This personal statement is part of this student’s successful admission to study Psychology in the University College London (UCL), King’s College London (KCL), University of Warwick, University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester.
A friend of mine who at the age of 15 could not do basic reading or writing although receiving similar education as others of his age was deemed dumb and branded hopeless by his teachers. They believed he would never amount to much in life. Assimilating their beliefs, he became withdrawn as he felt left out and ashamed of himself. He was later on diagnosed with dyslexia. Upon learning of his condition, his family was forced to migrate to another country to cater for his educational needs. After receiving a suitable educational approach, he defied expectations and is now an engineer.
This dawned upon me how the needs of individuals like him tend to get neglected and how intervention could help provide them with a better quality of life. It saddens me to know how individuals with learning disabilities are more often than not misconstrued as black sheep. I believe it is unfair to rob them of their self-esteem just because their learning is impaired. Further reading on dyslexia gained me the insight that people with dyslexia have a larger right-hemisphere in their brains as shown by anatomical and brain imagery studies and that may be the reason they have significant strengths in areas controlled by the right-side of the brain. This insight made me realise that limitation in literacy does not necessarily reflect cognitive limitation. With proper support, I believe they can be capable. Moreover, the lack of educational support, albeit growing, for individuals in need of special aid here in my home country spurred me to pursue Psychology to help fill in the void and to help special needs individuals realise their true potential and subsequently lead fulfilling lives.
My desire to learn more about special education compelled me to arrange for a job shadow in Early Autism Project Malaysia (EAP), an initiative providing individualized intervention treatment programmes for children on the autism spectrum. My time spent in EAP not only opened my eyes to the different needs of children with autism but also taught me patience and helped strengthen my understanding about autism and psychological theories by observing its application in the field setting. For instance, giving praise for appropriate behaviours in attempts to reduce inappropriate ones sees the application of the operant conditioning theory by B.F Skinner. On top of that, I learnt to be more perceptive, especially so to individuals with difficulty communicating their thoughts and needs.
Having been privileged to be part of a student exchange programme to Thailand during high school showed me the influence of culture on one’s thinking and its effect on personality makeup. It additionally taught me effective communication skills, despite language not being a common ground. My communication skills were further enhanced when I was elected as the Assistant Head Prefect where I had to deal and work with a myriad of people. Apart from that, I have learnt invaluable leadership skills and teamwork, grasping the importance of working as a cohesive team rather than pursuing individual goals. Representing my state in bowling has taught me the essence of discipline and grit, including the very skill of adapting to various situations especially in a match. I also learnt to handle stress when I was expected to perform under pressure during matches and to juggle long hours of training with studies. I enjoy music and arts. Despite not receiving formal music lessons, my interest drove me to self-teach guitar and my efforts granted me a position to serve in my church’s music ministry.
Given the chance, I aim to equip myself with the essential knowledge and skills in hopes of turning my passion for educational psychology into action. Having been sponsored by the Public Services Department of Malaysia, I am already halfway through achieving my goal as I would have access into the education system upon completing my higher education.
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