PhD’s special meaning for graduate with dyslexia

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PhD’s special meaning for graduate with dyslexia

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Dr Jacqueline Caskey and Dr Peter Innes. Photo: Reed Graduation Services

16 October 2017

Minyama resident Jacqueline Caskey says her new USC Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is double proof that students with dyslexia can achieve extraordinary goals if they have determination and the support of their educational institution.

Dr Caskey not only overcame her own difficulties with dyslexia to produce a 90,000-word thesis at USC, she also found through her research that vocational education students with the learning disorder could succeed in their programs, given the right support.

The 59-year-old former TAFE disability services coordinator was surrounded by family and friends from as far as Sydney when she graduated at the recent University of the Sunshine Coast ceremony.

Dr Caskey, who completed the Sociology PhD in three and a half years on campus at Sippy Downs, said she now intended to inspire and assist other students with learning disabilities.

“I want to encourage more students with dyslexia to study to PhD level at university, and I want to work with postgraduate supervisors to help advise on students’ needs,” she said.

Dr Caskey used a combination of assisted technology and academic and copy-editing support during her USC studies to boost her reading and writing – and her confidence.

“I had a network of senior academics inside and outside USC who suggested readings and discussed my ideas. For example, my USC supervisor Dr Peter Innes (Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences) was a great methodologist, and methods are vital to a thesis.

“When I received my degree from USC Chancellor Sir Angus Houston, I had seven external academic friends, including specialists in dyslexia whose work I had referenced, sitting in the audience with my father, my husband and family members. It was an exciting moment.”

To deal with the difficulties of dyslexia during the doctorate, Dr Caskey printed every one of her 380 double-line-spaced pages in A3-sized booklets so she could cut up individual paragraphs and put them in the correct order.

“The writing was time-consuming and I am a slow reader, but I was very determined.”

Her thesis, ‘When educational support is just not enough: adult students with dyslexia in technical and further education (TAFE)’, involved interviews with 22 students at five TAFE colleges in Queensland. It found that their support officers had become their advocates, going above and beyond normal duties to provide support and instil confidence.

Dr Caskey’s earlier degrees in education and science were from the University of Southern Queensland.

Julie Schomberg

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