Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The dyspraxic and dyslexic guide to university life

Hello :) Hope you are all well and managaed to soak up some summer sun. I thought I would blog about my experiences at university, some strategies I used to help me which might be useful to someone you know or yourself or even if you have neither and just want some tips for being at uni and I thought I'd share some humerous stories which happened- like I always say there's never a dull moment with a dyspraxic. I think it's important especially from a dyspraxic perspective that it doesn't just include study skills. Whilst a lot of people with dyspraxia and dyslexia will need access to help them study that was myself included. There's also so much more especially if you're living away from home independently for the first time, which can seem daunting to everyone (I mean what do you do without your mum's home cooking!) but can be very overwhelming for those who have dyspraxia and dyslexia as we don't like change or unfamiliar situations and it can take a while for us to find our baring. So I thought it was very important to talk about strategies for day to day independent living too.  If you haven't chosen to go to uni don't feel bad, work with how your brain works to it's best ability. Be proud of how far you have come, a lot of students and your parents will have fought long battles to get you help, be proud of your courage and determination.

Before going to university I was quite apprehensive, I really struggled organising myself and the objects around me, my bedroom at home was like a bomb site (I like to think it is now more a bit like disorganised chaos) my memory was like spaghetti, and I could  barely direct myself in my own home town never mind a brand new town. Also even though I desperately wanted to be independent and learn to cook and do simple things like use an iron without burning a huge hole in it or using a washing machine without turning my whites to blues it was a struggle. Then on top of that was the academic struggles such as planning an essay, reading lots of long texts and processing what I had read and making my spelling look relatively like in English. If you're thinking this is me and currently in a ball of anxious chaos then hopefully my blog might help you, equally if you think a friend or someone your course might be showing signs and may not have been picked up at school or college maybe it could help them to.

The best advice I can give  to have coping strategies which use your strengths, so if you're a visual thinker maybe writing things down on your door or having post it notes up might help you, break tasks down into manageable chunks, then you're more likely to complete them and to a good standard. My mum always tells me with a lot of tasks I'm 90% there but then loose concentration, focus or memory. It's usually tasks which require a lot of fine manipulation and fine motor skills, that might be preparing food, making sure I clean an area and reach all the bits, or making sure I get all the creases out when I iron my clothes. It's best to set yourself small manageable goals which you're able to achieve and next time do a bit more. My mum has always told me to do things in a rule of 5 to check 5 times. Being organised will help you so much, and help you in the world of work afterwards. Try and have a set place for where you put important things like keys, books, your, phone, purse/wallet.  But it's important not to beat yourself up when things might not go to plan, I remember once accidentally leaving my hairdryer on when I went out, locking myself out of my room many a time and having to visit security to ask for a spare key and the biggie falling down a slope breaking my ankle and dragging down my friend down with me and ending up in pot for the whole of Christmas. Even on my university interview it'self I fell up the steps (typical Rosie.) No matter how many strategies we might have we still have good and bad days. I'm still the clumsiest person you'll ever meet in life and have the spacial awareness of well nothing, as for my balance... It's times like that to remember your strengths and laugh there is never a dull moment with a dyspraxic. Make sure you take time to self care and listen to your body and take time to rest and look after yourself and emotional well being. It may feel like you're different to others and have a quirkier way of seeing the world, but find interests which suit you. I faced some bulllying and ignorance whilst at university which I've mentioned in previous blogs  but hopefully the more we speak out the more there will be awareness.

When it comes to academic support make sure you check what disability support is offered at your uni, make sure you apply for DSA, and find out what works for you how your brain is wired. Stop comparing yourself to others. I always used to feel bad that it took me 10x longer than everyone else writing my essays, with all the processes which take place when my friends could write one in a night, but I learnt to accept it and the pride I felt when handing them in. It defiantly made me more resilient and determined to get things finished. My good friend Kerry Pace runs a company called Diverse Learners where she offers studying through skype which fits in with you, she's also dyspraxic herself and talks about the many humorous situations she's got in called Kerry Calamities, she's literally an older version of me. She can be found here: but it just shows the whole range of support which is out there, likewise if you think you might be struggling do something about it with the right strategies it can make life so much easier for you.

A little bit of advice for if you're a friend of a dyspraxic/dyslexic at university or in general in life, please try and be mindful, patient and understanding and most importantly positive. Understand that it might take someone 10x longer to do what might be simple tasks to you, they might make a mess either around them or on themselves and you might have your best wine glass broken it doesn't mean they don't care or are careless or have had their parents doing everything for them it's just the way the dyspraxic brain works and how we perceive distances to objects. They might do things in their completely unique way but that's ok that's just how their brains are wired. Please be mindful of how low their self confidence may be at times due to past negative experiences but tell them all the things they can do and praise the little achievements.

I'm writing this blog the proud owner of a 2:2 and a masters degree, and living independently away from home, I will always be dyspraxic and dyslexic but my experiences have shaped who I am and made me a lot more determined in the world of work- anything is possible! You're not alone in your journey.

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