Marina Gaze: Helping adults with learning differences

Posted on August 17th, 2020

What makes adults with learning differences distinct? 

In my experience, most adults with learning differences are very clever people.  

They have often spent much of their life covering up or self-managing their learning differences. 

Usually, they have worked very hard to get to where they are in their career and education. This has often meant missing out on the social side of life.  

Many adults with learning differences are highly motivated. They may be doing degrees or taking courses in accountancy.  

However, they may drop out because of the pressure they put themselves under to get the high grades they want.  

Adults have often spent years hiding who they are and the difficulties they have with spelling, reading and writing.

The strategies they put in place to mask these problems build a false persona. All this puts the person under a huge amount of pressure. It can lead to increased stress, fatigue and mental health issues.   

But remember, whatever has happened, it is in the past.  

Things can be different. Providers using Cognassist will understand your issues and be able to support them.  

The future will be different as you will have strategies to take forward with you 


Identification and support  

Some people with learning differences are lucky and are diagnosed early, say by the age of four.  

They quickly get support. 

By the time they progress to work or university, they have an effective range of coping strategies they can use.   

Late diagnosis brings a range of problems, including loss of self-confidence, under-achievement and sheer exhaustion from devoting excessive time to studying.   

Providers sometimes say, ‘we don’t need to assess student A because she isn’t struggling’. But struggle can be very private and well hidden. It is much fairer if providers assess everyone.  

Assessment could reveal some surprises and start some powerful conversations.  

Cognassist success story from a learner with learning differences

What is Cognassist? 

Cognassist is a system designed to help people learn.  

It does this by testing literacy, numeracy and six of the main areas (domains) involved in learning and thinking 

The results of these tests are used to create tailored resources for each individual. These resources help the individual learn strategies to overcome their difficulties.  

Cognassist has been designed by neurodiversity experts. It has been used by over 45,000 learners. 


How can Cognassist help me? 

Specialist guidance is provided for tutors, so they know how to adapt and personalise training.  

Learners receive individual strategies so they can access challenging teaching and make good progress.  

The strategies are shown on a simple adult learner dashboard (below)  


Cognassist dashboard for learner 

How has Cognassist been adapted for adults?  

The platform focuses on the soft skills adults need for working life 

Strategies for adults are short and sweet and have a quick impact.  

So even if you are on a three-month course, you can choose domainspecific strategies, and work on them.  

               The process of learning

               Common meeting types

Why not try them and see if they work for you. Try them with your provider or on your own.


Accessible technology  

big barrier adult learners face is technology.  

Adults often feel afraid of technology and left behind  

Many adult learners tell us that using Cognassist helps develop their confidence and ability using technology 

From being afraid of computers, they have become computer literate and gained functional skills qualifications in IT.  

Remember you can access Cognassist strategies by phone, tablet or any other electronic device. 


What our learners say 

Over 90% of Cognassist’s 57,363 learnersay they will use our strategies in work, study and daily life.  

Here are some quotes from learners: 

  • I understand myself better.
  • As a foreign student, I find it very user friendly. 
  • Using Cognassist helped me straight away. I turned to my line manager and said, ‘this is weird how much it helps’.  

But don’t take my word for it. You can find more learners’ views on Cognassist. 

Remember, anyone can be a learner at any stage of their life. 

And we’ve released a white paper addressing some of the major barriers to adults in education, with research from prominent sources. It also outlines practical steps providers can take to drive change quickly and create more opportunities for adult learners.

Don’t be afraid.  

There is support, even for short courses.  

Download our white paper: “Levelling up our workforce through cognition technology“.

Blog author: Marina Gaze, former Ofsted Deputy Director, FE and Skills  

Posted on August 17th, 2020
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