I’ve wanted write about the condition I’ve lived with all my life for a while now but every time I’ve sat down to get my thoughts on the page I’ve always trailed off or lost my focus. With it being Neuro-diversity awareness week now’s probably the best time to get this off my chest.
Among others things I have a condition called Dyspraxia. It effects everyone that has it in a slightly different way but to generalise it’s a co-ordination disorder that effects fine motor skills, depth perception and short term memory. (NOTE: I’m massively generalising here and the condition can be mild for some and much more challenging for others. It also takes many forms such as Verbal Dyspraxia but if I were to break everything down I’d be here all day.) I like to think of Dyspraxia as Dyslexia’s clumsy and often overlooked cousin. The condition is very little known and this often leads to people struggling to get a diagnosis if it’s not caught very early in childhood. It also leads many (myself included) to struggle in silence instead of wasting energy explaining themselves.
I was extremely lucky to have parents who were willing to cause a fuss with my school to get me an early diagnosis for my Dyspraxia and Aspergers. My dad being a deputy head teacher and my mum being an early years specialist probably gave them a sense something in my brain wasn’t quite right early on. From year 3 I got more support in school including a scribe for exams. Whilst it worked well I couldn’t shake the feeling of otherness it brought. I distinctly remember asking my dad if I was cheating because I got to go into a different room during my SATs. He rightly said of course not but the feeling I hadn’t earned my success persisted.
One thing I wasn’t prepared for in secondary school was how out condescending some of the teachers were. I quickly learnt the best survival strategy was to just keep my head down and get on with things. I often refused support just to avoid drawing attention to myself. I still had the option of a scribe and a separate room right up to my A levels. I’d always get comments like “you have it so easy” or “I wish I had something like that” sometimes these were well meaning, other times they were loaded with spite but either way I felt more and more like a fraud. Years later I’d realized this gave me a massive case of impostor syndrome. 10 years of people constantly questioning the validity if your achievements would probably give anyone doubts. Luckily Uni is all coursework so I don’t have to worry about exams anymore.
Dyspraxia isn’t just for school though. It’s part of you all your life. It’s constantly losing your keys after you put them down. It’s never being able to find the end of the tape. It’s, and this is the biggest one for me, not being able to tie laces very well. I usually just do a simple knot then tuck them onto my socks (slip on shoes are an absolute lifesaver) . Dyspraxia also has the odd side effect of giving you an absolutely terrible sense of direction. I can still get left and right confused to this day.
All this probably sounds trivial to someone that’s neuro-typical but anyone with a hidden disability will tell you the everyday stuff actually causes the most anxiety and the pressure to “appear normal” can be overwhelming. Luckily things are looking up at least in terms of general awareness of the condition. Groups like the Dyspraxia Foundation and Dyspraxia UK are doing a great job and we’ve even had a dyspraxic companion in the latest season of Doctor Who. I’ve got my dyspraxic head-canons but it’s nice to have the condition name checked in the script for once.
Ultimately I understand Dyspraxia isn’t the biggest issue in the world right now but awareness is definitely behind where it needs to be. This is evidenced by the recent smear of a dyspraxic teacher by the Daily Mail and Mirror.
Dyspraxia is not, and has never been linked to a person’s intelligence. However, it can be a barrier to people’s ability to express their gifts which is why raising awareness and making sure support is available is so important. I often need to remind myself that it’s not about giving us an advantage over others it’s about leaving the playing field so everyone can reach their potential
If you want more information on Dyspraxia the links below have some brilliant resources for any questions you might have.