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Bushra Abu-Helil

Tell us about your dyslexia diagnosis - when were you diagnosed and when did you / family members / friends / teachers realise that you were having challenges?

I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia in my final year of undergrad. I will be forever grateful to my personal tutor who took the time to recognise the condition and support me in obtaining a diagnosis. He realised, despite my presentations being very strong, I failed to convey my messages in essays or exams as well as displaying dexterity issues in lab practical's.

How has dyslexia impacted you in both positive ways and challenges?

Despite having always wanted to progress in higher education and academia, I had convinced myself I was too stupid to ever achieve more than a 2:2 at undergrad. After reviewing my diagnosis, I stopped calling myself stupid because I learnt that I was simply processing information differently. I stopped comparing myself to my classmates that were capable of memorising and reciting every mammalian Latin name and focused on how to "hack" my neurodivergency. It became very apparent that my willingness to learn, passion and eagerness were more important qualities than my reading, writing and exam taking abilities.

What support have you received for your dyslexia throughout your life?

Following my diagnosis, I was given additional time for exams and lab practical's, even though I often did not use it, it took the pressure off immensely. Using colour sheets when reading has made a world of difference and when I take notes from books or journals, there is a lot of colour and doodling! I now have an additional unofficial proof reading step with my colleagues and university student services to help before any important submissions.

Do you have a particular story or achievement you would like to share?

Despite convincing myself at one point that I would never be capable of achieving my dream in doing a PhD, I am now in my 3rd year of PhD Zoology with UEA at Quadram Institute. Doing a PhD, I can do things my way taking time and consideration for my neurodivergency. I am well supported by the student services, my supervisory team and fellow lab mates.

What advice would you have for someone who has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia?

Understand your own diagnosis. Try different suggestions for what does and doesn't work in your study or work. Give yourself time & patience. Access support services available to you - whether it be student services or HR, get the support you deserve.

What one thing would you like the world to know about dyslexia?

Being diagnosed with dyslexia helped me immensely in progressing in my career and academia because I could better understand my own brains way of working. I was privileged in being supported by my personal tutor. Many people leave academia and STEM because they don't have the support or finances to go through the diagnosis process. For students, there are often grants available through your university so can be reimbursed for the assessment. If you think you are dyslexic, or you suspect it of someone you know, an official diagnosis can be really helpful.