During Dyslexia Awareness Week at NTU, we have interviewed current NTU student, Thomas Jones, who studies Building Surveying and has dyslexia. Dyslexia is a hidden disability and is the most common learning difficulty. The theme of this year’s Dyslexia Awareness Week is ‘Identification of dyslexia’ and we were interested to see how Thomas got diagnosed with dyslexia, his concerns, struggles and how it has impacted his life at University…
1. What were the initial symptoms that led you to realise you had dyslexia?
Thomas: As long as I can remember, I have struggled with reading and writing. It was the prospect of having to study a language in Year 9 that led me to speak out about my struggles. I felt like I hadn’t got to grips with the English language, let alone a foreign one!
2. What was the assessment process of diagnosing your dyslexia?
Thomas: I was first diagnosed in 2008 when I was 14 years old. I was referred to a specialist Dr. who asked me to complete a number of tests to see how good my literacy and numeracy skills were. He then put these findings into a portfolio and came to the conclusion that I was dyslexic. I had to take another lot of tests at College just before I went to University. These were free and more of a ‘refresher’ to see where I was at with my dyslexia.
3. What support did you receive when you were first diagnosed with dyslexia?
Thomas: After I was diagnosed, I attended extra support sessions to help with my reading and writing instead of studying a language. It was a small group of 4 students that attended these. It made it easier for me to ask questions and get help quickly. In the group, we did various exercises. On of them was practising reading aloud and going through any school work we were struggling with.
If your school doesn’t have support like this, you could go to your GP and they should be able to point you to similar groups in the community.
4. How have people dealt reacted when you tell them you’re dyslexic?
Thomas: Everyone has been fine with it! I have never experienced any bad reactions because people always seem to understand what dyslexia is. My peers have always been supportive and I never felt pressured by them to read quicker or always get my spelling correct.
5. Did your dyslexia affect your decision to go to University?
Thomas: When I first considered University, I was quite worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace of the lectures or the other students. I looked into what support my chosen University could offer and most of them offer laptops for dyslexic students. This helps with writing at a similar pace to other students.
6. Now you’re at University, what support is available to you?
Thomas: I definitely had nothing to worry about! All my lecturers send me the lecture slides before the lecture is given so I can read them at my own pace, before the other students. They have also given me a laptop so I take that to lectures with me. This allows me to keep the lecture slides up if they have changed them too quickly for me. I was quite worried that I would be the only person with a laptop and other students would be using notepads and pens. However, I realised that people really do write their notes in a variety of ways. So I don’t feel singled out. I also get extra time in exams to accommodate for the fact that I read and write slightly lower than the average student.
7. Does your dyslexia get in the way of student life?
Thomas: No way! Being dyslexic isn’t the be all and end all of your life. There are so many courses and extra-curricular activities that don’t involve doing any sort of reading, writing or maths. I am very sporty and have partaken in Football, Rowing and Frisbee at University. It doesn’t affect my ability in any sports.
8. What’s one piece of advice for people with dyslexia to remember?
Thomas: It doesn’t define you and it doesn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do. I always remember that some of the most famous and admirable people suffered from dyslexia. For example, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Tom Cruise are all dyslexic and it has never stopped them achieving great things.
If you are concerned or want to know more about dyslexia, see the Dyslexia Awareness Week website.