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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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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About Me

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me

Hi world,

To give you a bit of history on me. I am Morgan, a 24 years old Business Student at Oxford Brookes University diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome III at 23.

cropped-me.jpgBefore, we start you may want a brief overview of  EDS.

EDS’s are a group of rare inherited conditions that make connective tissue weaker*.

* In some instances, EDS can occur in someone without being inherited. Connective tissue is important to support skin, ligaments, blood vessels and internal organs. There are different types of the condition I will explore in another post. However, all types of EDS are affected by weak connective tissue and loose joints.

Unbeknown to me, my journey to illness began in the womb. Many ask me when EDS will end. The response is morbid. The truth is EDS will end when I die because it is incurable.

If you are one of the rare ones who has heard of EDS, you are probably wondering why I am writing this post. I can’t lie, I do worry each second I will dislocate my wrists or fingers. Yet, I still write.  Typically, my posts will not be this long. I just wanted to be completely honest with you from the get go.

“Although, some might consider me disabled I am not EDS – it is just a huge part of me”.

ME.jpg

It is not unusual for people to see an illness before they see a person.  With EDS, its the opposite.   You are only ever likely to see the illness if you know the sufferer well.. because on the surface it’s invisible.

“People don’t understand when I can’t do daily tasks”.

Due to the lack of awareness of it people have the wrong misconception that I am extremely lazy – even I believed this for a long time before the diagnosis.

“Unlike many other suffers of EDS, during  secondary school I never knew I was different”.

me crab

I made every excuse to get out of P.E because I was in pain but it did not work. I was told I was gifted at gymnastics, whilst I flew into the splits and was doing cartwheels across the floor. I  experienced subluxations and dislocations but I thought this was normal. Instead of speaking up about my pain, I turned my attention to being naughty. I got myself excluded more times than I can remember. Teachers thought I was attention seeking but really my fatigue was so bad, I just wanted to sleep.

I did not have a functioning life for many years“.

I scraped my GCSES but did not care because I aspired to be an artist. I enrolled in college when I was 16 and gain when I was 19 and dropped out both times. I preferred to spend my time drinking alcohol and taking  drugs to relax my body.

art

This put I in a downward spiral because when the substances wore off the pain heightened. As a perfectionist, I realized art was not the right career path for me and kept it as a rare hobby.

It became more apparent my body was weak when I coughed so hard I moved a disc in my back and landed myself into hospital. Despite this, for many years GPS would not accept I was in physical pain.

Are you sure you are eating your 5 a day?” the doctors asked.

I was sent to see CPNS, complex needs and CAMHS who described me as ‘mentally troubled’.   The hardest part of my journey is my parents were not completely convinced of my pain either.  If I dare mentioned that four letter word,  they would say ‘Here she goes again, she is having a Morgan Moment’ – alluding  an impulse of craziness.

“I felt like I had no one and became suicidal”.

Going to the doctors and hospitals were weekly chores.  I was always poorly yet, no one could find anything wrong with me. I thought perhaps after all this time the doctors were right and it was in my head.   So I attended Complex Needs, High Wycombe where I spent time with mentally ill patients . It was there  I realized I was not making up my pain.  Me and the other patients did not share any symptoms in common – yet I did not want to live another second suffering.


From then to now…

From time to time I still feel suicidal, but I have come a long way since I was 17. I enrolled into college again when I was 21 to do Business and completed the course. I drink alcohol occasionally but I do not take illegal drugs anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the temptation is still there but I am trying to live a healthier life.  My diagnosis has made this easier, with the support from my family and friends.

Me and my family a few years ago.

“By my own admission, socially I am unreliable”.

A lot of people  stopped wanting to be my friend.I never know if I am going to have enough energy to see my friends. Going out for a meal, or to the cinema takes me to the point of physical exhaustion.



University life…

I started University 5 years late compared to everyone else because I mentally and physically would not have coped.  Due to low blood pressure I spend a lot of time in bed. I was also diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, photo-sensitivity and a vitamin D deficiency.  I was told the course would be too difficult for me to succeed and to think of a vocational alternative. Through blood, sweat and tears I managed to prove everyone wrong and pass the first year.


Allergies, Intolerances and Me”…

I was born lactose intolerant but after a few years I was given the green light to drink milk again.  In hindsight, whether the intolerance ever went away, I am not  sure.  I developed OCD because each time I ate I would be sick or have the shits.  I was uncomfortable food caused me pain but I liked the fact I was super thin.

I was often mistaken for being anorexic“.

parklife.jpg

When I was 21 years old, I went into severe anaphylaxis. Shortly, after an allergy prick test confirmed I  had developed an allergy to nuts and gluten. The test also showed I was lactose intolerant.

In my head –  I was  a freak. I had never met anyone else with multiple food allergies.

nut

“Changing the way I ate was the hardest thing I have ever done”.

I am in love with sugar and I can’t really cook that well.. Living off processed TV dinners and comfort food was my safe haven. The task to change my diet, was almost impossible for me. Doctors became concerned I would die.

I began to see an Adult Nutritionist for months religiously, who was my rock. Without her, I would not be here writing this today.

 


Share the Love

I would love if you supported me and followed/ liked my new Facebook page.

I do not know if this blog will be a success or not- but I need a hobby for all the hours I spend ill in bed. I really want to use this space and start up a YouTube channel to discuss content on mine and other peoples conditions to  raise awareness.

I also want to provide support to anyone who feels they are alone.


Thanks for meeting me.

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