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Taking a big step in life and going to university may be very daunting for a lot of students. This may be your first time away from home, and you may be worried or anxious about how you’ll settle in. For disabled students, this can be a much more daunting adventure. This blog is here to tell you not to worry. My name is Lukas, I am learning disabled, and I just graduated from the University of Chester.

To detail my experience, when I first came to university, I was excited about my adventure. It wasn’t my first time living away from home, however it was my first time in a brand new place that I knew nothing about. I was a student worried about fitting in, but when Welcome Week and Freshers came, I was welcomed by my housemates and course mates with welcome arms. Granted, for an introvert, it was extremely hard to fit in when Freshers is known to be a full week of partying, but with the Facebook groups provided by the University ahead of the move as well as course group chats, it felt like I knew everyone before I moved, so was much more settled in meeting them.

However, when my first term of lectures came, I struggled significantly. Part of my degree meant I had to use statistic based software, which meant analysing and reporting on results; something I’ve never done before. I enjoyed everything else about this degree, but this one module I was struggling in. It was causing a lot of anxiety, and I was barely passing my assignments. After missing a lot of lectures due to the ongoing anxiety making me feel ill, I spoke to my Personal Academic Tutor and I was referred to the Disability and Inclusion team, who agreed it would be best for me to be seen by an Educational Psychologist. I had never been diagnosed with a learning disorder before, only mental health, so all of this was brand new and daunting to me, and not the stress I wanted going through university.

After seeing the psychologist, however, I was diagnosed with Autism and Dyspraxia, and told I had a processing disorder. When it was explained to me, it made much more sense as to why I was struggling in this one module, I couldn’t comprehend everything at once and it would overwhelm my brain, so even the basic running of a statistical analysis was something my brain couldn’t function properly with because there were so many tables of results to read, and it’s like my brain couldn’t process it all, leading to me reporting the wrong results when they were right in front of me.

The process after my diagnosis was significantly easier. With the diagnosis and report they had, I could be assigned an inclusion plan as well as equipment to help me in my study, such as a voice recorder and claro read (a text to speech software). I also had access to a Study Skills tutor to help with assignments, as well as a mentor to check in weekly with how I was coping. Having access to all of this significantly improved my results in first year, and I ended up passing my first year, and then my second without a bump in the road. My third year was different due to lockdown, with everything being more remote. However, I noticed having access to online videos and lectures that I could play at a slower speed, as well as the remote support I had access to through my tutors made it much easier, and as the no detriment policy was there, I had no need for it. I went on to graduate with an upper second class 2:1, when I never even thought I’d make anything past a pass after the struggle I had in my first year. But here I am, results in hand, graduation set for spring next year, telling you that you have no need to worry. Support is always available for disabled students at the University, and nothing is impossible to achieve.

If you’re thinking of applying to university, but have some concerns about how you’ll manage with a learning disability, get in touch with our Disability and Inclusion team to find out more about the support the University can offer you.

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undergraduate Disability and Inclusion