Friday 24 March 2017

I overcame dyslexia - now I want a master's in children's literature

In my opinion

Angela Hanna
Angela Hanna

Angela Hanna

In 2008, while on a career break from my job as a costumier at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, I decided to explore the options for studying. I was very nervous to start with. I'm dyslexic and struggled at school, originally leaving at 16 without any qualifications.

The Open University offered me flexibility and the ability to study wherever we were, and at times that suited me, for example when the children were asleep or while I was sitting in the car waiting to pick them up from school. It was just what I needed.

They were active from the start in offering me assistance and advice on studying with dyslexia. Before I had even started my first module a member of the student support team contacted me to discuss any concerns I may have had.

Although I was at a stage in my life where I had learned how to compensate for many of my weaknesses, it was still both reassuring and a relief to have somebody openly discuss it with me.

It may seem like a silly thing to others but that one conversation, for me, helped to remove the stigma that comes with living with dyslexia and gave me a massive confidence boost.

I do realise that these days there is more help within the educational system for people living with dyslexia and attitudes have changed significantly over the years.

However, speaking from my own experiences, dyslexics often prefer to work at their own pace within a more controlled environment, away from the social anxieties that can come from being in a classroom.

Therefore having the ability to study at home, with text books that are specifically aimed at the independent learner, can remove the emotional pressure.

The university experience can also be challenging for a mature student. When I first returned to education I was often mixing with students who were younger than me.

Even though people of all ages study with the Open University, there is a higher number of mature students, each with their own set of abilities, and this in itself can create a type of camaraderie amongst the students and eases any self-doubts that people may have.

Having the option to study for an Open Degree meant I had more freedom to choose the subjects that interested me most, as opposed to having to stick to certain modules, and my tutors and the staff helped at every turn.

Receiving a list of topics that would be covered at the tutorials the night before enabled me to stay focused on the subject at hand and alleviated any nerves. Being able to use a computer when sitting an exam and receiving additional time were also a great help.

Since completing my degree I have applied to study for a master's degree in children's literature at Trinity College Dublin and I am in the process of developing a short story I wrote during the creative writing module into a novel.

I also had some poetry published in an anthology of local writers, something I would never have had the confidence to do before.

The Open University has opened up a world of possibilities for me and it is up to me now to take this achievement and do something with it.

Angela Hanna, a 45-year-old mother-of-two from Dundalk, recently graduated with an Open Degree from the Open University

Irish Independent

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