Robert is 20 years old and he’s in his first year of university. He has severe reading and writing disabilities. He also has severe anxiety disorder.
8:00 am — Robert wakes up to the sound of his ringing alarm. He’s exhausted because he went to bed late; he was up studying. It seems that it takes him so much longer than everyone else to study and get all of his work done. Even with a reduced course load — he’s taking four courses instead of the typical five — he feels like there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done.
8:30 am — He goes to the residence cafeteria for breakfast. Living on campus has been good for him. Everything he needs is convenient. He has also learned his way around the campus and knows all of the quiet places where he can go to study.
9:30 am — It is almost time for exams, so Robert has to meet with his professors to talk to them about the arrangements he needs to write his exams. He’s not looking forward to this particular meeting. This professor is really well-respected around campus and in his field, but Robert knows that the professor doesn’t really understand what it means to have a learning disability. He knows that he’s going to have to explain to his professor what he needs in terms of the place for his exam, the time he’ll need to take it and the type of testing that works well for him. He’s so stressed about having to talk to this professor that he couldn’t eat his breakfast and he barely touched his dinner last night. He’s already met with a few of his other professors. One of them agreed to let him take an oral exam; the other is letting him write his exam at home. Even though these professors have been nice to him, he keeps waiting for one of them to question why he’s at university. He has so much self-doubt that he knows that if he were ever asked that question, he wouldn’t know what to answer.
10:30 am — Robert is in his favorite spot in the library. He knows he’s going to have to spend the next few hours reading his course material. He sees things in an inverted order and he tends to scramble up the words. It takes him a long time to read the material he has to get through. To help with his reading, he often memorizes the vocabulary specific to the subject that he is studying. This helps him to recognize the words when he is reading and he is able to read a bit faster. He does run into some problems when he reads words that look alike but that have very different meanings (like constituency and constitution).
12:30 pm — He has an intramural basketball game today. Robert has found university quite different than high school. In high school, he hadn’t had many friends because he had to spend all of his time studying or with tutors. He was afraid that the same thing was going to happen at university, but so far he has been able to find a bit of a balance, although it hasn’t been easy.
1:45 pm — It’s time for Robert to go back to the library to work on a class assignment. His computer — particularly Spell Check — and Dictaphone make it a bit easier for him to get his assignments done.
3:00 pm — Robert is in his favorite class. He likes this class the best, not so much because of the subject matter, but because his friend Paul takes the class too. Paul also has a learning disability. Robert met him a few months ago when he went to a meeting of students with learning disabilities. This group now gets together informally a few times a month. Just knowing that other students are going through the same thing he is makes Robert feel a bit better about himself.
5:00 pm — Robert is at the local mall looking for a summer job. He hates having to fill out the job applications, especially when they make him fill them out on the spot. His writing is messy and he has a hard time figuring out what the questions are asking for. Inevitably he fills in the wrong blanks and the application ends up looking like a mess. He likes it when he can bring the application back to his room because then his girlfriend can help him fill it out.
7:00 pm — Robert knows he should be studying, but instead he’s taken his girlfriend out to dinner. She’s wonderful to him. She is one of the few people in his life who focuses on the things that he does well. She’s done a lot to boost his self-confidence over the last few months. Despite this, he still gets nervous in unfamiliar situations, and he really doesn’t like being in a restaurant. He finds it hard to read the menu (the fancy fonts make it almost impossible for him to figure out what he’s reading) and he worries that he’s going to embarrass her if he isn’t ready to order when the waiter comes to their table.
9:00 pm — Robert is exhausted, but he knows that he has to study for at least a few more hours before he can go to bed. He’s envious of the other students; those people who can just read something quickly and understand it and who can just take their exams like everyone else.