When I was fourteen, I had an interesting discussion with one of my friends. For reference, she had a quite obvious case of undiagnosed dyslexia (I used to sit next to her in English and proofread her work for her, and she mixed letters up, spelled words phonetically instead of properly and struggled to read off of the whiteboard), but was refusing to get tested in case it affected her chances of going to university. No, really.
We had just sat our mock exams, and one of the boys in our Biology class had been given extra time because he had severe dyslexia and dysgraphia. And my friend had a problem with this. She seemed to think that this gave the boy an unfair advantage, especially when he got his paper had and he had a high grade. She also complained because she probably would’ve got a better mark if she’d had extra time. I had to point out that she could get a diagnosis if she wanted, but she just brought up the thing about wanting to go to uni. She didn’t listen when I told her about Disabled Student Allowance and the help you can get at university. I didn’t understand why someone would intentionally refuse help for no reason, but I thought I might have been overthinking and forgot about it.
At least until the following year, when I had the same issue myself. It happened when I told my friends about my own accommodations for the GCSE exams. I was excited and rather relieved to get rest breaks and to use a laptop, but she seemed rather judgemental. Immediately, I remembered the boy who got extra time, and her opinion that this was ‘unfair’. She and another friend said using a laptop isn’t fair on everyone else, because most people can ‘type quicker than they can write’. I didn’t say anything this time, but it made me feel guilty.
But when I told my mum about what had happened in the car on the way home, she said I shouldn’t feel guilty. She told me that there was nothing wrong with needing a bit more help than everyone else. She said that my friends didn’t understand my condition (which they certainly didn’t, but that is a whole other post), and that my fatigue and brain fog meant I did need to have rests – and, most importantly, that the schools don’t let just anyone had a laptop and rest breaks, and that you really have to need them for them to let you have accommodations. I appreciated what she said, but I still felt upset that my friends considered me to not really need my accommodations.
As my mum explained to me, if someone is struggling, giving them extra help isn’t special treatment. It is just giving them the same chances as everyone else. Accommodations are not unfair; they actually make exams fair. So you shouldn’t feel guilty if you need accommodations, because they are there to give you the same chance at doing well in your exams as everyone else – and if your friends react like mine did, it might be a good idea to find some better friends.