Nicola Burr - Occupational Therapy

Nicola, who has dyslexia, describes how UWE Bristol's Disability Service is supporting her to succeed on her BSC(Hons) Occupational Therapy course.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain!

Fear of failing

"I was over the moon when I got the email to say that I had been successful in gaining a place at UWE Bristol to study Occupational Therapy, as this had been a dream of mine for some time although I kept putting it off. The thought of having to take notes in lectures, carry out presentations, writing essays, exams and learning lots of new terminology was very daunting.

"I completed a first degree in Psychology and Education over ten years ago, but it was a real challenge for me just to scrape a pass after having to resubmit over 50% of my assignments. I knew why I found things harder than others as I was diagnosed with dyslexia around the age of eight, but had very little support at school so didn’t realise the type of support I might be able to get. Looking back at that experience now I really wish I had the courage to seek help from the University, but I would put it off thinking “it’s ok, I’m just about coping, lots of people struggle”.

Getting support from Disability Service

"It was only when talks of placement came up near the end of that first week that I decided I needed to talk to the Disability Service, not because of being dyslexic but I realised I needed to let the University know I was a full-time carer for my youngest daughter who has cerebral palsy and other complex health needs.

"After telling the assessor my worries she explained to me how I was severely dyslexic, and she wasn’t sure how I managed to get through my last degree without support. She also found that I could read a lot better if the text had a very bright yellow background.

"Once I had the evidence I was dyslexic I was advised to apply for Disabled Student Allowances (DSA) which would help fund specialist software for my laptop, possibly help with printing costs, and provide me with one-to-one time with a specialist tutor. I was also told to expect extra time in any exams and, in my case, a reader.

Study Skills Tutor

"I now see my study skills tutor most weeks for an hour or two depending on what work I have on.  Those first few sessions were about making sure I was organising my notes in the best format I could and that I had a good revision strategy. We then went on to do a lot of work on planning essays. I tend to have lots of ideas going around in my head but structuring that in a logical way is where I always used to fail. My tutor has really helped with this.

"With all these interventions in place my grades have massively improved since my last degree and I’ve been a bit shocked, if I’m honest, at the level I can achieve. I would say things still take me longer than most but it’s a lot more manageable now and I feel I have people on my side supporting me along the way. Just give Disability Service a go as you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain!"

Find out more about our Disability Service

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