I think it’s important for universities to make the process easier and more visible for people with learning difficulties – as opposed to hidden behind countless clicks. On the other hand, we have to feel comfortable with disclosing our special needs. In my first year, I wasn’t sure who to disclose it to, beyond the disability officer, so they helped me tell my lecturers and tutors – and that was key to achieving my best possible grades.
My dyslexia means that I have a slower processing speed, and I sometimes need to be explained a concept two or three times to understand it thoroughly; but the person doing the explanation cannot be frustrated about repeating it, or I’ll feel inadequate and won’t learn well. Once they knew, my personal tutor was happy to have extra coffee catch-ups, where he would re-explain the essay writing techniques, for example, and that made such a difference! But it only happened because I was forthcoming, and positive about what I was learning, so the lecturers were happy to offer me that extra support.
They also made sure that I would not feel alienated by my special needs. One day during my Master’s, for example, I was unusually quiet in class, and the lecturers Tania de St Croix and Meg Maguire (both superstars! along with their colleague Emma Towers) wondered if something was wrong. I couldn’t read the presentation well as the powerpoint had a white background, and I need it to be more yellow to read comfortably – bright yellow is ideal. A middle ground is to use a cream background, so they decided that from then on, all the slides used in our class would have such a cream background, and the other classmates would also need to use it if they were presenting something. I felt guilty to make everyone change the colour of the slides, but the School handled that very well by building a sense of community, that we were all in this together.
Doing a Master’s in education was integral to my experience of writing a book
If I’m honest with myself, I always wanted to write a book – although, I didn’t think I would do it before the age of 30, or write about dyslexia. I'm an advocate of neurodiversity but I used to be embarrassed about it.
At one point I thought of becoming a Youtuber – as one does, nowadays. I did a video called ‘Dyslexia and me’, where I talked about my experience as a dyslexic person in education, compared to the examples that we are usually given: apart from Whoopi Goldberg, they are mostly (old) white men, and that really made me feel ‘other’ in my own community of neurodiverse people. Besides, neurodivergence is not talked about at all in ethnic minority communities. I am really lucky that my parents are liberal and so we talked about it, but most black people wouldn’t. And on the back of my video, I received a message on Instagram to ask me if I wanted to write a book about my dyslexic journey!
This took place about half-way through the Master’s dissertation, but I was so well supported by my professors that I went for it. I worked really hard on all fronts for a few months – the dissertation, the book, but also my business, which I was still running, in the middle of a pandemic.