Case Study A
The following case study was taken from: IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://www.psychology.heacademy.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=6 (information extracted and accessed October 2006).
When Jaiden first enrolled on his undergraduate psychology degree course he was unaware that he had dyslexia. However, he found that he was having great difficulty keeping up with the course. At times he had problems in expressing himself in words, and would often get confused with numbers. In addition he had problems with his visuo-spatial awareness. Just three weeks before his finals, when writing up his dissertation, his supervisor suggested that he be tested for dyslexia. He was diagnosed just in time to benefit from extra time in his final exams, something which he found extremely beneficial.
However, due to having been diagnosed so late in his degree, Jaiden felt let down by the university and feels that he has been disadvantaged: “I spent most of the three years on my course struggling with very little help”. He felt that the diagnosis was picked up relatively late because student contact between students and tutors was minimal. However, once tutors became aware of his impairment he found they were very helpful.
He found that his condition impacted negatively on his experience of studying psychology. Jaiden found that the cognitive components in psychology that focused on logic and problem-solving caused him difficulties. He struggled with report-writing, which had to be very clear and concise. In addition, expressing very complex ideas with little support was difficult. He also came across problems with research methods due to his difficulties with numbers and concepts related to them. However, Jaiden has found that studying psychology has given him an insight into why he may have this impairment, and thus perhaps a better understanding of his condition.
Case Study B
The following case study is taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , (information extracted and accessed September 2006)
Chris is just coming to the end of the first year of his degree. His major subject is psychology but about one third of his time in the first year has been given to geography courses, and he hopes to continue to include geography as a minor subject in his second and third years. He was diagnosed as having dyslexia in the early years of secondary school.
Chris had some contact with the Disability Adviser before he arrived and has since used this central service to arrange an update to his statement of needs, to support his claim for Disabled Students Allowances to buy a laptop, and to arrange extra time for his exams. Although staff have been mostly very helpful, his experiences with the service have been mixed. The exam arrangements were straightforward to organise, but Chris had sent psychologists’ reports to the office which subsequently went missing; and he found the process for obtaining the laptop very longwinded.
At first tutors did not seem to be aware of Chris’s dyslexia – but the Disability Adviser wrote to departments about half way through the first term and things got easier after that. His chief problem has been with lecturers who deliver their content very quickly and run through crowded Powerpoint slides too fast to allow him to keep up with notes. The educational psychologist recommended that Chris be given lecture notes in advance, to help remedy this situation, but this has not happened. Chris is determined to follow up this issue in his second year and is confident of approaching his departments first, and the Disability Adviser afterwards for extra support if necessary, to ensure that the psychologist’s recommendations are implemented.
Chris finds the library a very daunting place. ‘I often find myself disorientated, frustrated and confused.’ It is very large, and he says he has difficulty focusing on the specific task he is there to do because of feeling bombarded by information from all the written sources around him. The fact that books are not always in just the right place on the shelf compounds his difficulty. A successful solution has been for him to have a helper with him in the library to locate the texts he needs. At the moment he is using a friend from his course for this support; their time is being paid for from Disabled Students Allowances. He finds route finding around the library moderately difficult – the colour coding of different sections helps a bit but is not a complete solution as colours are repeated on different floors. Chris wasn’t aware at the start of the course that individual introductions to the library were offered to disabled students by a library assistant with particular responsibility for disability services. He reckons he would have made use of this service if he had known about it – as well as doing the regular tour with other students.
He was offered additional learning support but hasn’t taken this up. He is happy and confident with strategies developed during school and college from supportive parents who are teachers, from a private tutor – and his own trial and error. So far, he has not used the system of attaching yellow stickers to his essays, reminding tutors about his dyslexia. He may use these in his second year but is determined not to fall back on them as an excuse for poor work. He does, though, find invaluable the extra time allocated in exams. He uses it to plan out his answers more than would have been possible; and to avoid the problem of overload when lots of ideas crowd in at once and risk getting lost.
Chris advises other students with dyslexia to make sure staff know about their difficulties, to be clear about how it affects their studies, and to use the help available in the department and around the university.