Nursing student battles through dyslexia to graduate

A startling discovery two years ago proved to be a turning point in a local student’s academic career. Mental health nursing student, Julie Anne Armstrong, learned to manage her newly-discovered dyslexia to graduate from Robert Gordon University last week.

Julie-Anne ArmstrongJulie Anne (25), from Craigievar Gardens, Garthdee, joined RGU in September 2008 directly after completing an HND in Social Sciences at Aberdeen College. She was originally drawn to the university’s mental health nursing programme as it combined her interests in psychology and her job as an auxiliary nurse at City Hospital, Aberdeen.

The following four years brought many highs such as getting married, and lows including undertaking a series of challenging placements and being away from friends and family for the first time in her life.

Above all the challenges put in her way, Julie Anne struggled with written and numeracy tasks the most, which became particularly prevalent when tackling course work or placement drug calculations. Her difficulties came to a head when, halfway through the course, she was in danger of failing her degree due to poor coursework standards.

The university arranged for Julie Anne to take a dyslexia test which revealed that she was moderately dyslexic, plus showed signs of dyscalculia and dysgraphia.

“I was devastated when I found out,” explains Julie Anne, “however it explained why I had always struggled with spelling, maths and grammar. I was also in shock that this hadn’t been picked up when I was at school.”

Despite receiving help from the university’s disability and dyslexia service, Julie Anne’s confidence plummeted and she struggled through her penultimate placement. A final blow came when she failed her final essay three times, resulting in her having to defer graduating until a time when she had successfully passed it.

Through perseverance and a confidence boost from her final placement for which she received an A, Julie Anne completed the course and collected her degree at a ceremony in the Music Hall on Friday 9 December. 

“Completing this degree is a huge achievement for me, and it has made all the hard work worth it”, she concluded. “I’m the first in my family to have ever been to college and university, so I’m really proud to have persevered.”

Julie Anne was joined on her day of celebration by her husband Stuart, mother Nicola Stuart and aunt Wendy Stuart.

Andrew Youngson
Communications Officer | Faculty of Health and Social Care
Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262389