Only when coming to university did I discover I had a learning disability – no thanks to any seminar leaders or professors, but thanks to one of my best friends who has the same learning disability as I do, who recognised himself in me and urged me to seek a diagnosis. It affects a whole range of aspects of my life, but I was only officially diagnosed as of March last year, and as of a few days ago I have been given an Individual Learning Plan – meaning I will receive mitigation when being assessed and in exams.
This hasn’t been an easy journey, not least because I didn’t actually realise I had any kind of disability until about a year ago. Whilst technically I am high-functioning and have been able to counteract the ways in which my disability makes life more difficult for me, it hasn’t exactly been easy being in a perpetual state of ‘but why does this only happen to me?’ for essentially the entirety of my education.
The University was excellent with diagnosing me, and were very accommodating when getting me the help I needed – but because of the amount of people at the University who were seeking help, I had to wait a long time to get diagnosed. By the time I was diagnosed last year, it was too late for me to get provisions for the exams I needed. Even at the start of the year, I could only get an appointment to get these provisions two weeks after I rang to arrange it.
I can’t help feeling as though if there had been some kind of information on learning disabilities included in the information I was sent when I was accepted into the university, I could have been helped a lot sooner.
For someone who is really struggling, this could massively affect their university experience. In addition, the diagnosis process involved meeting with an educational psychologist – a few-hour-long appointments that cost me over £350. Luckily, I could afford this, but with the cost of the assessment only being refunded (fully or partially) by the Hardship and Retention Fund if a diagnosis of a disability is made, this simply isn’t accessible for some students, especially since you can only apply for the refund after you have been diagnosed.
I can’t help feeling as though if there had been some kind of information on learning disabilities included in the information I was sent when I was accepted into the University, I could have been helped a lot sooner. Obviously, I have survived this long without any support, but I will always wonder whether or not my university career could have been a lot better if I had been supported from the start.
Overall, I think there needs to be more support and information for those with learning disabilities, and those who suspect they made have learning disabilities, both with regard to being diagnosed and making help more accessible, through giving monetary support to those who need it. The disabled students’ allowance means nothing if you can’t access it, because you weren’t able to be diagnosed due to the cost in the first place.