Throughout my life, my prognosis and being held back has been a constant worry to my parents and probably everyone else who’s known me- except me. I am guessing people wondered what I would be like as an adult, would having this label be a barrier to achieving? How much support will I need? The term ‘disability’ creates an image of people not being able to do things, being in some way disabled and disadvantaged to the rest of society. The term specific learning difficulty as Dyspraxia and other neurological conditions are defined, doesn’t tell us much more- except that it is in this category that no one really understands.
As the years have gone by, I’ve left school, gone through university and now I’m applying for jobs, I’ve had to fill in many forms. Sometimes I’ve had to declare or not declare my labels. These forms often use words to the effect of ‘do you consider yourself to have a disability?’ Now based on my understanding of the connotations related to Disability, I’m tempted to answer no. I don’t think I’ve ever not done something because of my labels and I’m not aware of the diagnosis itself holding me back in any way, except maybe peoples misconceptions, but that’s another story. However I’m completely deaf in my right ear, so if someone was to whisper in my right ear a secret code to a secret room, I’d be pretty disadvantaged. It would prevent me from getting into the room- that’s an obvious disability, my Dyspraxia does not clearly fall into that category. I am always tempted to tick the no box, but then I realise that maybe it is recognised as an invisible disability.
More often than not, the word dyspraxia is not even mentioned on these forms, I find it bizarre that when you apply for a driving licence, Dyspraxia isn’t even mentioned in the list of medical conditions that you must tell the DVLA about. Despite two of the main difficulties identified in dyspraxics being co-ordination and spatial awareness- pretty crucial in driving I think. This means one of two things, I’d like to believe the latter; 1) that there are many people out there who shouldn’t be driving or 2) Due to the DVLA’s lack of understanding and failure to acknowledge the difficulties that dyspraxia could present, there are many dyspraxics learning to drive without the adequate support to do so successfully.
There is a great sense of misunderstandings and misconceptions related to dyspraxia, even my spell check fails to recognise that it’s even a word. Maybe there should be more access to training in certain fields of work to better understand the complexities that manifest in the wiring of a dyspraxics brain but even then there will still be confusion related to the box or category that society and these forms should put me and others in. I don’t really understand Dyspraxia and I’m living with it. Specific learning difficulties vary from person to person and reflect a different set of circumstances, so you definitely can’t tidy us away into a neat little box. The other day I rang the DVLA to ask if Dyspraxia was something to declare and she asked me ‘what part of the body does it affect?’ I answered ‘everything’ If there was an awareness and understanding of Dyspraxia, she wouldn’t need to ask that very ambiguous question and force me to give such an ambiguous answer. I believe that we are all individuals whether we are labelled or not. Dyspraxia affects the individual differently, I know that some people with dyspraxia struggle much more academically than I have done. I am certainly not characteristic of a typical dyspraxic, and sometimes wish not to be viewed as one. Dyspraxia is a useful term to try and explain why I’ve taken longer to do something but it can also cause great confusion, both for me and everyone around me. I think it is important to value the individual, my friends have been brilliant at doing that so far and I hope they continue. Society may find it easier to put us into boxes and categories but I just find it problematic. As more research is conducted around dyspraxia, people will be armed with the knowledge to develop more dyspraxic specific boxes, although at the moment much of society is seemingly unqualified to make such judgements. I believe that my dyspraxia is the reason behind many of my achievements and definitely not an obstacle standing in my way.