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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Resources] : Student Interviews


Please note : This student wishes to remain anonymous. Therefore where ever possible we have removed the names of any persons involved, as well as details of the university and the course. These have been replaced and can be seen between brackets.

Name :
Year of study :
Level of study :
UCAS Disability code :
1 - dyslexia, specific learning difficulties


Can you remember back to before you had applied to university? What was your route into higher education?

I came from a Further Education College in Manchester, where I did an Access course. Before that, for two years, I went back and caught up on a lot of Maths and English I had missed out on at school. It was getting the basics - then I went on to the Access course and then I came on to university. Originally, I didn't have university in mind, it was just basically getting my Maths and English up to scratch. I've got two daughters and I felt that wasn't much use to them with their work if I couldn't work out basic Maths and English. With encouragement and confidence, people were saying that I could go to university. I thought I'd give it a try, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So that's the position I am in today.

So you went to the college to do English and Maths?

Yes, it was just like a basic key skills; it was called key skills and was sort of arranged for people who had missed out a lot at school and wanted to just get the basics. It was things like long division and multiplication and introducing you to areas that I'd missed at school. I didn't know how to do long division, or anything. So it was really giving people the core skills that they would need.

How were you assessed at FE college?

In modules and you gained credits for each thing you did. At the end of each section, like if you were doing a section on algebra, you'd have an assignment test, they called it; so you had a small test after each section that you did, and then you gained your credits. You had to pass them all to get the full credits, but they did it in smaller sections so you didn't have one big exam at the end of it, like an O Level or an A Level, which I don't think I would have benefited from, really.

Tell me about the Access course is it linked to the university?

Yes, I did a vocational Access course. It was linked to the course I am doing now by the fact that it was about key issues and social policy and stuff that was really relevant to this course. So, yes, I found it gave me a really good foundation to coming on the course.

Did you get any dyslexia support in the FE college?

No, because it is only since I have been at university that I have actually been diagnosed as having dyslexia. In their defence I've to say that the college I was at did offer people, at the beginning of the course, if you have, or think you may have dyslexia, we'll test you. But at that time I just really didn't think I had dyslexia - I just thought it was because I had missed out on quite a bit of schooling that I needed to get the old brain cells up to scratch and develop my thinking, more than anything else.

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Where did you get most of the information from about university? Was it at your FE college?


How many universities did you apply to?

I applied to two others. I didn't get past the application process with them. I'd already been for an interview here and been offered a place.

Did you go to an Open Day?

No, it was on the day that I went for my interview. I just had a wander round and looked at the recreation canteen and got a feel for the place and everything.

What was the interview like?

They did a presentation for us, which I found really helpful. Before we had our interviews, for about an hour we actually went into the lecture theatre and one of the lecturers, who is obviously on the course, gave us a sort of presentation of the modules that we would be covering - the exams and what we would be doing in each year that we were at university. I just found that very interesting and very helpful because you knew exactly what was happening where and when on the course and obviously you can decide if you like it or not and you can get an idea of what they are trying to teach you on the course. After that we all had separate interviews. There were about twelve of us on the day I turned up for the interview; I think there should have been a few more who obviously didn't turn up. It was OK, the interview was really good. They made you feel at ease and everything and the interview lasted about twenty minutes. Yes, I did like this one, the interview process really impressed me and I did think it's obviously very student-orientated here.

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On the course

Why did you approach someone about your dyslexia at university?

I found last year I was having real difficulty with the amount of reading I was expected to do. I went to my personal tutor and mentioned it to her. She said, 'Why don't you go to the Disability Office here and just ask if they can give you an initial assessment for dyslexia.' Things moved on from there. They said I might have dyslexia; so they made an appointment for me to go to see the Educational Psychologist. Basically, they say you either had or hadn't, or you have some sort of learning disability. He said I had a specific learning disability - something to do with visual perception. After that I went to Access Summit and got assessed for my needs and then the Local Education Authority put in place the funding for the support network. It took me nearly a year for all the assessments to be done, so I've been getting the support since September, really. These glasses are tinted glasses for reading and they stop the words shaking about when I am trying to read them. I've only had them two days and apart from everything looks rosy I think it affects your mood. But also, I'm not tending to go home at the end of the day at university with a really bad headache or feeling really tired and washed out. I wasn't really capable of conversation after a day at university. I just felt so mentally tired. But yesterday I felt like it was a really big improvement.

Do those glasses help you with your reading?

Yes, they just make the ink look a lot blacker than it is, and the letters look a little bit bigger, and they stop the letters from shaking. If I read this, by the time I got to end of the first paragraph the words would have started to jump and shake. You were just fighting a losing battle because you have got to keep re-reading the same thing you have read because you are concentrating so hard on trying to make the words just stop shaking so you can see what they say this just takes that away.

Was that part of the testing, that the psychologist recommended that you had something for your eyes?


What do they do in the eye test?

They did a colorometer test. It's like when you have a normal eye test. You do the charts and they are looking to see if you are long sighted or short sighted or whatever. Then the actual tint is for word shake. They put a little box with a sheet of paper with writing on under it. Then they turn filters on and you choose the tint that you find the most comfortable. This is the colour that stopped the words shaking and really improved the reading for me. Obviously that's the colour that you need. They're looking at your eyes as well to see if your eyes have got a problem, but apparently the prescription on these is only very slight. It's not the actual prescriptive lens that I need, it's the tints more than anything else. It was just tiring me out trying to read something. I've noticed a really big improvement. Before these I had just the overlays.

Are they plastic sheets?

Yes, you just place them over the thing that you are going to read and they do exactly the same things as the glasses do. They just settle it down and make it more defined and the ink blacker so that it stands out a bit more. It's just a lot quicker to read. So, you can get a lot more read in that space of time before ... If anybody reads too much they will get to a certain point where they get tired. Your brain's just saying it's had enough, that's it, I've taken enough information in and I can't do any more. But with me it was a couple of pages. Now it means I can read, maybe, a chapter without my brain saying that's enough, I can't cope with this any more, it's just too much.

The glasses are better than the overlays, are they?

Yes, it's the environment as well. Universities are full of fluorescent lights and they play havoc with my eyes, and bright lights as well. So if you are in a lecture theatre that is full of fluorescent lights and there is a lecturer stood at the front, showing you overheads or writing on a board, you have the same problem, you can't go and put an overlay over the thing, can you? So you can wear these glasses in all circumstances; they cover everything, it's not just for when you are reading a book in front of you. They just filter out all the light that is playing havoc with your eyes. You feel ridiculous because you are sat there squinting. People must think, 'What's the matter with her? She looks like she is in pain.' All that is taking away your concentration from what is going on. So, it's little things, but it all adds up at the end of the day as to whether you are taking on board what you should be or not. You are coming out thinking you haven't got a clue what that lecture was about, but it sounded interesting from everybody else was saying in the canteen, because you've been too busy thinking, 'The fluorescents are killing me in here,' and 'What's that say on the board?' and trying to catch up all the time. It just cuts out all that so you can concentrate on what you are there for. You are there for making notes and listening to what has been said, in most cases.

In the first year you must have been struggling?

I was struggling, but I think I had just got used to struggling. It was suggested to me when I went for my initial assessment at the Disability Office - because I felt a bit of a fraud at first. I thought it was just me; that I just wasn't interested. The Disability Adviser said that maybe I had built up my own strategies for dealing with the disability; if I had got a disability. But now I am at university the strategies aren't working as well as they did before because I am at a higher level of learning and everything is new and there is more pressure on me.

How did you find out that you needed to come for a test, initially?

I didn't. The first session that I had with the personal tutor off the course that I am on (I had only been at university about two months) and it was the first assignment and I was really panicking. So I went to see my personal tutor and just mentioned it to her that I can't read. I was reading a page and nothing was going in. I've got all these books to read and there is no way I'm going to read them because I can't get past the first page of the first book - it's just not sinking in. She said, 'What do you think might be the problem?' I just said, 'I don't know.' But at the Access course some of the people there had had an assessment for dyslexia and I said, 'I don't know, but I have heard people talking about dyslexia there and I feel like I have got similar symptoms that they are saying.' She said 'It's no problem.' She actually rang up the Disability Office there and then and said, 'Can you fit this student in? She thinks she might have dyslexia, can you just assess her and see if she is a candidate for possible further assessment by the Educational Psychologist?' That was it. I went for the initial assessment and they said that it did look like I might have some sort of learning disability and they made further appointments for me to see the Educational Psychologist. Whether I got help or not would depend on his assessment. Basically, he said it was a specific learning disability; something to do with my visual perception. In my case, I was all right on the memory recall test and, basically, they give you an intelligence test as well to see whether you are just not able to understand it. It was on the visual test that I kept falling down. They would show me a picture and then he'd cover it up and I would have to draw the picture. It was really difficult - it was like I couldn't follow the same pattern. It was the same with the bricks as well. Half of them are red and half of them are white and they tell you to build the bricks in the same pattern. I just couldn't for the life of me - I'd be able to do half the pattern but I couldn't do the other half. I couldn't work out how the bricks went into the pattern. So it was classed as a specific learning disability. I'm still not really sure how it works. All I know is that if it's helping me improve my studies then I'll do it. I know the glasses work so that's one improvement.

After you had seen the Psychologist, what was the next step?

The next step was being assessed by Access Summit for my needs. Obviously they had received a report from the Educational Psychologist, who recommended what I may need, which was the support of a disability tutor, a computer with software on like Inspirations [External link: Open in new browser window] and Read & Write [External link: Open in new browser window] to check my grammar and take you through it. I got a tape recorder for lectures and they recommended that I have a colorimeter test for my eyes as well. I was pleased to get any support at that time because I had not got any support or help before then, through school or anything. I knew I was intelligent enough; it wasn't anything that I couldn't do. You know the pace they go at school; I needed longer to learn stuff and I wasn't getting it. So, if you didn't learn multiplication in the couple of lessons that were allocated for it then you miss it, don't you? That was tough. It's a bit like university really in that you have to go away and do your own learning. He asked me more or less a lot of similar questions to what the Educational Psychologist asked me, at Access Summit, the guy there. Then he wrote a report and sent it off to the LEA, saying that he recommended that I needed a computer with this software on it and that a colorimeter test might be a good idea for me to go and have as well for these tinted glasses.

What is the specialist software on the computer?

With Inspirations if you want to plan an assignment you can make spider graphs with your main topic and this in and that. So you can have a visual prompt if you like. Instead of just words you can put a cat in there that prompts you that that is a certain thing. Or another object that prompts you that this is something else. It's supposed to be easier to associate objects more than words. To tell you the truth I'm still not out of the old fashioned way of writing it down on paper and then going to the computer and actually doing it that way. So I'm still surrounded by piles of paper on the floor. If I had the time I do think that if you know what you are doing on them it would be beneficial. So maybe when I've got a bit of time over the holidays ... But I've got no time over the holidays because I've got a 5,000 word assignment to write over the holidays. It's getting the time to play about on the computer. When I go to the computer I'm either going on the Internet to look up websites that I need for my assignment or I am actually writing the assignment. I very rarely use it for anything else because I haven't got the time to go and explore and find out how things work. But I think if you do know what you are doing with the programs on there they will benefit you.

In lectures, you touched on the tape-recorder, how do you get on in those? Do you take notes, do you tape it or...?

In the first year I think the tape-recorder would have been really, really beneficial. We had structured lectures in the morning and then seminar groups in the afternoon on the subject that you had just covered in the morning. It was quite straightforward really. It was known to us that the lecturers didn't mind if we took tape-recorders in to the lectures and put on the front table. I didn't have one then because I was still going through the process.

This year we are all in rooms and we all sit round. There's no lecture theatre where the lecturer is at the front giving the lecture. Now they are all in groups and we discuss the issue and say what our perspective is on it. So that means you can have a few people talking at the same time. So I don't think it would be beneficial to take the tape cassette in. It would take me so long to decipher.

When I found out I was dyslexic I wasn't confident with it. To tell you the truth it has, and still is, taking me a long time to get my head round that I have got a learning disability. I still don't really understand it or believe it myself. Have I got a learning disability? Everybody is saying I have, so I am in that sort of phase of it at the moment. So for me to go down in front and say to him, 'I have a learning disability,' would have been really difficult to do. I don't know what the answers are to it.

It's difficult for lecturers to get it right?

Yes, I know. There were 150 people in the lectures. Obviously that was another reason why I didn't want to go down.

...and they don't want 150 tape-recorders!

Exactly, I can see it from that point of view as well. Even if you didn't had a learning disability, the thought would have occurred to me that it was a pretty good way of keeping all the information from the lecture. You don't have to sit and write it all down. So, like you say, you could end up with 150 tape-recorders down there. Maybe they should tape them and give them out to the students. Wouldn't that save a lot of money?

It wouldn't save money for the department because they would have to pay for the cassettes.

Yes, that's true - unless they could get the LEA to fund them. They could use one tape-recorder that the lecturer uses and then multiple copies of the tape.

Obviously they would have to be aware of who had a learning disability that way plus, it would save the embarrassment of the person with the learning disability, if they do feel going down there is like pointing them out to everybody else; putting a cassette on the table. They could go to the reception or the lecturer's room and say, 'Have you got a tape from that lecture because I have got a learning disability?'

Even now, this year, I've had to talk to a lecturer because she wouldn't give the handouts out at the start of the lecture. I could understand her point of view, but on a social work course that promotes anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory ethos. I thought, 'Hang on a minute.' She said, 'I'm not giving these handouts out because you just won't listen to me and what I want to do is to make you think.' I could understand her reasoning.

If it's the structure of the lecture to give you a guideline of what it's going through, and maybe aims and objectives, then I can't see the point in not handing that out. If it's a paper or a research article that she's photocopied and wants to give it to you at the end to go away with for further reading, I can understand that. But if it is something to help you to structure your notes, then...

I think this was the handout from the overheads. In the end I ended up going up to her and I said, 'I've got a specific learning disability, can I have the handouts?' She was really apologetic, but I'm in second year now and why does nobody on that course realise that there are people with learning disabilities in there? I would have thought that went without somebody having to point it out. But there again, like you say, she could just wave them about and say, 'Anybody with learning disabilities want to come and get one of these, you can now.' You just can't win, can you?

So how do people record information in those seminars? Is it just a case of listening and then going away and reading?

Basically, yes, that's it. They do use the overhead projector and they have handouts. I find the handouts beneficial if they give them to us first because then I can write the notes. If they stick to the handouts, or around the handouts, and the overheads and they are going through it as it is in the handouts, you can actually write notes against what is in the handouts. So that is quite clear and it is easy. You need to come back to it in a couple of weeks because you need to do something with it that you have covered in your assignment. It is quite straightforward and I always put the date of the session and the lecturers name so I can remember it. It's a sort of recall for me as I can visually remember the lecture. So I find it helps when I am trying to remember what was said and done. So they are quite helpful.

Basically, because it is social work, we get a lot of exercises to do where we are given a lot of case studies and we split into smaller groups. In my specialism at the moment there are forty four people. We are all split into specialisms at the moment. I am doing Children & Families and we are split into groups of five or six and we get a case study and that's what we have to discuss. So, really, obviously now I am in my second year I have made quite a few friends and people know about my disability - I'm not embarrassed to say anything about it. If I've missed any information they will actually let me see their notes and any main point I can pick out. Most of the time I've got quite adept at picking the main points up anyway. You've got to do it yourself; you can't expect everybody else to do it. So I make the effort to read the books so at least I've got some forward knowledge. So when I go in there I've got the main idea of what I'm looking for. If we're doing about legislation, the main legislation for children and families is the Children Acts, so I know what I am supposed to be making notes on. I only need to be looking at section 17, and what does section this do and that ... As I said, I write down what it is. But a lot of it is self-directed learning. You are given the outline of it and then you go away and find out the rest for yourself. This was nothing I didn't expect; I expected that from university anyway. I didn't expect them to fill you in on everything you need to know. What I'm finding now is there's never any books at the library. So you might get the books just a week before the assignment is due in which means unless you can read really fast you're defeating the object.

Do you find that you need the book for longer to get the information out of it?

Yeah, but they do give you books for longer as long as you take proof of your disability and a letter from the Disability Office. You're allowed an extra week, overnight books are allowed out for 2 days say instead of overnight. You end up having to reserve them. It's always at the most inconvenient time when you get the books, for example it's my daughter's birthday this weekend and I'll get that book I've been after for 4 weeks. If I don't find the time to read I have got to give it back by next week. There's obviously photocopying.

Do you not have a book allowance at all?

Yeah, I get £75 per semester off the LEA. I've already used that up and I've got 2 assignments. £75 buys about three books. What I did this year, I panicked a bit and bought the books quite early on in the year- September or October time, I used the allowance up for the semester and I didn't have enough money to buy any others. So I have been using the library, but this year it has been a problem because obviously everyone else has got the same idea. I don't want my disability to become a crutch for me to lean on, and say well I can't do it because I have got this reading problem. Because I know I can did it with the right things in place like these glasses. It's my responsibility at the end of the day to get the work done and get it in on time but these little things help.

Do you have study support now with a dyslexia tutor?

Yes. I've only had my new tutor for four weeks. It's working out quite well. What she can do for me is that I tend to have a long winded way of saying things and what she can do is break it down for me. She can say the same thing, but in half a page where it will take me a page to say it. I spend most of my time trying to think how I'm going to say something that sounds understandable to somebody else on paper. She'll come along and say, 'Yes, I can see what you are trying to say, but if you are somebody that has never read it before it sounds a bit confusing.' But this goes back to time limits and everything else as well; and the reading. At the moment I am extracting information out of books and finding it difficult to digest it and understand it thoroughly so I can write it in a concise way. So I extract it and think, 'Oh, I think it means that,' so it's being reflected in my work how much I am getting my head round what I'm reading.

Now in the second year I find there is not a lot of support, apart from if you have got a disability. I feel quite lucky in a way that I have got a disability because I know I will get a hell of a lot more support than people on my course who haven't got a disability. So I feel like I'm one of the lucky ones because I've got people there supporting me; tutors encouraging me and stuff like that, that gives me the confidence that I need to go on.

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Can you explain how they assesssed you in the first year and what the second year entails?
What's the split between exams and assignments and when do you do them?

In the first year we had the exams in January. But to be fair it was indicated what you would need for each exam. It was an open book exam anyway and they were giving us handouts and you could take the handouts and books in. I couldn't really see what people's problems were with it. I couldn't understand why people failed the exam, myself. They gave us all the information you needed.You've got a handout in front of you, so how can you go wrong? That's my own personal opinion. Obviously there is performance in exams; some people just go to pieces, don't they?

Did you get any extra time? I suppose you wouldn't have last year.

I didn't, no. The Disability Office did say that they would notify the faculty or the school and say that I had been initially assessed as having dyslexia and it looked like I might have some sort of learning disability, so could I have this extra time. I don't know if it was agreed or not, because it was so close to the exams when they were asking, anyway, it is quite an intimidating atmosphere - there were about 200 people, because it was people from the year before who had failed it and were re-taking it as well. You are in a big sports hall and you are allocated a desk and it's very formal. I just felt very small and didn't want to put my hand up now in front of all these people and say, 'Can I have extra time?' They'd want to throttle you wouldn't they? 'Why is she getting extra time and I'm not?' So I just kept quiet and didn't even ask. I did the exam in the allocated time. I got a really good mark because, as far as I was concerned, it was all outlined for you. With an extra 45 minutes I don't know what I would have got - probably 100%. I got 76% so I was really, really pleased with that. Like I said, it was all there, the information if you knew where to find it. This year might be different.

If it is an open book exam, I guess there is quite a bit of reading to do. So if you are struggling with your reading maybe you should be given that extra time. It's up to you, at the end of the day, whether you want to take it or not.

If they hadn't have been so good to us in the way that if you listened in the lectures you heard the indications to tell you what was needed in the exam, and I just highlighted right on the front in green on the handout what was necessary for the exam. Obviously, in the handout you know what you need to find in the books then. So I found it quite straightforward. But this year it is more of a prepared exam. You get the question, don't you, and you have to read around the question and then you go into the exam and have to write about what you've found out. So that might be a bit more difficult because it demands a bit more of you this time. They are not pointing you in the right direction.

You said your memory is pretty good for regurgitating material, but it's that researching and reading around the topic that is the trouble.

Yes, this is where I have the trouble. I'm having trouble with these assignments now and this is what is worrying me about not being able to get these books. If I get them too late I'm not going to get the full benefit of what's in them. I'll be trying to extract information at such a rate that I'm bound to miss something. Plus you are at a level now where you have got to think about it. But if you can't read it properly, how can you analyse it properly - it's just a vicious circle.

Do you get extra time for assignments?

No. It's got to be in at the same time as everybody else. I think last year, because none of this support network was in place and I was doing it on my own, I got through it but I think with the expense that by the end of the year I was really, really mentally tired. At the end of the year I had to write 11,000 words. It was a lot for your first year. Some of it was my fault because I got an assignment in January/February time, but I had my exams then so I was concentrating on them. I had a placement in March and I had to do a portfolio and an assignment for this placement. So that was 8,000 words, the portfolio and the assignment, and it was all legislation and 'haths' and 'thus' and it takes a million years to decipher what some legislation is saying. Then I still had this other 3,000 word assignment to do. So I ended up with 11,000 words to write and I ended up in the space of two months on three different things and I was just totally wiped out at the end of it. I was really, really tired mentally. I never wanted to see another book in my life. That was it. I had a couple of months off over the summer when I had finished my placement, and I thought that was a rest. I couldn't even read a magazine. I couldn't even do any light reading.

I came back to university and for the first month it was not working, nothing was happening. I was just reading and they were asking us to 'analyse this.' I was saying, 'OK well, can I have about a week to read it then?' The time is really like extensions. A lot of people might think it's unfair. A lot of my friends say to me, 'How can you have a disability? You are dead good at what you do.' Yes, but I'm up till 2.00 in the morning reading a book I started reading at 11.00. You might read it and it might take you an hour to digest what you have read and extract the information that you need out of it. It's taking me three hours to do the same amount. If I don't put in that amount of commitment, I know that, basically, I'm going to fail. So that's why I do it but it really tires you out. After last year it seems like I don't want to be dealing with it. It's coming round now. But it's like you just get so mentally tired with the reading and everything that you have got to do. Obviously you are panicking all the time too because you are getting more work piled on and there are deadlines to meet, and you don't get any extra time. I'm not 18; I don't go home and I've got no responsibilities. I've got a house to run and two children to sort out and stuff like that. I can't do work when I go home. I pick my children up and I have to concentrate on them until 9 or 10 o'clock at night and then I'm getting books out then. It all sort of builds up and by the end of the year you are just completely and utterly worn out with it all. Next year I've got a dissertation as well. Then again it might be good practice. I'm not doing bad, I mean my marks are OK. I want to do as well as I can possibly do.

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Just tell me about the placement; how did you get on in that? I suppose you didn't know anything about your dyslexia at the time.

Yes, because this was by March and I had my Educational Psychologist report in the January, so, basically, I had had my assessment of need done by then as well. So I was just waiting then, really, for the LEA to either agree to fund it or not.

Was there a lot of paperwork and so on in the placement?

I had a 5,000 word portfolio, two case studies and two people that were at the placement and I had this other 3,000 word assignment to do as well. A 5,000 word portfolio, a 3,000 word assignment on legislation to go with it, and then another 3,000 word assignment that just got pushed to the back burner because of the exams and everything else that was going on. That had to be finished by June as well.

Do you think it will affect you in any way in the work situation? Will you have to come up with strategies for the reading problems - if there's tons and tons of paperwork, will that cause difficulties?

Yes. If they dropped a load of paperwork in front of me and said, 'Read all that,' well, the first thing I'd say is, 'How long have I got?' That has a bearing on if I am going to be able to read it all or not. If you say to me, 'Read it by the end of the month,' and if there is a big pile, I'd be thinking that there is no way I'm going to get that read by the end of the month. I'll be lucky if I get half of it read. Not because I don't want to read it; it's just that's the rate I go. I've learnt a lot of skills since I've been at university, and I've read lots of study skills books and things like that. I've got quite adept now at realising that a lot of stuff that you find there you can disregard and just highlight what you need in it. Usually I have quite good study skills. The beginning of a paragraph usually tells you what the thing is about, so highlight that and the end of the paragraph leads on. So I've picked up some good strategies as I go on.

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Career Aspirations

What do you want to go on and do after you graduate?

I came in with the idea that I wanted to be a residential social worker, it's just that I could get a job as a residential social worker now. I'd like to do the job, but I'm going to have a £12,000 debt round my neck when I leave here. So basically if you have a degree they want you to be a manager of the place rather than just a residential social worker. It's just so varied and so wide, social work.. I'd like to go into something to do with education as well. I just feel it's a shame that now I am at university I am getting all the help that I needed when I was at school. It must be something to do with the way things are funded. It's no good tackling it at the end, you have to start at the beginning and go through and maybe you will see improvements.

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Three tips for lecturers

Three tips that you would give to a lecturer to help students with specific learning difficulties - if you can think of three.

1. Give students handouts so they can make notes on the handouts.
If they are already disadvantaged anyway, I've got to go home and write four pages of notes when with a handout at the beginning of a lecture I could just put the relevant notes next to the points on the handout. When I come to re-read that and think about it and think about the assignment it is just a hell of a lot easier than trying to find four pages of notes that went with it. By then I've had fifteen other lectures as well and there are, like, a hundred million pages everywhere and I'm thinking, 'God, where's that one!' I don't know whether it's asking too much. Other people say that I'm at university now and I should be able to sort all this out myself. I don't know if you should or you shouldn't.

2. Structure your lectures.
The way you structure a lecture can either have a positive impact or a negative impact on people with learning disabilities.

So there needs to be a clear structure to whatever you are doing; whether it is a seminar a group workshop, and a clear learning outcome so you know where you are headings, because I've spent a lot of time trying to work out what workshops are about. That sound's bit stupid, but I don't need to be spending time trying to work out what you are going to teach me. I need you to say, 'You need to know that,' and, 'You need to know this.' I'm not telling you to hand me all the information on it. Just give it to me clear and precise and tell me what I need to go and find out about and I'll do the rest. I'll go and find out about it. I'm not asking to be spoon-fed or anything.

I might spend a week. The majority of people, in fact nearly all of them on our course are mature students. We have other lives outside university and we are trying to fit this in as well. We're not 18 and we can't ring mum up and say I've got a few financial problems. We're sorting all that out as well. So, it would just make things a lot easier if it was clear and concise what the aims and outcomes were supposed to be and what we were supposed to be learning. Then we would all traipse off to the libraries or wherever we've to go and we'd find out the information. To me, that's a better way of learning. I can't see how I'm learning if I'm confused about something. If I'm confused about something and picking up the wrong information up in the library, then how am I learning? I'm wasting my time.

3. Be aware of who is dyslexic in your group. At least have some idea.
Little things like the acceptability of the lecturers that there are people with learning disabilities on their course. I found it really encouraging last year when I said that some of the lecturers said, 'I know we have people with learning disabilities and if you need to come down here and stick a tape-recorder in front of me while I am teaching this lecture, I have no problem with that.' It's really intimidating and embarrassing to have to go up to a ... You are forever having to explain yourself ... 'I've got this learning disability.' You just get sick of this because people should know this anyway. To tell you the truth if I hadn't got a learning disability I would have taken a tape-recorder in anyway.

That would be the ideal thing for them to say that they know some people like to tape lectures so they can bring them down, rather than, 'I know you have a learning disability so you can come and put them down on the desk.'

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Other issues

You said that you think your daughter is dyslexic?

Yes, my children have got symptoms. My daughter has what I would describe as classic symptoms. She writes all her vowels back to front and they are just classic symptoms. She's ten now and it's taken her since she went to nursery school at four, and she's only just getting to grips, and she still does it with bs and ps and she still writes them back to front - classic symptoms. She just can't get her head round 3s and 5s. I had difficulties with the same things at school. If we really want to encourage our children to go on to further education and higher education we should be starting in primary schools, not in universities because most of them won't make it that far. They won't even make it through secondary school.

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