14 Ways to Cope with Dyslexia

Uni, Well-being

As a young child, I always knew I was different. I couldn’t pronounce certain words,  couldn’t spell and I never understood what I was reading. Despite, having a private English tutor my Dyslexia was undiagnosed, until I went to college.  Although, the teachers picked up on it my parents did not have the money to pay for a test. Dyslexia can be daunting and can go undiagnosed for a long-time impacting your confidence and mental health.  This post is to help you or a loved one deal with suspected or diagnosed Dyslexia.  I hope, some of these tips will also help you even if you’ve stumbled across my blog and are not Dyslexic.


1.The Power of Colour

Colour does not help all Dyslexic people and even if successful each Dyslexia person may have their preferences.  However, a cheap tool – is the use of highlighters.  I find yellow and blue help emphasise text.  Furthermore, tinted overlays can reduce visual stress but may not be allowed in exams. One way around this, if purchasing tinted glasses but this test is not typically funded by DSA.

 

 

 


2. Planning

It can be appealing to start all your assignments at once, but the secret behind a Dyslexia student with high grades is planning.  A great tool is mind mapping software like Imindmap.  Dragon is useful to write up your work for you to help you plan your time and assistive technology to turn text to speech.


3. Get all your ideas out first

If you’re Dyslexic, it is likely you are creative.  I find that getting my ideas out and referencing my work at a later date (whilst, saving them) helps me concentrate for longer. By working this way you do not spend your time reading the entire book/ journal articles.  Also, if there is a flaw in your idea you will soon identify it and can change it or adjust your argument.

Creativity

4. Record Lectures

If your University record lectures, utilise them –  to help you remember content. Alternatively, you can buy a recorder for as little as £20 from Argos or Curries.


5. Apply for DSA

Once you’re diagnosed with Dyslexia, you can apply for Disability Study Allowance and you should be entitled to a Dyslexia tutor. I have to admit, I have found mine more  for exam preparation than assignments. However, it is still free useful advice you can access.

disabled


6. Reverse Sentences

A very useful tip I found was that reversing your sentences can’t no only help reduce word count but make your sentences more fluid. Of course, your writing style will depend on the type of course you are on but I find this works for Business related courses.


7. Use a Successful Structure Again and Learn from your Failures

If you scored highly on a reflective assignment or a report use the structure for a structure in the same format. If you not score so well, try and ask a friend who scored higher than you and identify the differences. If you are an introvert don’t worry.  Try and get extra feedback or someone else understand your feedback for the future.


8. Write with the Word count in mind

Many people will recommend that you should write your work and then cut it down your draft later. I find this just doesn’t work for me and causes stress and anxiety. If this sounds familiar try breaking down the assignment and the weighting of marks and allocate a rough word count for each section and try sticking to it. By doing this, I find that I am continuously proof reading my work and I am not cutting out unnecessary information impulsively.

Wordcount


9. Start by Reading the Grading Grid

I have achieved many A and A*s at University in my modules which I think is heavily attributed to breaking down the grading grid and what is expected of you for assignments.  This may not always be possible so try and look for hidden clues in a brief.


10. Hire a Part-time Tutor

Hiring a tutor can help you in times when you are really struggling.  I know all too well hiring a tutor can be expensive.  In the U.K a good website to look on it Tutorful (previously known as Tutora) because you do not need to pay a fee to receive the tutors detail and can pay on a credit card if you need to.  You also can have a free practice lesson.  When I am really struggling I pay a PHD student a rate of £25 per hour.

The benefits of getting another student to tutor you is they have recently been in education, and if they are fortunate to be at your educational institution they will understand how your tutors mark.


11. Get to Know your Lecturers

Taking 5 minutes to get to know your lectures can go a really long way. By them liking you, they will make time for you and let you book short 1-1 appointments to answer any questions you may have. As their time is precious, the best thing to do is write a list of questions to show you have prepared.

lecturer


12. Start a Blog

You may be reading this with one raised eyebrow – and I don’t blame you. When blogging was a requirement for a University module I went in Morgan meltdown mode. Not MORE writing and reading. However, I have found that by writing a blog I use a different style of writing which makes it not as a daunting task when assignments arrive.


13. Use Dyslexia as a Strength

It can be hard to get past the first stage of interviews for placements when you must overcome psychometric tests.  A still a massive barrier for me – what I have learnt is a big thing I was missing was asking for reasonable adjustments. When I hopefully get invited to some interviews and pass a couple I plan to use Dyslexia as a strength.  After all you are able to think out of the box, you overcome challenges on a daily basis like being resilient.

dyslexia strengths


14. Remain Positive

 Having a positive attitude won’t be able to make reading and writing y easier but will show you are committed person to your studies/ working and that you are trying to succeed.


Do you want more information about Dyslexia? 

You can contact The British Dyslexia Association confident helpline  0333 405 4567.

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5 Ways to have a Productive Day with a Chronic Illness

Chronic Illnesses, Invisble Illnesses, Mental Illnesses, Physical Illnesses, University life

“Having a productive day is very subjective; what is productive for one person is not for another”.

Some days, I find waking up, washing and eating productive. Others assess,  I am being productive when I  do University work.  What I have noticed though – is we all have tasks that need to be completed and this can send us into panic mode. The vicious cycle, of where to start and where to finish has a ripple effect – like a child who got denied candy at the fun fair.

 If you are someone sat there reading this with a chronic illness, I am sure you have an inkling of the cycle I am talking about. If you don’t well… I sit here, in envy.   What I am going to call the ‘ torrential storm cycle’ makes you question which direction to go in first.   Anxiety and stress are no strangers, crawling around your body, taking its toll , physically and mentally.  This post is designed to stop you in your tracks, so you aren’t continuously interrogating yourself about ability and self-worth.

“I spend 90% of my time in bed, but a chronic illness does not mean accomplishing your goals are not possible”.

Achieving those goals may just take comprise, planning and longer than you anticipated.


5 Ways to have a Productive Day with a Chronic Illness

1. Evaluate tasks ft. the spoon theory

If you haven’t heard of Christine Miserandino’s Spoon theory , it is a great place to start to help you have a productive day.  The theory in a nutshell, is that anyone who is chronically ill has 12 spoons each day (each one resembling energy) and spoons are exchanged for tasks.  The amount of spoons exchanged will depend on factors such as the length of the task and how strenuous. The point here, is spoon must be used wisely so you don’t burn out. By ordering tasks by importance you can identify what needs to be done on what day and start to put a plan in motion.

spoon-theory-e1510325926400.jpg

 In reality, you may find executing a plan is not always possible. However, the spoon theory gives you a general consensus of how much you can get done in a day.

You may find – once you start having a productive day you are at the opposite end of the spectrum. At Uni, I get told a theory is just that a theory. I am taught to challenge theorists view. So it may not be a surprise to hear I wasn’t a firm believer of the Spoon theory at first.  I was so productive one day I felt on top of the world. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had completed an exam, handed in an assignment, found a job, booked a flight, travelled home from Uni and packed for a holiday and cuddled my little bunny.

Shortly, after this semester came to a close – I realised I used the reserve of spoons for months. I had to fly home 3 weeks early from working abroad, quit the job I found and was  behind in every subject at Uni. Barely, attending lectures and hospital appointments.  What I am trying to emphasise, is pushing yourself one day really can have a detrimental effect on your health.

“You need to work out what is realistic to get done in a day for YOU”.

 Which takes me to by next point…


 2. Break down tasks

 Breaking down tasks makes things more manageable.  Something,  I am training myself in like a disobedient dog. I am one of those people who seeks to think holistically to even do a task.  However, breaking down tasks can relieve stress, because you know you are achieving something – which has got to be better than nothing, right?

goal

I have found people have been more understanding about my illness when they can see that I am trying rather than wallowing in self-pity.  The amount you need to break-down a task will depend on its complexity. It may be a case of trial and error, but you know your body better than anyone in time you will have this down to a tee.

 If it’s something academic, you could try and break things down with titles and research areas and tie the ideas together later.  You may not get the best grades you are used to due to time constraints.  However, at least you will pass and can try and work harder when you are feeling a bit brighter on future work. If the task is practical, like cooking, you could do prep at a certain time and then cook later in the day.  Or if you’re a little bit cheeky – ask someone to help you to make the task manageable.


3. Follow your Body Clock

Most people would say, sort out your body clock first and foremost. It may work, but it is something I have been trying to do for over 10 years. My body just likes to be up during the night. The fatigue and pain is more manageable after I have digested by one meal per day.

“To have a productive day you must follow your natural body clock”.

You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by taking a U-turn and trying to achieve tasks when your energy levels and pain threshold is low.

body clock

“Remember you can always move tasks to another day as long as you’re motivated to accomplish them”.


4. Relax… just not too much

Whether you have a chronic illness or not, everyone should take time to wind down.  If you’re fortunate enough TAKE a bath, or go and visit someone who does! Watch a comedy, listen to music or sit in silence, do what works for YOU. I am not saying you are not going to wake up still feeling fatigued because you probably will BUT subconsciously your body and mind is still getting a valuable break and you get a hint of happiness.  I find relaxing whilst doing a task slowly usually gives me the right balance. However, this may not work for everyone.

“Just remember, don’t relax too much or you won’t get anything done”.

bath.jpg


5. Relieve stress with a pet

Patting pets are proven to having a calming effect on humans (Rodriguez, 2012), which may help you to think more clearly and be more productive! It is ideal if you own a pet and go and give them love when you are stressed and they are in a good mood. If your pet is moody, trust me try hugging your friends’ pet or the other four tips AND come back to this one later.  When my pets are hungry they treats me like food and it makes me feel rejected and has the opposite effect.  If you cannot keep an animal, I suggest you look out for the nearest dog on your walks or go visit an animal shelter. That way you can have your rare day out, killing two birds with one stone.

 


Thanks for visiting Brains & Bodies. I hope I have shed some positive vibes on how to have a productive day.


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References 

Rodriguez, T. (2017). Pets Help Us Achieve Goals and Reduce Stress.

Spoon theory (2017). The Spoon Theory written by and spoken by Christine Miserandino. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn5IBsm49Rk [Accessed 10 Nov. 2017].

 

The chronically ill student’s quick-guide to success

Uni

It is hard enough for University students to balance their coursework and exams with their social life. So, when a chronic illness is thrown into a mix, it definitely puts a spanner in the works.  Surviving student life with a long-lasting illness can appear daunting, impossible.

Trust me, I know. I had a mental break down three weeks in my first year and nearly dropped out.  The tips I am going to give you, are the techniques that enabled me to find my feet ; study with more ease and achieve high grades.


1.  Apply for DSA

If you have a chronic illness, you should qualify for Disability Student Allowance (DSA).  You apply for this through Student Finance (SF). You will then be offered a ‘Needs Assessment’ . This assessment determines what you are entitled to, based on your individual circumstances.

If you take anything from this post, it is really worth taking the time to make an application because your disability will be on record – even if you switch unis or defer. Module leaders are also made aware of your specific needs and you should get extra writing in exams and coursework extensions. Other examples I received were; printing costs ,  individual £1 taxi journeys costing  to and from campuses and Dragon software.  The software works by you speaking into a microphone and it types up what you say.


2. Order groceries online

Getting your groceries delivered may sound like a trivial thing but if you have a physical illness, it is something you MUST do. Not only will the delivery man become your new best friend, you won’t break your back in the process of buying food. food

It is easy to want to buy everything online but don’t spend money for the sake of it unless you are mintedIf not – like the majority of the student population, it is wise to set yourself a limit so you don’t become the size of a hippo and can go out.

Most supermarkets add basket charges which cost between £3-£6 each time.  If you want to do lots of little shops, TESCO delivery saver gives you the choice to pay for unlimited deliveries as long as you reach the minimum spend (£40).


3.  Select a disabled bedroom

Most Universities, allocate disabled spacious rooms in halls with larger beds on the ground floor. You will need to apply for the room during the booking of the accommodation and disclose evidence of your disability. I recommend doing this otherwise you might find it difficult to get to sleep with pain.


4. Cook meals in bulk

When your illness flares up, I know it can be difficult to do anything. When mine does I don’t want to get out of bed unless it’s to eat – I am a proper foodie. Cooking meals in bulk ensures that you always have something to eat, should you feel hungry – which is important for recovery.   Quick and easy nutritional meals I recommend that are fresh are; stir fries, steak, pasta, jacket potato with beans, sandwiches and chicken with salads.


okay

5. Be upfront & request help

Being open can be a difficult thing; for many in a new environment with strangers.  You may worry more that people won’t accept you because your different. Don’t worry, just be honest about your illness. When I wasn’t honest about mine I lost a lot of friends because they thought I was boring when I couldn’t go out.

Don’t live a lie and just try to keep up with the pace of everyone else. The chances are, you won’t be able to for long and burn out. Also, talk to your lecturers and  about your condition.  Discussing your illness can make them more understanding than it written down on a piece of paper.


6. Visit wellbeing

Every Uni, has a wellbeing department.  Go VISIT it.  You will be designated a disability advisor, who handle matters on your behalf and can help you with queries. My advisor helped me talk through my options if I was to stay or drop out of Uni and drafted my disability memo to staff.  You may find that you are entitled to extra support that is run by your specific institution too. For example, stress-relief and anxiety workshops.


7. Buy an audio recorder

When you do roll up to those 9am lectures, with a potential hangover and chronic audio recorderillness; chances are you won’t be playing much attention.

If your Uni does not record lectures, buy an audio recorder – they are only about £20 from Curries or Argos.  This device was literally my savour throughout first year and helped me remember content. However, make sure you sit near the front to get clear audio. I don’t think I would have achieved my high grades without this gem.


8. Take your laptop to lectures

Some lectures, speak very fast.  So, I suggest you take a laptop so you can open up the slides and go back and forth at your pace to keep up.


9. Have a structure

Try to plan your days as best as you can. So, you can relax  at societies and find time to do your coursework.  This can be difficult when your ill and one day merges into another but the secret is you can have a loose routine as long as you stay organised. By this I mean completing coursework progressively and putting your notes in a folder.


10. Take the free support available

I know, it can be hard to accept help, because of pride – you don’t want your illness to define you.  I was reluctant at first to take help but I was really struggling to plan my workload.  You are likely to get a learning support assistant through DSA for one hour per week in a study room.

The assistants are not subject specific but are still useful. During these sessions the tutor taught me how to structure essays for exam, check my progress and helped me plan. Be aware though – if you miss 2 consecutively without 24 hours’ notice your Uni reserves the right to stop these sessions for the entire semester.



 So, there we have it guys. My guide for the chronic ill student’s success.

I hope you found it useful.

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