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'I realised that not being able to calculate drugs correctly could be a matter of life or death - literally'

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Why do I find maths so difficult when my peers tend to sail through? Why is my handwriting such a mess? Why does it take me so long to understand? Why am I so dumb?!

Ever asked yourself any of these questions?

Well I did - over and over again, and always felt I needed to prove to myself that I was capable and could achieve something.

I remember always trying so hard to get ‘it’, to know the answers to the questions and to understand. But it always seemed as if my teachers and lecturers were all talking a different language to me that only they (and the rest of the students who cared to listen) could understand.

“It always seemed as if my teachers and lecturers were all talking a different language”

This was not something that I thought was going to be a real problem for me, you know those problems that really get in the way of your life. That was until I started my nursing degree, yep that’s when I knew it was totally unavoidable, in fact not knowing how to calculate drugs correctly could be a matter of life or death – literally.

Such a serious matter could no longer be ignored, and so I knew I had to tackle this problem head on.

The learning support service at City University were excellent and I made arrangements to be assessed and to find out once and for all what my problem actually was.

In have to admit, when I reflect on the meeting for the assessment, I was not surprised by my performance when given a number of tasks to complete.

I know exactly how I behave in situations where intense and lengthy reading is required, as opposed to organisation and creativity where I thrive most.

“I have, shall I say, a bit of a challenge with coordination”

So, the results of MY assessment, I am not ashamed to mention, showed I actually have specific learning difficulties with elements of dyspraxia, dyslexia and dyscalculia – okay, dyslexia I know but what are the other two dys’s??

First of all I have, shall I say, a bit of a challenge with coordination (although I could definitely win a dance off with Justin Timberlake – don’t try me!) and I have issues with – wait for it….numbers or abstract maths!

So I finally had a nail on the head moment!

This was the reason I had struggled all along, this was the reason why I did not understand the concept of the changing values of x and y in algebra at GCSE maths level, the reason I just could not quite get computer science at A level and then the big one; SPSS and statistics whilst studying Psychology at degree level – ooooooh the memories!

Finally I had a name for these issues but at the same time, did I really want this ‘label’?

“I needed to tell myself to put pride to rest”

Well not really but, this is only a small part of me. Support from my university and a fair chance at my degree is what matters. I needed to tell myself to put pride to rest.

So to those of you reading this who can identify with my experience, who are struggling and finding you just don’t get ‘it’, I would absolutely urge you to get assessed.

It may have been the norm to carry on as if things are fine and maybe you have never even thought about it before – until reading this.

It is definitely nothing to be ashamed of and there are so many reasons why you may have these challenges, however the best way to find out is to seek support and help. Contact your student learning support service at your university.

It’ll cost you nothing and in the long run, will ensure you are supported throughout your degree.


Marlene Raji is in her second year studying children’s nursing at City University, London

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