Living With Dyspraxia… It’s Fine To Be Neurodiverse
Living with Dyspraxia can be hard work. One of the key issues isn’t your dexterity, but how people might perceive you as a result of your different ways of doing things, and how you can end up perceiving yourself. It helps to remind yourself of your achievements, and to stay aware of the times when you’re minded to judge yourself. You’re just as good as everyone else. You’re you.
Clinically clumsy, that’s how I think of it. Some may find that patronising or even undermining. But everyone’s experience with Dyspraxia is different, and this is mine.
The NHS defines Dyspraxia as a Developmental Coordination Disorder. Some people have more severe forms than others. Some people have it so severely that it affects their speech and they struggle to walk. Luckily, I have a much milder form.
I was diagnosed when I was three. My mother was in social work and had studied different disorders and recognised the signs. I was so young I didn’t really understand what was ‘wrong’ with me. I couldn’t swim, took me ages to ride a bike and I struggled to cut paper.I had some sort of therapy to help me with certain activities, but all I remember is a woman who made me do jigsaws. I don’t like jigsaws to this day!
Having Dyspraxia from a young age and not really understanding it really affected my self-esteem and confidence, and that’s something I have to work with to this day.
I think I can pinpoint the moment where I understood my own limitations (as a writer, I love poetic, crystallising moments). I can recall how, back in Primary school, I was sharpening my pencil (one of many challenging activities when you have Dyspraxia: Getting the pencil in the hole, the key in the lock or… insert inappropriate joke here). Posted on the wall above the bin was a list of pupils in the classroom. Whoever had learned how to tie their shoelaces had a tick by their name, and my name was the only one without a tick. I think that was the first time it really sank in that I wasn’t ‘as good as everyone else’ (cue violins).
I’m 29 now, and to this day I still feel the effects of that realisation. For the most part, I still catch myself believing I’m ‘not as good as everyone else’ and have to challenge that belief on a regular basis. Though nowadays my lack of self-confidence is framed as “other people have a real job/flat/car… not like me, I just have subpar ones.”
My first love, Daniel Radcliffe, is Dyspraxic. His recollection of all his teachers saying ‘Dan’s lovely, he’s just useless’ resonated with me. It’s probably what my teachers would have said about me.
It’s not easy always being the ‘special case’, or the one that needs extra lessons, or a teacher sitting with them during Maths lessons. It affects your perception of yourself and other people’s perception of you. It may be why I was bullied so much while growing up.
I spoke recently with to a fellow Dyspraxic who mentioned the same things as me – like struggling with shoelaces, riding a bike and swimming. He is also hesitant about learning to drive. I can now drive and have a car, and it took me about four years and two instructors. I remember struggling to conquer the basic manoeuvres. After lessons I’d be in tears. I just felt so useless and depressed at being unable to do this one ‘simple’ thing that so many others could. I was that hopeless little girl in primary school again – the one who couldn’t even cut paper.
My fellow Dyspraxic is positive about his experience. However, he acknowledges that he prefers to take information in from other people. He feels he often repeats himself, and needs other people to repeat themselves if they want him to do something. He also feels he is slower than the other people in his customer service job.
This got me thinking; how does dyspraxia affect me in my everyday life? Or does it?
My job involves doing a lot of different things and I do feel I’m not as good as my colleagues. Whether that is to do with Dyspraxia, being part-time or my own self-esteem, I can’t say. The only thing I really seem to struggle with is door key pad codes, which might be related to dexterity! Ugh, the feeling of having to call someone over because you’ve forgotten a door code for the umpteenth time!
I shouldn’t sell myself short. I achieved a degree in English Language and Literature and an HNC before that. I memorise scripts for work and have been on stage in plays. I am working on learning to be more positive, like my friend.
He says: “Sure, having Dyspraxia can be rough, that’s without a doubt. But I’ve accepted it as part of me. This is me!”
And I like his perspective. A friend once said to me years ago, “you look so graceful and elegant when you are walking. But then, when you are looking for something…” Maybe I can just look at my actions and behaviours as an endearing and actually positive part of myself. I am a living juxtaposition, if nothing else.
With people such as Harry Freakin’ Potter and Florence Welch (from ‘Florence and the Machine’) being out and proud Dyspraxics, it’s easier to not feel so useless. I am Dyspraxic but I can still be a success and live my life! Just please don’t watch me tie my shoes…
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