This blog has been a massive turning point in my life and I am pleased that I have found a medium to put my thoughts down into words. I’ve talked a lot about my past experiences at school and how I have overcome different challenges, which is important, and it’s always good to gain a background of where I have travelled from, but now I’d like to concentrate this blog on the present day, me as an adult, my hopes for the future and where I want to travel to.
I am writing this blog entry at a writing bureau, that my Grandad made at school when he was a young man, I am honoured that it has been passed down to me as I will definitely make good use of it. I will always admire my Grandad, but one thing I remember most was that he was immensely proud of me and all that I have achieved. He had the belief that I could do it and was always keen to find out the smallest things I had done that day when I used to speak to him on the phone. I have learnt from him determination and to always remain positive despite great challenges. He certainly showed amazing strength despite sometimes being in the darkest of situations. A remarkable man. I think he would have been very proud of this blog and the stories that I am now starting to tell.
I believe that more awareness needs to be raised about Dyspraxia and the difficulties it can cause as we reach adulthood. From the smallest things like operating a tin opener to driving a car, crossing roads, dealing with disability benefits and walking in a straight line- I regularly get asked ‘are you drunk?’ when I am actually just Dyspraxic. At work I have found that I really struggle with processing information so if someone is talking to me at a fast pace, with lots of information and instructions, I struggle to understand, remember information and formulate a response in enough time. This means that people have to slow down and give me more time to process what they have to say so that I can respond- often backing any verbal information up in writing is beneficial for me. If people do not understand why I need this and aren’t empathic towards my needs, it can cause unnecessary friction and confrontation. Dyspraxia fits into the umbrella of specific learning difficulties (spLD), most people have heard of its cousins Dyslexia, ADHD, Aspergers syndrome and Dyscalculia, whereas few recognise the traits of Dyspraxia. Many don’t realise that Dyspraxia affects far more than coordination, that it can also affect sensory processing, short term memory, spatial awareness, concentration and in some cases speech. In the early days Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) was known as ‘clumsy child syndrome.’ and ‘minimal brain dysfunction.’ These quite degrading and derogatory terms suggests that it is a condition that only manifests in childhood causing motor difficulties. Eventually people realised that actually Dyspraxia is a lifelong condition and continues onto adulthood presenting a different set of challenges to overcome, so the name was finally changed. Developmental Co-ordination Disorder is an umbrella term that covers motor coordination difficulties, whereas Dyspraxia refers to those with additional problems with planning, organising and carrying out movements in the right order.This lack of understanding historically has created little training or empathy in the workplace, even today much of the literature on Dyspraxia is related to young children and very little is aimed at adults, although the Dyspraxia Foundation are trying to change this. Recently I was told that there is no clear diagnostic pathway for adults to get formally assessed for Dyspraxia and the only route is to go privately costing hundreds of pounds- I was quite alarmed to hear this and feel that it should be just as easy for adults to get the support they need as it is for children. Dyspraxic adults are over represented in the mental health and criminal justice systems, and are more likely to experience emotional problems due to early childhood experiences. I was fortunate that I was diagnosed as a child and understand that life can be very different for adults struggling through life with an invisible disability that they don’t even know the name of. Between 5% and 10% of the population are Dyspraxic, so there is likely to be at least one person with Dyspraxia in every classroom or workplace. This means that we will all know several people with Dyspraxia. A condition more common than people realise. These statistics reinforce the need for more education, awareness and training on the varying support needs of those living with the condition. This will in turn make disclosure easier as I know many Dyspraxic adults and young people struggle with knowing when or when not to explain to someone that they have Dyspraxia. Rosie Edmondson has written a very informative blog on the concept of disclosing Dyspraxia that can be found here: http://thinkoutsideofthecardboardbox.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/disclosing-dyspraxia.html
Writing this blog has helped me to create some more understanding, but I am hoping to do much more. Recently I have re-discovered an organisation called the Dyspraxia Foundation. I say re-discovered because I used to go to one of their groups when I was 7 or 8, I denied my Dyspraxia at this time so didn’t really understand why I was there. However years later I have contacted this organisation with a different outlook on life and understanding about who I am. I am at the stage in my life now when I feel able to support others who may be going through similar experiences that I went through. I researched support available in my local area and when I realised that there wasn’t any, I decided to change this. I have recently become a Dyspraxia Foundation local coordinator for the Tyne and Wear region, which I am very excited about but also pretty scared too. I am working towards setting up a support group for young people and adults with Dyspraxia, eventually when I become established to extend this provision to parents and children too. It is so important to have opportunities to meet other people who ‘get it’ and really understand, there’s only so much that my friends can do and as much as I am grateful for their support, understanding and efforts to make me feel included, they will never really understand what it’s like to be me. I want this to be a positive group, just like this blog to celebrate achievements and share coping strategies. There is a great amount of learning that we can gain from one another. I have set up a Facebook group for the purpose of organising this support group that can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/146699472020516/
It is Dyspraxia awareness week on the 11th-17th October 2015 and during this week the Dyspraxia Foundation will be working with schools and workplaces up and down the country to raise awareness and funds for the charity, whilst also raising the profile of Dyspraxia so that it can start to be just as well known as it’s specific learning difficulty cousins. I would also like to do something for awareness week, a year ago I would have never imagined myself saying that as I was shy and incredibly embarrassed about my condition, its these feelings that demonstrate why raising awareness is so incredibly important- people shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed about being Dyspraxic. During the awareness week campaign the Dyspraxia Foundation are focussing on the issues of girls and young women slipping through the net and in many cases being denied an early diagnosis. Dyspraxia is more common in boys however girls are more likely to conceal their symptoms and not receive the support they need. Even through school as a young woman rather than being labelled as disruptive, I was labelled as being a bit odd and even a freak at times. Teachers put me down as being argumentative and I gained a reputation for always questioning and challenging authority. Although I was really just incredibly disillusioned with the education system and felt stigmatised because I found it very hard to explain my difficulties. Now it’s time to talk about your struggles, abilities and confusion- to stand up to the world and be happy with who you are.