As far as I was concerned when I applied to university I wasn’t disabled, I’d never been disabled and I just had to get on with my life in the best way possible.Little did I know I’d suffered with at least one disability my entire life. Now I’ve written before about being Dyslexic but I haven’t really gone into detail about how it can impact on my life at uni or otherwise. The majority of people here and at home that are friends with Ali and I are shocked and sometimes don’t believe me when I say I’m registered with the Dyslexia and Disability department, they ask me why and sometimes still make their own assumptions about if I’m ‘really’ disabled.
It’s a funny word that I never really use about myself. When most people hear the word disability they think of something physical, a wheelchair, a walking aide, a white stick are all a lot easier to understand. Depression and Anxiety isn’t visible and I have gone for years with some people not having a clue. As with the Dyslexia, I went nearly 15 years in the education system without it being picked up that I was not only Dyslexic but severely Dyslexic and not just stupid as I had thought. Both of my ‘disabilities’ are mental, I explain a lot that it’s not uncommon for someone with a mental health condition to wish it was physical, people understand that.
So I wanted to use today’s blog to talk about some of the common misconceptions about disability as a student and how my life is impacted by BOTH of them.
1. People with Dyslexia only have problems reading or writing
This is a HUGE misconception that simply needs a little bit more education. Whilst I was at school it was thought I couldn’t be Dyslexic as I was in the top class for English. Although my CAT scores were lower and I constantly struggled with little things like paragraphing, punctuation and spelling it wasn’t really looked in to. Even at uni some of my seminar leaders admit they know nothing about Dyslexia and if I ‘try a bit harder’ I might pick up these things. Dyslexia has a massive spectrum for me my weaknesses are processing information, spelling (I will change a whole sentence if I can’t spell a word sometimes), grammar, basic skills and the speed in which I do things.
2. Depressed people don’t have fun, they’re constantly unhappy
This just isn’t true for the majority of depressed people. There are flickers of light even in your darkest days but because of the way you’re thinking it’s just harder to see them. I’m out of the darkest part but on a low I find it hard to think positively. With gentle encouragement and time there can be good days for someone with Depression. We can be fun too!!
3. You’d know if you were dyslexic
I found out I was dyslexic at 19 years old studying for a degree in English Literature. I knew I struggled a lot but it was my tutor who suggested getting a test. A lot of things make sense now as to WHY I struggled.
4. You don’t need a fancy new laptop from the government for uni
There is a lot of jealousy over disabled students because we get DSA (Disabled Student Allowance). I have been insulted many times saying that I don’t need help. I do get help in the form of a dyslexia tutor and a mental health mentor. I got a laptop, programming, a printer and a voice recorder to help me with my studies because sometimes I struggle. There are people who play the system to get what they want but it’s not all of us!! I hate being accused of being a ‘scrounger’ by people who spend all their student loan on booze. I’m really grateful that I got the help I did because it makes life SO much easier!
5. Anxiety is just a part of life
I was actually told this after my diagnosis by a member of staff who I believe thought I was lying. Yes anxiety is a part of life but living with it is different. The most minor things will make you fret and worry constantly, losing concentration, sleep and generally making you quite poorly. That is anxiety, trust me.
6. It’s all attention seeking
No. Just no.
7. You can’t have a learning difficulty, you’re smart
8. Why do you get money? It’s not really fair is it?
Going back to number 4, I don’t get direct payments but some people do to help them cover costs. I have an amount for extra books, ink, etc. Just think if you became disabled wouldn’t you find that help a relief? I certainly do, it means I don’t put unnecessary worry or strain on myself or those around me and can get the help I need.
9. How do your disabilities affect your day to day life
More than you may think! In terms of dyslexia, it effects my reading, writing, spelling, memory, processing things quickly (which makes exams horrible), the time it takes for me to do things, my driving (I’m on my 4th test now) which really bugs me. I’m learning to adapt to it. My Depression/Anxiety makes me a worrier, can put me on a low where I’m really unmotivated, can make me irritable, tired an honestly can mean I’m not a great person to be around. Occasionally I’ll have to miss a day of class because I’m feeling that crappy. I’m lucky that I have a good group of people who understand around me.
10. Is it hard?
Yes. It can be but I wouldn’t change it…well most of the time anyway. I find ways to get around things, to smile and carry on to the best I can. Now I understand why I struggle with certain things and for me that’s great! I can learn how to fix them 🙂
So there it is, hopefully some questions have been answered. If you have any more PLEASE! comment below or tweet me!