Case Study – Geography and Motor / Manual Dexterity Difficulties

The following case study was taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire ,  (information extracted and accessed September 2006).


Ina is a level three Landscape Architecture student with dyslexia and arthritis. She experiences difficulties with manipulation of text and organising ideas as a result of her dyslexia. Ina’s arthritis affects mainly her wrists, causing frequent continuous pain and cramps.

When trying to decide her preference between written assignments and the practical drawing aspects to her studies, Ina finds they both cause difficulties, for different reasons.

Ina has particular difficulties with the grammar and sentence structure of written pieces of work as a result of her dyslexia. She gets study skills tuition with a dyslexia tutor once a week to work on her pieces. She finds the continual support motivating and feels her confidence has grown as a result. She finds working on level three essays more interesting than the previous years. This, too, gives her the enthusiasm to sustain her studies when she sometimes finds the technical aspects of essay writing a challenge.

Ina also finds that drawing a lot causes pain in wrists as a result of her arthritis. In the winter she works in fingerless gloves to keep her wrists warm to alleviate the symptoms, and allow her the dexterity of her fingers to continue to study. Jo explains that in some ways, working on her drawings allows her more autonomy to set her pace. She is able to stop when she likes to relieve the pain in her wrists.

When speaking about support she gets from the academic department within the University, Ina explains “I do get support from the staff, they always say I have to have a doctor’s letter and they will grant extensions, etc, but I always try to get the work in on time. I think I’ve handed all my pieces in on time so far. I’m worried about my design project, if my pain in the wrists starts up again then I’d like to be able to defer it.” Ina would have difficulties with deferring the project and claiming Disabled Students’ Allowance to cover the costs of study skills support. Deferring the level three design project would also mean deferring her fourth year (professional course) to the year after. “My mum’s worried I won’t come back, she’s probably right.” Ina has begun to explore the possibility of arranging an extension for her design thesis with verification for the request coming from the Disability Adviser. “I’m hoping to get it in on time, but knowing that it’s possible to get an extension may take the pressure off. My friends say I should go and talk to the tutor, but I thought I would rather talk to [Disability Adviser]. It might sound better coming from her. I don’t want my tutor to think I’m always moaning and asking for extensions.”

Ina’s arthritis is highly affected by the climate. “The wrists flare up when I’m writing or drawing a lot but the weather affects them as well. In the summer it was OK, I was doing a lot of canoeing and coaching, but I had special gloves and my wrists were fine, but now the weather’s changing, the pain in my wrists is more severe and it means it hurts to work.” But Ina is keen to ensure she meets the deadlines given for her work, and often works through the pain, seeing it as part of her life that she has to cope with rather than request support from the University. “I’ve been OK on fieldtrips. We went to Barcelona. It hurt sometimes when we were recording the information out there, but because of the good weather and nice sun, it kept my wrists warm and it was OK. It hurt more when I came back and had to write it all up. But I did it. It hurt, but I did it.”


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.