Thank you to those who have taken the time to read my first post and said nice things. As I have mentioned previously I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia at a young age. When you are a child the world is normally quite confusing, but when you’re a Dyspraxic child the world can be twice as confusing. Growing up all I wanted to be was ‘normal’ and I often blamed myself for my problems.
There are many symptoms of Dyspraxia and for this blog I want to start by discussing one of the more well known symptoms of difficulties relating to co-ordination. Dyspraxia can make activities that require gross and fine motor skills a challenge. However this does not mean they will be impossible. When I was at school I was told that I wouldn’t be able to learn to play a musical instrument, ride a bike or pass my year 6 Sats exams let alone achieve a Masters degree. They were all wrong and I went on to achieve everything on that list and more pretty successfully. Throughout my life I have been very determined, partly because of my diagnosis and wanting to prove there’s more to the person than just the label. Partly because its the kind of person I am.
Problems with co-ordination are often noticed if you are going to pick up on anything related to someone having Dyspraxia. This causes people to feel self conscious, sometimes embarrassed and have an increased desire to fit in. This feeling is often heightened as a child as you are expected to run around and play like everyone else- Dyspraxia is very noticeable in the playground. I always know what I want to do but can’t always get my brain to send the right signals to enable me to do it. This has caused an immense amount of frustration and exhaustion because I have had to try so hard to achieve the simplest of tasks. As a result I often went off into my own imaginary world when I was younger- much more tolerant and understanding than the real world.
My worst nightmare when growing up was PE lessons, I tried to avoid them if I could. In Secondary school I opted for extra Maths lessons just so I could get out of PE. Anything involving a ball I couldn’t do. I didn’t understand the competitiveness of some games and was always the last to get picked for teams. The teachers were not very understanding, often worse than my peers. I recall one teacher commenting ‘Alice you’re walking funny.’ After PE lessons I was always so exhausted because I had worked hard to achieve what looked like very little. This experience has made me very passionate about inclusive education and making activities accessible to all and limiting situations when people feel like they are constantly the butt of a very cruel joke. My PE education and other areas of my academic life certainly wasn’t inclusive. I believe that with more understanding of the needs relating to Dyspraxia, not just the physical symptoms- there are many emotional and psychological traits too that need to be recognised, people will be able access tailored support and services from an earlier age. I will discuss these hidden elements to Dyspraxia in a future blog. Dyspraxia is a complex condition and not being able to catch a ball or walk in a straight line is only part of it. As a society we often focus on what we can see but maybe what we can’t see is what our time and energy should be focussed on.
As you get older you learn to compensate for many of the problems related to co-ordination. I have strategies to deal with difficulties that as a child I hadn’t yet developed. I may bump into things and fall over more than others but I can perform most tasks to make me a fully functioning individual. Sport still terrifies me but it is something I don’t have to participate in now unlike the compulsory humiliation at school. Recently I have taken up swimming again, as a child I was a very talented swimmer. My coordination didn’t affect me when I was in the water, I was a very coordinated. I know that a lack of coordination still effects me and people will notice it. I see life as heading towards a finish line, I know where I need to get to and if it means taking slightly longer to do something, enduring some unfair comments and not succeeding at first- I know that I will get where I want to be eventually. My biggest worry as an adult is when or if I need to disclose my diagnosis-whether this will be a positive thing. Only teachers knew about my Dyspraxia at school but now I have been wondering if it will be beneficial to disclose it to a wider audience other than just the people who have to know. I know that the select few who I have disclosed it to have been supportive and it hasn’t changed our friendships. As I have got older I’ve learnt to be more accepting of myself and my label and hopefully that will help others to be more accepting and understanding of me too.