Studying after a brain injury
My time at Sydney Uni has been the happiest year and a half since sustaining my brain injury in high school. Instead of feeling like I am way behind everyone else, negotiating adjustments on my own and feeling a ‘real drain on everyone’, the disability services has made studying so much less stressful: it is now a learning experience, rather than a private battle. I feel so much more competent, confident and independent now without all the old ‘hassle’ to deal with, I have time to participate in extra-curricular activities and meet fantastically diverse people.
Problem 1: after my brain injury, I get headaches and have real difficulty reading dense blocks of text.
How disability services (DS) have helped: Kurzweil reads to me! Instead of Mum reading to me like she did in the HSC or just taking a lot of painkillers, I can get a lot of reading done this makes me feel more competent and independent.
Difficulties that remain:
- When tutors hand out material in class to be done IN that class: this can be stressful as it seems like I’m being lazy/not bothering to concentrate. Also, as my condition varies (when I’m tired/stressed) and I can read sentences/small bits of text OK, tutors can’t see the problem. This also applies to when I’m doing group work. Also when asked to read something out to the class.
When I haven’t been given textbooks/notes in an accessible format yet, I seem like I’m not doing my reading out of laziness and there’s no way of letting tutors know without seeming I’m making up excuses (and I don’t want to say it in front of the class).
As I seem normal, tutors aren’t always particularly sympathetic to extension requests//exam adjustments and now I am reluctant to ask for these as I feel my mark has been affected in the past.
Now to get to the assistive technology room, you have to walk past all these people and the windows are see-through. I usually don’t tell people (not wanting to go into the whole story of how I got my brain injury) but this year it’s harder to hide.
Problem 2: fatigue/ physical problems: I fatigue very quickly and have difficulty with some motor tasks (eg getting down stairs/crouching/standing for long periods of time)
How (DS) have helped: Providing rest rooms, timetable adjustments to spread out classes throughout the week.
Difficulties that remain:
- There are only 2 rest rooms, both of them far away from my classes. If I’m exhausted, there’s no way I’ll walk that far to rest. If there are no seats, I’ll usually just close my eyes in the bathroom for 20 mins.
Giving presentations, particularly in groups. Tutors/other students usually don’t realise I get so tired standing up because I look fit & strong (if my muscles atrophy, I lose control of movement) and don’t want to go into the whole story so say nothing and suffer a little.../ being asked to help out by holding something, etc.
Classrooms are still really far away from each other and DS are limited in how much they can move classes around. So are food outlets and other services.