Kate: How was your dyslexia first identified, when did you become aware, and when did that identification lead through to testing, etc? Michael, can I ask you first?
Michael: I started my undergraduate degree at Coventry University and I was...one of my tutors said it seemed like I was struggling to do my assignments and therefore she put me onto student services and they diagnosed me with dyslexia. That was in my second year of my undergraduate at Coventry.
Kate: And Ryan, when and how did it happen for you?
Ryan: For me it was between my undergraduate degree and my masters degree, and I found that I wasn’t finishing my exams so I had a word with one of my lecturers and spoke to some of my peers about the time pressures on my exams, and they all suggested to me that I go and see if I was dyslexic; so I did. I went along to student services and they gave me a test, and that was it.
Kate: Right, so it was running out of time on written exams. And what was it that was making you run out of time do you think?
Ryan: I think it was the reading more than the writing because in physics, which is what I do, it’s more just working with maths and the answers, but to read the questions was taking the time.
Joe: When I was at school my teachers found out that I was doing a lot better in maths and science than I was in, say, history, English, that kind of thing. And they talked to my parents and suggested that they find out something about it. And so I went somewhere – I can’t remember where – and they told me I was dyslexic.
Kate: So you went through testing or screening. Joe: Yes.
Kate: How old were you then? Joe: Thirteen.
Kate: For you, how was your dyslexia first identified?
Anna: The first time during my educational career that teachers thought that there was an issue was going up from junior to senior school...
...after the 6 weeks holiday they sit you down and they say, “Please write an essay about what you’ve done during the holidays”. I struggled to achieve half a side of A4 whereas the rest of my class, because they’d pre-streamed us, were producing 2 sides of A4 with ease.
[At University] I was getting concerned about the exams and mum said, “Have you said that you might have a problem?”, and I said “Well, should I really, now I’ve got this far?”, and she said “No, you should say something, and anyway in the meantime I’ve had a cousin who has been confirmed as dyslexic, so there is now a definite family connection.” So that’s when I went and told the Business School and they sent me for testing at Student Services. So I’ve actually only been officially diagnosed for less than 4 months, I think, officially.
Kate: When and how did you first become aware of your dyslexia - how was it identified for you?
Annie: Oh, well it was identified through student services here at Nottingham, but I kind of always figured I was, and my brother is - he was identified quite early and quite young - but not me somehow. I just kind of figured I always was, and as soon as I went to student services I thought they’re going to say straight away, but it took about a year of going there and then I sat the tests and that was just in March.
Kate: And did you just come along to student services, or did a tutor or teacher suggest you do?
Annie: Well, I failed my exams in the first year, and sort of rather than having a tutor...I thought if I go to my tutor and say “Oh, well, I’ll go to student services”, rather than them say “Why have you failed these exams? What’s wrong with you?” sort of thing. I thought I’d do it myself rather than have them tell me.
Alex: Then I started university and I began to really kind of notice some areas that I was struggling in more than others, for example in lectures I’d often find myself with not a blank sheet of paper, but certainly very disjointed notes which were far from useful. And people kind of either side of me would be having pages of notes and finding no difficulty. However, I didn’t actually act upon this until I had got to this university, and I think it was in the introductory lecture or introductory session where the teacher said – right at the end, he said “If any of you have any doubts about this there is very good academic support here and you can go and get yourself screened”, so I did.
Kate: Deciding to kind of go to the Academic Support unit and be screened and tested and having your dyslexia confirmed, has that had any impact on, I suppose, your self view?
Alex: I think it gave me the incentive to actually do something about it. I’d always wondered...you know my brother has dyspraxia, so he’s always had problems, specific learning difficulties, but I kind of always thought, “Well, maybe there’s nothing there, I really don’t need to do anything about this”. But now that I know I have put these things in place with the help of the academic support here, and with, obviously, the reports provided a lot of useful information and techniques that I can use. So I think having it confirmed has actually kind of spurred me into acting upon it as opposed to kind of putting it to one side, so it’s good.
Kate: Can I ask you how do students make their way to your door? What’s the process by which students come to speak to you?
Christine: Well, it’s in a variety of ways really. Some refer themselves; they’ve perhaps identified that they’re comparing themselves with their peers and finding that they’re doing something in different ways, spending longer, or they may have been doing extremely well but there are certain aspects that they want to improve, they want to think “I’m putting a lot of effort into my essays but I’m not getting the marks, what can I be doing?” And it may present as a study issue in that way, or they may come in saying “I think I might be dyslexic, there’s been a history that might have suggested it and for whatever reason I’ve now reached a point where I want to identify what’s going on”. And for other students it can be that a tutor has identified something; they might have looked at an exam paper and seen that there are a surprising number of errors or something in their written work or noticed that the verbal and written work are discrepant in some way, and suggested that they should come along and get it investigated, so to speak.
Produced: June 2007, in collaboration with the University's Promoting Enhanced Student Learning (PESL) initiative.