Book Review: The Disconnect – Keren David

Could you last six whole weeks without your phone? Six weeks without sharing photos, without group messages, without being kept in the social‑media loop?

An eccentric entrepreneur has challenged Esther’s year group to do just that, and the winners will walk away with £1,000.

For Esther, whose dad and sister live thousands of miles away in New York, the prize might be her only chance to afford flights for a visit…

But can she really stay disconnected long enough to win?
 

Out of the three books I picked up at YALC this year, one of them was kindly gifted to me by Barrington Stoke and you’ll be hearing more about them in another post!

I picked this up because I found the concept fascinating – living without your phone, particularly as a teenager in 2019. I mean, I was a teenager between 2007 & 2013 and even then we were pretty obsessed with our phones (rest in peace my faithful iPhone 3GS) but now it’s a totally different world.

I really liked Esther, she felt incredibly real and so did her family. Often in Young Adult books the families of protagonists aren’t that well written but in this case they were integral to the plot. The fact that she misses her sister and Dad really resonated while reading as a motivator.

The plot tackled a lot of themes in a pretty short book (it was only 224 pages in a larger font, specially created for Dyslexic readers) – missing your family, money, a mention of police corruption, technology, bullying and more but at the same time this didn’t feel forced. They naturally fell into the plot because this is what a teenagers life is like – all these things can be going on at the same time and it was refreshing to read.

Additionally, the task and research behind it made me think a lot about my own relationship with my phone. I spend a lot of time on it, partly because it’s my job but I am trying to do better when it comes to leaving my phone across the room and getting off it in the evening. Could I have gone 6 weeks without my phone as a teenager? Probably not, I probably would have cracked.

I gave this book 3.5 stars, I thought this was a positive book and while I’m not the target audience I did appreciate the novel for what it was. Due to the nature of the book and publishers this is meant to me a shorter read with straightforward themes as they are aimed at teens with Dyslexia.

I’m intrigued to know – do you think that you could have lived without your phone as a teenager? Let me know below. 👇

My First Dyslexic Session

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Way back in first year I discovered that I am in fact, dyslexic, and quite seriously so as my educational psychologist report says. There was a lack of tutors for me to start tutoring when I requested it in first year, I then developed the attitude of ‘well I got this far without it so why bother’ partly to hide my feelings. I wasn’t embarrassed to be dyslexic at all, in fact it made my constant troubles with punctuation, grammar and spelling that have lost me so many marks over the years. All in all I just didn’t want another label and have to answer more questions because people didn’t believe me. I love to read, I have done since I was a little girl, people see Dyslexia as not being able to read or write but that’s not what mine is, it has such a broad spectrum! I guess I just didn’t want another label on me.

Fast Forward to a few weeks ago and I was struggling with my course work I didn’t have anyone to have a read over for me or help me understand what was going on with my work on a regular basis. Some friends would help but it wasn’t fair to keep asking when they had their own assignments to do. I decided to try and get the tutoring again, because otherwise my allowance from the DSA was just sitting there not being used. Because it is run by a different company I quickly got a response and was booked in to see a tutor.

I was nervous, I’m really independent when I work so it was something I’d never done before. I shouldn’t have worried, my new tutor is absolutely lovely and respects the achievements and way of working I have. All my sessions will be lead by me and what I want to cover, while my mentor will suggest things that make my life easier in terms of my writing. You never know, the blog might improve too! So, every week I’ll be taking work with me for us to look at and try to make it better, meaning I’ll hopefully get a better grade.

Fingers crossed!

Living with a ‘disability’

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!

I’m Dyslexic!

After 19 years on the planet and 14 years in the education system I can finally say I am dyslexic! Today I trudged to my appointment quite nervous but I didn’t need to be my assessor was so lovely and made me completely at ease. There was one thing though, I found the tests a lot more difficult that I thought I would. In the past I’d taken similar tests and hadn’t found them that hard, which is why nothing was made much of an issue, I wonder now though if I had been trying too hard. As you’ll probably know from earlier blog posts I don’t like failing at anything. If my assessor hadn’t been so lovely I would have got incredibly nervous and stressed when I started struggling.

The end result was that I was obviously dyslexic, something I should have known before. I don’t have the final report but I have a problem with my short term memory, the way I hear things such as phonics and sounds and the rate my brain processes things is a lot slower than the average person. There are a few other things too but I can’t quite remember, either way so many things make sense now! I got incredibly excited when she began explaining what the tests meant and when I asked her about certain situations she said it was part of my dyslexia.

I’ll be talking to my driving instructor about this too as now it’s confirmed there can be special allowances made in my test to allow for the slow processing.I would also like to point out that there are so many different types of dyslexia that it doesn’t just meant people can’t read and write there are many different things. I struggle in particular with spelling, grammar, punctuation as well as that I REALLY struggle with telling my left from my right (which was incredibly embarrassing the older I got). Now I have to talk to the DSA so I can get help with my studies in the form of a mentor who specialises in dyslexia. So a tip for any of you out there who are struggling and feel you could have dyslexia, talk to your uni! I was able to get my test for free because of my household income (otherwise they are £300). It really could help you get the grade you deserve!

Always getting ahead

At the age of seven I stood up in front of my Aunt’s wedding reception and sang ‘Eternal Flame’ by The Bangles. I was not bothered in the slightest I just stood up and sang while adults got all misty eyed and I was none the wiser. Since I was small I’ve always been confident and I’ve been ahead of my class most school years (so much so that at one point they thought I might end up at Oxford or Cambridge). Even at the age of five I couldn’t stand being read too, so instead I’d read to my mum at night, not bothering with silly voices I just wanted to read it. As I got older my confidence as a performer grew and so did my skills in reading and writing I was on top form. Even when I was bullied I may have lost the majority of my confidence but apart from Maths I was generally either one of the smarter ones in my class or at least ahead of what I was supposed to be. 

Why am I tell you all this? Not to show off I can assure you. Once I started Uni I realised I wasn’t the smartest any more and there are things that I didn’t know, even about myself. I’ve been finding parts of Uni a struggle, things I shouldn’t. For me this was really tough, I’d been the smart girl for the past 2 years, what was I now? This started to have a real impact on me, for the last few weeks I’ve been really uncertain. I spoke to people and now questions are being raised about me being Dyslexic. This doesn’t surprise me as I knew I already had tendencies but after a talk with my tutor she said usually brighter children find way to compensate and hide it. It got me thinking and academically I love pleasing people so maybe I held off in the other dyslexia tests? I wont know for a little while but it has been agreed that I will have a test paid for by the uni to see if they can give me any help and find the cause. 

I think I need to relax but I do worry about being behind. I have to be organised, I have to be on time and usually I need to know what’s going on. Sometimes (as I mentioned before) it’s a blessing but it’s also exhausting so I’m trying to take a leaf out of Ali’s book and be more relaxed about things. I need to learn to go with the flow, we’ll see how that works out! Anxiety plays it’s part and I’m hoping when CBT starts working I will be able to be that little bit more relaxed. Apart from worrying about going back to Halls I haven’t had to use CBT today but it’s still going to take time. This is something that I can’t get ahead with, a new way to learn I suppose!