I was recently diagnosed with Dyspraxia, dysgraphia, as well as with Irlen syndrome. Let’s keep in mind that I’m currently completing my second Master’s degree. So I have gone through my entire education thinking I was stupid or slow, not knowing that my brain was wired differently.
I wanted to get tested in undergrad but the disability office never got back to me and I was too embarrassed to chase after them. Then during my first MA I inquired about getting tested and I was told it would cost $5,000. That was $5,000 I didn’t have. So when I got to the UK and they told me it was £400, I was all in. Everyone told me it was expensive, but in comparison to $5,000, I saw it as my opportunity to figure it all out.
The tipping point was when I was sitting in a one-on-one Arabic session with my tutor and I couldn’t read. I’ve been taking Arabic classes since I was 4 years old. I know how to read, but for some reason, I couldn’t read during this one session. I don’t know if it was the font, the font size, the colors. I’m not sure, but I couldn’t read and it was really embarrassing. I knew something was wrong, I couldn’t make out a single word, it was as if my brain froze. I tried to hold back the tears during this session and my tutor kept pushing me to answer questions, to read, to describe photos and I couldn’t. That paragraph I couldn’t read was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I left that session a complete wreck, but at the same time very determined to get tested. I was so sure something was not quite right.
I took an online survey provided by my university and then was told I should get tested. At the end of the test, The Educational Psychologist told me “Good news, you don’t have dyslexia…” And then he went on to describe to me what my learning difficulties are.
It makes sense, my horrible memory, my inability to concentrate, complete directional incapabilities. I can’t follow directions for the life of me and can’t seem to organize my thoughts very well. Still get left and right confused. Can’t read a map. Can’t count money with ease. My math skills are embarrassing. I still add and subtract on me hands, with difficulty. Why I’m sensitive to light and why I prefer colorful screen backgrounds as opposed to white backgrounds. Why I Can’t memorize my times tables. Can’t concentrate or read with ease. I can’t remember sequences or do things/activities/steps/ sequences in reverse order. Why my eyes are drawn to the spaces between words and lines, as opposed to the actual words. I Can’t take notes or write a legible sentence on paper. My bizarre pen-grip, My visual tracking issues and spatial reasonings issues. My complete inability to tolerate loud noises. To say that I’m clumsy is an understatement. I drop things, pick up the wrong things, trip and fall over nothing, fall off my chair, walk into things, and on accidental occasions end up hitting myself due to my hand not listening to my brain. It explains why I was horrible at learning foreign languages and why I failed geometry in high school, why while driving I feel like cars are closer to me than they actually are, or how I could never keep my place why reading in school, why I never could figure out how to ride a bike and so many other moments in my life.I still have a difficult time tying my shoes, And so much more. In fact, when going on dyspraxia websites, I notice I have 9/10 of the symptoms. How did no one noticed these things and how did teachers write me off as being unmotivated, slow, stupid and even sometimes invisible?
Clearly, unmotivated is incorrect, seeing as I have pushed through my disabilities and the naysayers to continue my education, but every once in a while someone comes along and tells me that I’m not trying hard enough. Or that the grades I’m getting and pushing myself for are actually a much stronger and more difficult effort I’m putting forth than anyone realizes. In all honesty, I have learned to laugh things off, keep my head down in classes, my head up amongst my peers and try and disguise my difficulties. Maybe this causes an illusion that there’s nothing “wrong” with me. And there is nothing wrong with me. But I’m different and there are a lot of other people with similar difficulties out there.
What surprised me though was the lack of help or assistance I have actually received since being diagnosed. My uni provided me with one study skills session in which I was told that they couldn’t help me because my problems were too severe and that the only advice they could give me was to not do my readings or assignments for classes if I’m not being graded on it. So essentially just go to class clueless. This is not a solution. This is not what I’m paying money I don’t have, to receive an education in which I’m told not to prepare for class.
I was told that as an international student I wasn’t eligible for aid from the university or the UK government, which all seems a bit suspicious seeing as I have been shopping around other universities and visiting their disabilities offices and it turns out they all agree it’s illegal to deny me equal services bc I am international student and that universities should be helping to meet the same standards of other students. I don’t know much about law, maybe other universities are just saying that, but at least they’re offering or telling me that they can help.
I emailed some Dyspraxia organizations and they just referred me to an occupational therapist that charges £600 for an initial evaluation session. While I am over the moon that I know what has been “holding me back” all this time, it’s disappointing that I don’t know to improve or work with it. I keep being told to buy this book and this book or see this or this therapist. But I’m not made of money.
Oh well, I have to Thank God that I have reached this far without much help and be thankful that I know what my difficulties are. Now, I pray that I will be able to figure out how to move forward.