Menu Close

Overcoming anxieties and returning to learning

Kathleen is very used to being self-reliant, as might be expected from a former Royal Navy Air Engineer. In certain situations, however, she could find it difficult to cope with things: a lack of structure, order, or clear procedures could make it hard for her to keep things on track.

After life in the Navy, Kathleen - who is autistic and experiences post-traumatic stress reactions - decided to study surveying and mapping sciences at university. She knew that she would find student life and the change of pace difficult, but took control by accessing support through the Disabled Students' Allowance. 

As part of this support, Kathleen used Brain in Hand's personalised digital support system; she could use its self-management features to make sure she never missed a deadline or forgot to complete a task. A Brain in Hand Specialist helped her to think about her goals, strengths, and challenges. Together, they developed solutions that Kathleen knew worked to help her solve her own problems, and the Brain in Hand mobile software meant that she could access this information whenever she needed it.

Kathleen found that a common difficulty on campus was that noise and activity would overload her senses. She was often near students who were using loud tools to build things out of metal, and aeroplanes would regularly fly overhead. This could cause Kathleen to experience what she refers to as a 'load event', when she would become overwhelmed and unable to think or function normally.

In her Brain in Hand, Kathleen had a problem called 'load'; pressing on this when she was finding it hard to think would give her a sequence of simple tasks to get herself somewhere quiet, hydrate and eat something, and get back to a state of calm. She also included information that she could easily access to show people around her so that they would know what help she needed.

'If my brain isn't functioning,' Kathleen says, 'Brain in Hand gives me the ability to operate when I don't have my support network around me. I know I'm not alone.'

The fact that Brain in Hand allows Kathleen to look back at detailed information about how well she's been coping, the problems she's faced, and the strategies she's used to solve them is particularly valuable to her, as she can find it extremely difficult to remember what happened during periods of high stress. She shares this information with her support network - her husband, her mother, or her university mentor - so that together they can spot common links between problems. This allows her to recognise triggers earlier, avoiding issues before they happen, and to develop more effective ways of dealing with problems when they do happen.

She explains: 'With Brain in Hand I can really understand and analyse what’s going on. I can start to see ‘combat indicators’ that I can do something about. I can talk about these later and make changes for next time. Data management and information leads to better strategies.'

Learn more

Find out more about our work helping students through the Disabled Students' Allowance and other routes: visit our education page.