Our National Conference in Birmingham this year started with two reasons for celebration, firstly we were able to meet in person (with Covid regulations) and secondly, we celebrated our 21st anniversary. These two reasons contributed to the air of excitement, although the number and enthusiasm of the attendees added to this. There were around 115 delegates, which was lovely to see!

The morning started with the Paddy Turner’s keynote speech ‘Assessment makes you want to weep’ which affirmed that although grammar, spelling and punctuation are important, developing metacognitive skills, supporting self-esteem and wellbeing are equally important.  It was also a strong reminder of the detrimental impact the media/government/stakeholders can have on the marginalisation of our students.

This was followed by the ADSHE Awards which were won by and sponsored by:

Bob Burwell: ADSHE 7 Principles Award sponsored by eQuality Solutions

Dylan Griffiths: Assistive Technology Award sponsored by Inspiration

University of Gloucester: Institution Award sponsored by MatchWare

Dr Sadhbh O Dwyer: Research & Innovation Award sponsored by Present Pal

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all our sponsors for recognising and acknowledging the high standards within ADSHE.

There was a special prize awarded to Tanya Zybutz for her contribution to ADSHE since its inception in 2001. She has contributed much time and energy to the organisation, and we are not able to show our appreciation enough. There was another special award for Mark, who is stepping down as Chair after 4 years of leading and developing ADSHE beyond recognition. The last 8 years have been challenging for our sector because of the current climate, and he has done a sterling job of keeping our professional association on a steady course.

After the awards Amanda Abbott-Jones present her keynote ‘Anxiety and coping skills for students with dyslexia’. This provided affirmation of the importance of the many strategies we use with students, based on the 7 Principles, to support them with the anxiety they experience academically and personally.  Amanda’s findings demonstrated through her own research that students may carry considerable shame, fear and frustration from previous educational and personal experiences, and part of our job is to alleviate these through building self-esteem and self-belief.

The afternoon sessions started with Cheri Shone and Tanya Zybutz introducing how ADSHE plan to keep the organisation current in its response to intersectionality. The session focused on three areas: personal, professional and structural. In a short film, a student discussed their experience while studying, which raised a number of issues. The groups, presented with cases studies, facilitated discussion which considered appropriate respond to uncomfortable and tender topics. Atif Choudhry closed the round table discussion with his insights, for which we are always grateful.

The afternoon programme offered members a choice from 9 valuable workshops which we well-received by many of the delegates, and to whom we are very grateful.

The conference provided a wonderful selection of exhibitors who were available throughout the day to discuss products, many of which are DSA funded, which will support students’ learning. The day ended with a prize draw with an array of prizes kindly donated by the exhibitors and sponsors: Inspiration; D & A; Glean; eQuality Solutions; Habitat Learn; LexAble; Present Pal; Brain in Hand; Clear Links; Caption.Ed; MatchWare; TextAid; FindMyFlow; Pro-Study.

The most exciting news of the day was that ADSHE will be changing its name to the Professional Association of Specific Learning Difference Specialists in Higher Education over the next year or so. This change has been made, after lengthy consultation with members, to reflect our our position and relevance in HE as professional learning difference specialists.

Join ADSHE and make a difference – BY the members, FOR the members.