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Being dyslexic in higher education

Thursday 20 August 2020

After experiencing challenges throughout primary and high school, Chloe will soon be studying for a Masters degree in Computing. She shares her story, her achievements, her lockdown graduation and her passion to launch a game-changing app to support pupils with dyslexia.

Chloe at her lockdown graduation celebration

My name is Chloe Black and I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyscalculia at the age of 17, after being put through tests within my first year of college back in 2015/16 by an Education Psychologist. I recently graduated from university in isolation and now hold a 2:1 in BSc (with honours) Interactive Media Design and I will resume postgraduate study in September to complete a Master’s in Computing at Edinburgh Napier University.

High school challenges

Before being diagnosed I had struggled through both primary and high school, conditioned to believe I was just ‘stupid’ after being placed in the lowest groups since primary school. When I progressed into high school my belief was further highlighted that I was in-fact just ‘stupid’, I couldn’t process information as easily as other students and struggled with my work. In turn, my confidence plummeted, and I felt as though I was being failed by my school, nobody could connect the dots to my constant disruptive behaviour. It’s funny looking back at my reports from high school, they all say the same thing “disruptive”, “not willing to listen”, “you can do great work when you want to”. Looking back now, and after having done a significant amount of research for my dissertation around dyslexia as part of my Honours Project, I can identify that the way I behaved was one of the emotional responses that occur with many young students who have not yet been diagnosed with dyslexia. Personally, I feel that being in the 21st century with the advanced technology we currently have there could and should be more time focused around dyslexia, and more information supplied to teachers regarding the different symptoms. It is the ‘most common’ learning disability with 6.3 million people (10 to 15 percent) of the UK being dyslexic, yet there is still so much more research that can be done around dyslexia.

Positive experiences at university

My university experience was great, after getting the official diagnosis I was then able to receive the help I needed. However, this was met with more issues. When I was given a handheld recorder (a piece of equipment that is required by many dyslexic students) in college I was unfortunately told I could not use it in class by my lecturer due to permission issues around recording other students. The next issue I encountered was the amount of reading/training that came along with any equipment that I was given, you see the issue with that? Huge amounts of reading, for a dyslexic? That didn’t go too well. Apart from these issues the whole of university was a great experience, I felt like I could get the help I needed – when it was needed.

Struggle with self-esteem

After finishing my course, I took the decision to apply for a master’s degree in computing with the conditions being that I receive a 2:2 and above, and of course I received a 2:1 so my place was sealed. This was such a huge success to me, due to my experience within high school I’ve always really struggled with low self-esteem when it comes to my work and find myself doubting any work I do produce so I naturally started to think I wouldn’t meet the conditions, despite my university professor telling me repeatedly that I would get a 2:1. I still didn’t feel good enough – this is something I believe will disappear over time. I am good enough; I always have been and always will be.

A game-changing app

The reason I chose to study a master’s in computing is to further expand my current skillset. For my honours project I designed a prototype app for dyslexic high school students that would cover a set of features, I shared my project with 1,000+ dyslexic students and parents of dyslexic children and the feedback was overwhelming. I received messages, LinkedIn requests, comments stating that my idea is a ‘gap in the market’, and others advising that I start a crowdfunding campaign due to the level of people begging for the app to go live. With the response I received I hope to one day have the app developed for dyslexic high school students to use, and I hope to gain these further development skills within the masters.

The app I designed follows close dyslexic design protocols and includes unique features that other dyslexia aimed apps have missed/not included. The user interface/user experience is simple and easy to use, taking into consideration that some dyslexics may feel overwhelmed with high amounts of information on the screen with too many buttons. The app has been praised numerous times and I look to have it live, in the market one day soon so that it can help other dyslexic students with their studies.

Thank you for taking the time to read,

Chloe Black.