Can dyslexics become academics? Yes!

Vasiliki MylonopoulouVasiliki Mylonopoulou grew up in Thessaloniki, Greece, but for the last three years, she lived in Umeå, Sweden, and just recently moved to Oulu, Finland. She is dyslexic, but this didn’t prevent her from beginning an academic career. She enjoys long walks, music, and board games and also speaks Greek, Swedish and English and is currently trying to learn French.

What is your educational background?

I studied Computer Engineering at Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki. When I finished my studies, I realized that it is not enough to create a program, application, webpage, etc and that you need to take into account the person who uses it. As such, I wanted to study Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). I finished my masters in HCI at Umeå University and after looking for a job in Sweden for a year, I finally found a job in Finland. Now, I am doing my PhD at the University of Oulu.

When did you find out that you were dyslexic?

That was long agoofficially when I went to be tested in fifth grade.

What are you working on at the moment? How challenging it is for a dyslexic student to be doing a PhD?

I am one of the 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESR) of the CHESS program ( We will be trained to be health specialists in different domains. My area is to find out how to present the relation between the data of an individual to that of others to cause behavior change towards a healthier lifestyle.

How difficult it iswell, I knew that it would be difficult because I have a lot of friends who are doing or did, their PhDs. In general, is not only the work but also the psychological problems that a person who is doing a PhD may have. It is not rare in academia, for people to have problems with writing, for example, or questioning themselves, their abilities etc, even if that, stays hidden. That is for people without dyslexia. The same eligibility questions I referred to above are in my mind too, but with a different background. For example, when you grow up hearing, at least up to a certain age, that you will drop out of school in high school, probably you have a little bit more insecurities than a common Ph.D. student. The solution is to have good friends and family next to you, and talk a lot with your supervisor(s) and other PhD students to see that you are on the right track and you are not alone. That helps you relax and carry on.

What are the provisions for dyslexic students in Sweden? Have they changed at all with the years?

I have not lived in Sweden that long to know how it was before. However, I know that the test to see if a child has any learning disability is done by the school in the primary years and there was a discussion to make this test in earlier years. In the university, there is a person responsible to see what facilitation is needed if you have any kind of disability. As a dyslectic, you can choose between the following as far as I remember:

  1. Note-taking: to have a classmate take notes for you. If you can not follow the lecture and take notes at the same time. This classmate is getting paid by the university to do that.

  2. Talking books: CDs or MP3s of the course literature you follow read and recorded by people.

  3. Mentor: a person who helps you plan and organize your studies.

  4. Support in classes and lectures: to be able to record the lecture, ask for the teachers presentation in advance, extra time in exams, oral exams, etc.

  5. Computer support and services in the Resource Lab: a place with small rooms, usually with one to four computers that has some programs that may help with reading and writing. Those programs were in Swedish.

How did you find 3asyR? What do you think makes it stand out?

It is a really useful tool that has room for improvement. I installed it on my personal and work computer and I have suggested it to dyslexic friends. The thing that makes it stand out is that it is simple and ubiquitous. You can activate and deactivate it in two clicks and it is always there on your browser. I skipped all the text I could not make text-to-speech but now I started reading it with the help of 3asyR.

What are your plans?

I stop making plans. I had some and the time just changed them much somy short-term plan is to finish this PhD and learn French. I also wish to find a way to get involved more in subjects around dyslexia but I am still looking how.

What advice would you give to a dyslexic student who is just starting their studies?

Nice question. Well, dyslexia is not a problem if you have the proper support. So I suppose that my advice is to fight for your rights. If you are a dyslexic, search what are your rights (in your school, country, continent, world, etc.) and ask for them. Do not look at them as favors. Looking at them as a favor is like thinking that blind people are being favored because they use white canes. The second and most important advice is to choose to study what YOU want. Do not think where you will succeed based on dyslexia, but based on your skills and personal criteria.

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