Podiatry student shares how dyslexia gave her a different spin on life

My name is Madelaine Parker, I was born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand, and this is my personal journey with dyslexia and how I gained university entrance. In my first year of school teachers noticed I was often disengaged and was unable to understand basic classroom content. It became evident, because of this, that I had an underlying learning disability.

By the age of eight, I knew that I was struggling with my school work and this hindered my overall confidence. Within the same year, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Although accommodations were made, the schooling curriculum was very scheduled, rigid and did not offer much flexibility for my learning needs. This caused a large amount of emotional and mental stress growing up. However, these struggles at school, in combination with my highly competitive and motivated nature, lead me to my fourteen-year figure skating career.

“…teachers told my parents that due to my dyslexia I would be unable to complete high school…”

As high school commenced teachers told my parents that due to my dyslexia I would be unable to complete high school too and obtain university entrance. Shortly after this, my school and home were all destroyed in the Christchurch earthquakes. In order to maintain a sense of normality, my family and I moved to Sydney where I continued my figure skating career and attended The Corresponded School of New Zealand.

Maddie was about to see her Olympic dreams become reality when she sustained a life changing injury.

To the disbelief of my high school teachers I graduated but just missed out on university entrance. This did not concern me as I was preparing to move to Canada in preparation for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. 

During my preparation for the Olympic Games, I sustained an injury to my hip. This resulted in eight operations and total pelvic reconstruction. During this time, I retired from skating, moved back to Sydney and lost my sense of purpose. I completed my Certificate III and IV in Fitness, however, I wanted more for myself.

It was through my own research and sporting career that I decided to study podiatry. I reached out to my sports podiatrist, Trent Salkavich, who informed me that CQUniversity had started a Podiatry program.  

I was informed that the University offered a pathways program called STEPS. STEPS is a completely government-funded program that transformed my life and I now have a new direction and sense of purpose.

Completing STEPS and my first year in my degree with CQUniversity was without a doubt one of my biggest achievements to date. I feel the lecturers, and all other management involved, want me to succeed and achieve my goals. I feel they are all rooting for me. In the future, I would love to work in paediatric podiatrist care or with elite level athletes.

I am an example of making the impossible possible and through dedication, planning and utilizing the university’s support systems I am making my dreams a reality. I could not speak more highly of the STEPS course and the opportunities it has opened up for me. I don’t know where I would be without it.