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For Else, dyslexia just means she has to work harder

What is it like to study at university when you have trouble reading and writing? This student knows all about it

She is just like every other student. Except for one thing. She is dyslexic.

Else Nielsen studies Natural Resources at the University of Copenhagen’s (UCPH) Faculty of Science, and when she reads, it can be hard for her to process the letters on the page into sounds and words in her mind. Especially long words are problematic, and her difficulties with reading also present themselves when writing.

“I have learned different techniques to compensate for my problems. I have learned to recognize difficult words as entities instead of words made up of individual letters. For example, the word ‘niveau’ in Danish. I just know how it looks on the page, but the letters in the word make no sense to me,” Else explains.

Has to work harder

The University of Copenhagen (UCPH) tries to adapt to people who, like Else, have different disabilities when it comes to studying.

“I have a computer with software that reads aloud. Then I can follow the text while the computer helps me. I also get an extra hour for written exams so that I have time to read the assignment carefully and get every little crucial word,” she says.

Even though Else feels like she is just like any other student, she knows that she has to work harder than most people sometimes. She does not have time to have a job because she focuses on her studies.

People have had to eat their words

“Studying takes up a lot of my time. In order to keep up, I have to show up for every class because if I miss something in the reading, I have to make sure that I get it in class. And other people can easily skim a text if they don’t have the time to read it all. I cannot do that. I have to read everything carefully,” Else says.

“Not everyone around me has believed in me and that I would be able to get this far. It is tough when someone close to you doesn’t believe in you, and then you have to find the strength within. I have worked hard, and I have probably surprised many people along my way. People have had to ‘eat their words’.”

Dyslexia can easily lead to low self-esteem because the dyslexic can have the experience of having trouble with things that are easy for everyone else. But once the disorder is diagnosed it is possible to learn different techniques to compensate for the problems.

Same group sitting in

“Dyslexia is not a diagnosis that is set in stone. It is not a constant. You can change. It takes hard work and a lot of help, but it is possible. There are people whom you would never be able to guess were dyslexic because they have learned to compensate.”

“When I have a written exam, we are always the same group of people who have got the extra hour. We sit in another room so that we will not be disturbed. We always chat before the exams, and I have learned that people need extra time for all sorts of problems and disabilities. Students can be all sorts of different people.’

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