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Independents' Day

A dyslexic GP's problems with the CSA

Dr Sudeshna Sar

I’m hugely dyslexic, and was diagnosed after failing the AKT three times. My trainer at Health Education England (HEE) North East said that I should get the assessment, or they wouldn’t let me sit the exam.

I passed the CSA the second time, and it wasn’t so hard for me.

We started looking at different aspects of it when I was diagnosed. The educational psychologist said that we need to raise this awareness, so I now talk to incumbent GP trainees as a start, to make them aware that they should speak to their supervisor and get an assessment if they also have these problems.

It’s not just the AKT and the CSA. The issue we found was with training too - doing the portfolio, seeing patients and doing calls. It’s about learning strategies and identifying those issues, because dyslexia is very different across the board.

There’s a lot of distraction with the CSA. You’ve got two people sitting looking at you, you’ve got a camera going, you’ve got a patient who you know is an actor… Distraction is one of the main struggles for people with dyslexia.

Distraction is one of the main struggles for people with dyslexia

The reason is the social background. I’m Asian, and my mum is extremely educated, but when I said that I’m dyslexic, she said: ‘Oh, isn’t that a mental illness?’

It’s still perceived as a mental illness in parts of India, as it’s a taboo.

Increasing awareness amongst trainers and trainees is what we’re doing at HEE North East - telling trainees: ‘If this happens, then look, you’re going to spend so much money, your work-life balance is completely jeopardised and your family suffers, so it’s a matter of getting an assessment and getting help to pass the exam.’

In my case, my trainer asked how I was feeling, but didn’t even know what to say or do, because she wasn’t trained in that area. This year, we are looking at doing a workshop, raising awareness with trainers.

HEE North East also ensured that I had an educational psychologist to see me thorough the exam process. I already had the strategies, but this is about honing them and dealing with the anxiety and stress, because they really affect people with dyslexia.

In my case, I got 25% extra time and a separate room. People with dyslexia also often write on a lot of paper, so I got this, as well as bigger and coloured fonts, because a lot of us also deal with number issues with colours. For example, four is a green and two is a red. It sounds bizarre, but it works. 

Dr Sudeshna Sar is a GP in Northumberland

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Thanks for sharing.

    Dyslexia often goes undiagnosed in above intelligence kids because they are still performing averagely or above.

    I had huge problems having my concerns addressed for my son until I arranged a private assessment and he is barn door dyslexic.

    It is NOT a middle classes excuse for doing badly at school. My son is now much happier using a laptop and typing instead of writing at school

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  • Well done Sudeshna
    It is good to see things have improved( see my post on the news section)In my day, no consideration was given. I am sure I was not the only examinee who repeatedly failed. It must be difficult for those who are neither dyslexic, or who have a family member who is dyslexic, to fully understand the daily obstacles we meet, with written exams being near the top for difficulty.
    I would guess, like myself, that although your dyslexia is significant, your IQ scoring is high.
    I also assume you have had help with your written style , unlike in my time where no help was available.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Brilliant reflection, many thanks Sudeshna
    I stick to my comment under the original article about RCGP on this matter .
    If by any chance it was ‘politically dyslexic’ and failed to interpret what was ‘written on the wall’ , it is about humility , transparency and honesty to make this examination fairer to all candidates from all backgrounds. My opinion .
    The lesson from its pyrrhic victory in the ‘Battle of Unconscious Bias’ must be learnt , after all .

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  • why on earth was it not picked up before GP training commenced? You should have had help from junior school!

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  • Anoymouse3

    Please see my post

    When my son started year 6, I expressed my concerns at a parents evening, when I noticed the huge disparity between his written and verbal work. My concerns were dismissed when I was told he was lazy!(which I believed!)

    It also went unnoticed when he started secondary school but I started noticing his spelling was worse than his youngest sister who was a full 4 years younger than him. Still no-one at school said a thing

    His behaviour worsened as he couldn't write or keep up so in desperation I got him tested privately. I was told he was a barn door case of dyslexia with high intelligence.

    My nephew was diagnosed in the 1st year of uni. It is common to miss the diagnosis in people with a high IQ who compensate for this disability.

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  • Well done
    I also stand by my comments on the original article, shaming that some of our colleagues confound ingnorance with arrogance on matters beyond their sphere of competence.

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  • I had remedial help with spelling at school,couldn't write essays so applied for a medical school without essay based assessments,It was only when I did a course to prepare me for the old MRCGP exam,that I realised I had met a ceiling I would never pass through.
    My written comprehension just wasn't up to it.I now have no access to RCGP portfolio and other RCGP resources.I watched aTV documentary about dyslexia Kara Tointon- Don't call me stupid.(available on you tube). The slow processing,the constant disorganised mess,memory problems,etc etc all fitted in.Now diagnosed I still feel frustrated when I try to access RCGP resources and realise I can't because I'm not a member....and never will be.

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  • to Helen - you can gain membership without an exam-see MAP on RCGP website

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  • Thanks for sharing this information, did you get extra help for CSA after been diagnosed with dyslexia?

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