS or online flight planners: ie doesn't reflect the real world. And don't talk about writing things down to open cockpit flyers! If you have to write it down, it is a bad message! (and once Edinburgh ATC gave me 16 things to read back in one transmission!!!)

So, perhaps if you have literacy troubles you might be limited to microlights, SSEAs and SEPs in day VFR/VMC.

Perhaps you'll choose to have your spouse or clubmember help you with planning.

Perhaps you'll keep away from complex airspace at first.

Perhaps you'll get a radio licence and learn how to use D&D.

Perhaps you'll not become a commercial pilot.

Or perhaps, like that dyslexic Richard Branson, you might end up owning the airline!

20th May 2009, 10:55
This response is applicable regardless of the disability.

The primary question is one of safety. Will the person when qualified be able to operate unaided safely as a Solo Student / PPL in the system?

If the answer is no then the next question has to be - Is there any reasonable thing that can be done which when applied to the case would change the answer to the above question to Yes?

There are many pilots who the initial answer to the first question is no but when either they are required to use a modified aircraft / atrificial limb attachment or in other cases they are limited to flight in dual controlled aircraft with another qualified pilot the answer changes.

My initial thoughts regarding this and similar cases is that the person could have whatever aids they required to demonstrate the required standard. However, what ever aids were required to demonstrate the required standard would then be required at all stages and the licence would be endorsed so that those aids were always required to be used once the PPL had been obtained.

So being more specific, based on the question, this person will need some "aids" to demonstrate the required standards. Is it reasonable that the person could operate "solo" and as a PPL with these aids available and able to provide the required aid at all times?

Is not being able to do MDR / or use a Wizz Wheel a disability and should the CAA permit programmed calculators to be used to overcome such a disability?



1st Jun 2009, 22:15
I have been thinking about this question.

In regard to this specific case, I would consider that an application to use something like the Franklin Speaking Wordmaster to assist the person in reading the questions on the exam paper could be permitted by the Authority.

The Franklin Speaking Wordmaster is an electronic device that contains a thesaurus. When the user types in a word this is pronounced by the device and it is displayed on the screen.

The advantage of permitting this when compared to permitting a reader is that following qualification the person can continue to use the device to for example read notams pre-flight etc.