Potrait of Rosie with two guinea pigs snuggling against her neck. She has dark hair and smiles.
Rosie with her guinea pigs

I’m Rosie, a 34-year-old woman from England who was diagnosed via amnio. I would like to share my educational journey with you in hope of inspiring others.

School experience and language difficulties

I was born as the fourth of 5 children, and I come from a family of teachers. Foreign language is something my siblings, parents and cousins fluently speak but I can only speak one language.

When I was about 6 years old, I could say words like dog or car, but I couldn’t remember different breeds of dog or types of cars. I didn’t have an intellectual disability, but relatives stated I’d never be intelligent enough to go to university.

By age 11 my parents were concerned if I’d be able to manage at secondary school, so they tried to get me into a private school in hope of finding better learning support, but the school wouldn’t take me because I was in bottom sets, and I consistently scored lower grades. Therefore, I
had to stay in mainstream public school which I hated.

Around age 12, my parents tried to get me a statement of special educational need. I remember the educational psychologist’s frustration as he could see I needed learning support, but he couldn’t record this because I was just outside of qualifying.

At age 14, I moved to a different public school. By then, my verbal intelligence had greatly improved but I still struggled with my learning. This time, teachers often said I was verbally bright, and it was just a confidence issue. One time a history teacher spoke to me after I failed an exam and said that I wasn’t one of the naughty ones in class and I had a good group of friends. Therefore, he couldn’t understand why I hadn’t tried, I protested my innocence, but he didn’t believe me. At this point, there was no research of triple X syndrome so I couldn’t validate myself.

At 16, I left school without GCSE’s. These are formal subject-based exams which mark the end of secondary education in England and are
traditionally required to get into university institutions.

At 17 I was able to go to college to study health and social care. I completed level 2 but part way through level 3 the learning environment felt too stressful due to other student’s behaviors and teachers who’d lost their passion. I was granted permission to study from home for the remainder of the course.

Adult life and new opportunities for university

From there until around age 25 I worked with numerous charities in between gaps of unemployment due to my own mental health difficulties. I also held a number of paid support worker roles such as with adults who had brain injuries, young adults with mental health problems, and another, with a blind woman who had physical disabilities. Further, I worked in a garden center as a horticultural assistant.

At 26 I undertook and professional counselling course at level 2 which taught me not just active listening skills but techniques that improved my self-awareness and reflective skills, such as how I form relationships with others, how and why I react to life situations that make me feel uncomfortable. I realized that for learning in particular, I was emotionally susceptible to taking on toxic energy from others.  From here I learned how to reduce my own emotional overload with self-care, and I began to wonder if there was a way to rethink my education.

When I was 28, I saw a local advert for a free access to university program. This adult-centred widening participation pathway asked for life experience and motivation over qualifications. Completion didn’t mean I had to do a degree, but it would grant me entry into what was the same high-ranking research university. And, more importantly, this university provided the life changing opportunity to take me at my basic academic level and train me to their high-quality academic standard.

Upon completion, I did well, scoring 65% whilst needing 40% to secure entry. However, I was slow to complete an exam, so I was told to speak to disability services. A screening test for dyslexia revealed I’m in the mid-high range. I was surprised because my spelling is good but as I was told, there are different forms of dyslexia. In my case, I have slower processing speed, poor short-term memory and difficulty planning written work. Furthermore, difficulty understanding foreign language is another dyslexic trait. So, I wasn’t less capable from attending university at all. I just learn differently and need adjustments. I was referred to an educational psychologist and was gobsmacked to learn I have:

  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Dyscalculia
  • At 30, I was diagnosed with sensory processing difference around bright lights and loud noise.

It was so validating. Finally, I felt seen.

Rosie, after receiving diagnoses of learning differences
  • From this my university put in place reasonable adjustments such as:
  • Extra time in exams
  • Breaks and a reader in exams
  • Access to study materials in advance of classes
  • Extended library loans
  • Flexible coursework deadlines
  • Extra time to talk to tutors about feedback or upcoming assignments
  • Breaks during classes.

  • Further, I’ve been provided with:
  • Weekly study skills and mental health mentoring support.
  • Assistive software such as Dragon speaking naturally (which types what I say)
  • MindView (for mind mapping)
  • Sinnocent (audio notetaker for lectures).

All these things have made a big difference but in addition, I moved to being part time after discovering that 50% intensity for study feels like full time with my processing and therefore, it is too exhausting. Fortunately, my degree has been flexible enough to accommodate this as it’s been designed for adults with children so there is a part-time option for taking up to 10 years to complete.

I’ve had to carve an academic pathway around my learning differences, but I am excelling because of it now. I rarely get grades below a 70% on assessed work and many tutors have said I’m bright enough to do a PhD. I’m not sure about that but I am aiming for a masters. So far, it has taken me 6 years to get 2/3 through my undergraduate so since last year, I have carers at home who support me with daily living tasks as my energy reduces with multiple demands of my attention. This help enables me to focus more on my degree so I can get through it quicker whilst maintaining my quality.

Rosie in front of a tree full of pink blossom. She stands with her arms wide and wears a matching top with all flowers in red, pink, white and black, a dark green coat and black pants.

A little bit about my interests and current work

I enjoy water colour painting, being around animals and growing plants. I am a listening support volunteer at a charity that supports people diagnosed with autoimmune conditions.

What I hope for the future

I feel personally very proud of myself to be where I am with my education. Resilience and determination have served me well. I’ve developed a passion and enjoyment for what I do. My degree topic is social studies with a major in health and social care policy. My current academic life goals involve creating accessible research about Triple X Syndome and writing policy for Triple X population groups.  I hope my progression may one day inspire someone with Triple X syndrome to upskill into research and study us too.