It’s dyspraxia awareness week, so I thought I’d do a post on it. Some of you might have watched the recent ‘Doctor Who’ episode and noticed that a new main character – Ryan – has the condition. I was extremely impressed by this stance as dyspraxia is almost never portrayed in fictional characters. You often have clumsy characters, but it is never said that they have dyspraxia. However, it was made very clear that Ryan does have it. His struggle with learning to ride a bike was something all too real for me as I too suffer with dyspraxia and have never learned to ride a bike. I tried, but I could never get off the stabilisers. This is a problem for many dyspraxic people – though not all. My mum is dyspraxic and can ride a bike. Each person has their own weaknesses and strengths.
People often think that dyspraxia is just a medical term for being clumsy but it is more than just physically bumping into things a lot. It can sometimes give problems with speaking. For me, I get words muddled up and I end up saying the completely wrong word or phrase or pronouncing it wrong. People always correct me and it makes me really angry sometimes because it’s not that I’m stupid. It’s not that I don’t know how to say it. It’s that my mouth doesn’t work with my brain. It can also affect handwriting, making it hard to read. At school, I had terrible handwriting, so they tried to make me join it up — this, however, just made it impossible to read. Thanks school.
I don’t know how to do up a bra. A simple task that lots of girls my age can do is impossible for me. I remember, for years, I’d get my mum to do it up. Now I wear sports bras. I also used to have to wear ties at school, which I could not tie. PE was a nightmare. I can’t tie my hair into a bun. I remember, once, for science (and this was our practical exam so it was important) I had to tie my hair up into a bun. I knew how to do it into a ponytail, so I did. The teacher, in a very angry voice, told me to do it into a bun. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Remember, I’m also autistic, so I couldn’t exactly express this to her. I felt embarrassed and ashamed because every other girl could. She repeated herself, even more angry. I kept fiddling with my hair until finally – as if by a miracle – it became something that resembled a bun. I then burst into tears. Luckily, goggles were covering my eyes so my teacher didn’t notice. She called me over to check my bun. It was fine. I was safe. I could continue with the practical exam. I think, if I hadn’t have done my bun up in that moment, I might have walked out of the classroom and jeopardised my grade. I still can’t do up a bun; that was just a moment of madness where my hands managed to do it. I haven’t been able to repeat it since.
I’m terrible with organisation, and time management, and directions. Don’t ask me to read a map for you. I also can’t do up shoelaces. There’s a lot of things that dyspraxia stops me from doing. It is a disability, yet it is in the shadow of other conditions, and I just don’t know why. For instance, if I were to tell someone I was autistic and dyspraxic, they would immediately start thinking about my autism and how that must affect me. My autism is what everyone talks about, but my dyspraxia is also very challenging to deal with, and it really isn’t recognised that much. Most kids are told they’re clumsy or stupid when they might have dyspraxia. I think it’s seriously under-diagnosed.
That’s what awareness is about. Getting people to recognise the symptoms so they wonder whether they have it or someone they know has it. Remember: it plays out differently in everyone.
A lot of dyspraxic people struggle with sports; catching and throwing a ball can be a real challenge. I’ve struggled with sports and was often told that I just wasn’t good at anything. I have terrible posture, also a result of my dyspraxia. This posture issue causes me pain when I stand up for too long but I can’t say to people that, because I’m disabled, I deserve to sit in that disabled seat on the train. They’d look at me and think I was a liar. I don’t look like I have a disability. The ignorance is astounding.
I have autism and dyspraxia, which are actually quite often found together. Dyspraxia can be found alone, as with my mum, but is usually accompanied by something else. It is also said to be much more common in men than women but you don’t really know how many people truly have it, due to the fact it is under-diagnosed, and whether the statistics are as true as they seem.
Dyspraxia isn’t just clumsiness. It’s much more than that. I hope this post helped you understand some of the difficulties we face and begin to recognise the signs that someone has dyspraxia. Remember that we are all different and this is just my story of dyspraxia. Somebody else’s story might be very different.