Navigating lockdown with an invisible disability
Posted on 14th December 2020 at 13:34
Lockdown has affected everyone slightly differently. For most, it has been a challenging time, one of frequent change and continual adaptation. But for those with invisible disabilities, lockdown has created new barriers to familiar challenges.
Ellie-kay is our Nurture Project lead, but she’s also a second year Geology and Physical Geography student at Keele University.
“It’s very different learning online and it’s difficult with dyslexia. I struggled throughout school. When I got my diagnosis, I spent time figuring out a solution and learning coping mechanisms. From the age of 13 to now, I have been developing methods of learning in person. I wanted to understand how I could deal with learning and memory.”
Ellie-kay is determined to raise awareness around invisible disabilities. And she hopes that her struggle will inspire others to embrace difficulty and seek support.
“You can’t build up as much of a sensory image. It’s difficult to change the way I learn. So, I have asked myself: ‘How can I help myself learn?’ I have been spending too much time trying to write down notes, rather than letting things sink in.”
There is a trade-off between engaging with the information and quickly taking notes in a lecture. Ellie-kay soon realised that she was not giving herself enough time to process the information.
The absence of sensory cues from the remote world has been problematic.
“Sensory cues are important, but they are missing now teaching has moved online.
“In my drama lessons, I used to learn my lines and remember them, not by saying them, but with movements and smells. I associate certain rooms with certain words.
“Face masks have added to the difficulty because you can’t see how someone is speaking. Seeing their face and expressions can help you memorise things. It’s harder to absorb the personal part of learning.”
But not all teaching has transferred online, and Ellie-kay uses her time spent on campus to ask questions and achieve clarity. She also has a study skills mentor who provides support.
“I have a study skills mentor who supports me with strategies. I now watch the lectures as they happen without pausing them to take notes. When I find a part I want to go back to, I note down the time and go back to it retrospectively. I write onto a copy of the presentation slides too.
Ellie-kay has built a protective space around her learning time, and she has developed innovative strategies to support herself.
She wants to raise awareness of invisible disabilities and reach out to those facing a similar challenge. And by creating a shared understanding of the problems, it is hoped that inclusivity in education will be promoted.
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