Over the past few months I have been preparing to start university. Because I have been on a gap year since finishing college I`m having to sort out a lot of things with the university without the help of the college. One of the major issues we`ve had to sort out is what help and support I am entitled to. I have Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, and therefore it is reasonable to assume I might need a fair bit of help in university. The problem that I have found isn’t so much that there isn’t help available – I just take issue with the process you have to go through to get it. The main problem I have is that you are expected to provide a post-sixteen diagnostic assessment of anything you are asking for support with. That in itself doesn’t seem to make any sense, as all three of these issues are life-long – their diagnosis doesn’t change over time. My diagnoses for Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia have always been accepted in the past – why they become invalid when I try to apply for help from university I am not sure. The vast majority of people are diagnosed with these things when they are under sixteen. Initially I was asked to provide a post sixteen diagnostic assessment for all of my conditions. This would have cost a lot of money, and also taken an incredibly long time to get done. People can wait months, or even years for one diagnosis. I would probably have been finished with university by the time I’d been re-diagnosed for three separate conditions! Eventually they agreed to accept the diagnosis of Autism, but not of Dyslexia or Dyspraxia. So we were told that I would need to go and be reassessed for Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, at a cost of three hundred pounds. Although you get most of this back, in the long run you still end up paying seventy five pounds for a two and a half hour assessment, so somebody you have never met before can tell you a lot of stuff you already know about yourself – which you could have told them in two and a half minutes. What I found when taking the assessment was that due to the lack of structure, or knowledge of what I was going to be asked, my autism made things that were normally quite easy for me, difficult. As I say, it was two and a half hours with no break, and I really don’t think you can get a full assessment of my needs from that. A much better way would have simply been to ask me what I need help with, and then to provide it. Perhaps an assessment of what I am struggling with now would be alright, but at no time did anybody imply that was what this was – I was told it was an assessment to see if I still struggled with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia, or if I had what was referred to as a more general issue. Now as I have said before, I am not a hundred percent sure what this means, because both these issues are life-long, but also I don’t believe it should be for the individual to prove they have a condition, when they already have all the evidence they could possibly need with a diagnosis. Overall I think the entire process has been a lot longer, more complicated, and more stressful than it has any need to be. I also think it shows a lack of respect for people with disabilities or learning disabilities, as it basically says that even if they come right out and tell you what they struggle with, and want you to help them with, you should do your own tests and decide what you think they need help with, and implement that instead. Yes, evidence is obviously needed to make sure nobody claims extra time, or benefits unjustly, but why aren`t certificates of diagnosis evidence enough? Or the words of the three professionals who have worked with me to help with my Dyslexia and Dyspraxia over the years? Apparently they count for nothing as well.
Anyway, this blog is more of a moan than anything else, but what do you think? Do you feel it’s fair? What experiences have you had when trying to get support for your autism, or other issues? Let me know in the comments below.
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