Celebrating the positive qualities of Dyspraxia

Throughout this blog I have talked about how my Dyspraxia has made some things harder for me, strategies I have used to overcome these obstacles and that on occasions I have been told I wouldn’t be able to achieve- I proved them all wrong of course. I have finally built up to dedicating a blog post to why having Dyspraxia is in many ways a gift, how having someone with Dyspraxia in your workplace or friendship group is a valuable asset and the many positives of being me. With the run up to Dyspraxia awareness week next month, it is important to focus on why people should embrace Dyspraxia and all it has to offer, rather than run away in terror, in fear of the unknown and general confusion about what Dyspraxia actually is and how it can benefit society. Disability in general is often viewed in a very negative light with people making assumptions and often thinking the worst, people will see a label and just assume that because it takes someone longer to reach a goal, they’ll never achieve it.

It has been difficult for me personally to decide to write this blog, partly because I have struggled with low self esteem all of my life and many times I actually believe the people who tell me I can’t do things. It is only during this last year that, with incredible support from family and friends around me and now that I am working for an amazing organisation who really care for and value their employees- I believe that I can. I see time and time again, on the internet and on Dyspraxia support groups, people saying that Dyspraxia prevents them for doing things and a long list of symptoms all starting with the word ‘struggles.’ I want to challenge this long standing norm, and say that actually being Dyspraxic is a skill in itself, just like people who are skilled in management or in football, Dyspraxics are skilled in seeing the world in a different and very wonderful way.

Prior to writing this post I have attempted to research the literature already out there on the positive characteristics that many with Dyspraxia have but are hardly celebrated, much of what I have read in books and on the internet rarely mentions the good things, our strengths and how having a diagnosis really doesn’t need to be a barrier. There is greater emphasis on what we find hard, our difficulties and very negative connotations about what Dyspraxia actually is and feels like for those who have this label. However there is a few slightly more positive chapters offering strategies to overcome what we will find hard. I can imagine that those who are new to Dyspraxia and who have just received a diagnosis, this information would terrify them and make people question what they can and can’t do. I think the last thing we want to do to people who are beginning to understand who they are for the first time is to scare them about their future. I have found realising my strengths to be incredibly empowering, so for example in an employment situation instead of explaining my limitations, I tell them what I am good at and the qualities I will bring to the team- positive disclosure is definitely the key.

Many people with Dyspraxia have a great sense of empathy and understanding for others, at school my complaints about bullying were often dismissed as me being ‘sensitive’ but actually this is a very positive attribute. We are incredibly caring and instinctively stick up for others who we see going through a hard time. This explains why I have a very strong set of values and morals, that I stand by and form who I am. I often feel very strongly about issues affecting others or my own personal situations- it’s this compassionate nature that makes Dyspraxics incredibly valuable to have around. Things might upset me more than they should, and I often take things to heart because of my literal thinking but it means that I have a real connection and empathy with those around me. We can also turn our many negative experiences into positives, I don’t think I would be as understanding of those with specific learning difficulties if I didn’t have Dyspraxia and being able to draw on personal experiences allows Dyspraxics to really help and support others around us. We know what it’s like to feel like the world is against you, to feel different, that no one understands you and to feel alone- so we’ll stand up to any injustice we see. I recently had a discussion with a someone who said that she couldn’t tell the time, I told her that I haven’t learnt to read a clock face either- I used to feel really embarrassed about this until a few months ago but its moments like these when you can share experiences and form a strong sense of unity, making yourself and those around you feel less alone.

I am also an incredibly determined individual, a while ago I wrote a whole blog post on this. I think we have to be determined and motivated to achieve, a lot of it comes down to stereotypes and people thinking you won’t get very far and that you’ll need a lot of support all of your life- in reality this is far from the truth. With specific learning difficulties there will always be challenges to overcome, whether in education, the workplace or with family and relationships. We have to demonstrate real perseverance, resilience and courage to get to where we want to be. There is little recognition of how hard those who’s brains are wired slightly differently have to work- we work incredibly hard because more than anything Dyspraxics want to prove to everyone else that we can do it. I remember a time when I was at school, I was in sixth form and I wanted to organise a Ceilidh for the schools charity week. Every year the sixth put on events for the whole school to raise money for a chosen charity. I decided to coordinate and organise a ceilidh, but instead of support, I was met with hostility from the sixth form leadership team- the very people who were meant to encourage these events. I was very undermined and people didn’t seem to think I was capable, so kept coming up with excuses as to why a ceilidh couldn’t happen. However with my determined nature, I kept going back and arguing my case- finding my way around all of the barriers that they put in my way- I didn’t see why they wouldn’t support a ceilidh when they actively encouraged discos, variety shows and other events in school. Eventually their final excuse was that they didn’t have enough teachers to staff it, so I went around school that day and gained support from the History, English, Music and RE departments- with more than enough teachers offering to be there on the night. I went back to the office at the end of the day with a list of teachers and they couldn’t argue after that so the ceilidh took place, being a great success. I’d proved everyone wrong and in the process stood up to people who had such a low opinion of me and was incredibly brave for doing so. After the event I was so proud of myself for actually making my vision a reality. When people with Dyspraxia set their sights on something, we will never give up until we get there.

In education we are expected to learn a certain way, with little room for creativity and imagination. Many people with dyspraxia find alternative ways to learn and are often very good at strategic thinking and problem solving. In the workplace we will often develop new ways of solving problems. We process information in different ways, which means that we find unique but just as valid ways of doing things. I remember in Maths, my methods to work out equations were quite unusual but somehow I got to the answer in the end, although I’d lose marks because to the teacher my method didn’t make sense- but to me it made perfect sense. Dyspraxics are often very intelligent with high IQ’s- it was even reported that Albert Einstein was Dyspraxic, yet we are often treated as stupid by the education system. Many people are incredibly creative and show high linguistic skills. I am creative through music and I know a lot of other musicians who also have Dyspraxia, this is partly because as well as being something that we are good at, it also acts as a form of escapism. At a young age I developed a high command and understanding of language, expressing myself in writing and developing this love for words that has stayed with me throughout my life. Since I started writing this blog, I have discovered many other blogs written by people with Dyspraxia- this shows how being able to express yourself well through writing is a skill that many Dyspraxics have developed and used to their own advantage. Despite some people having problems with their short term memory, Dyspraxics often excel with their exceptional long term memory and attention to detail. I have the ability to remember conversations and events that happened a long time ago in great detail, that everyone else has forgotten about- it is a long standing joke in my family that I always remember the oddest of things. It has been mentioned time and time again on internet forums and Dyspraxia facebook groups that people with Dyspraxia have the ability to think outside the box and to see the bigger picture. This is because we have a different perspective on life and are able to see things in quite an original and amazing way, I use this to my advantage at work, offering suggestions that no one else has thought of before. We are also able to see past any labels or constraints of society to see the real person, we’re not bothered about the small things in life, that many people get so hung up on- and by doing so they often miss what’s important. At school I didn’t care if I had a designer handbag or the latest trainers but I did care about my school environment, so much so that I wrote a letter to the headteacher complaining about the litter on the school grounds.

Having a diagnosis of Dyspraxia makes you an incredibly loyal and reliable individual. I really value my friends, more than I think they realise and have great respect for them for just being my friends. It takes time to get to know a Dyspraxic because our brains are so complicated and we may not be all that meets the eye- with all the research into Dyspraxia I have done recently I don’t think I will ever really understand how I work. Dyspraxics are often quiet at first, taking time to come out of our shell but once we do, we are the most trusting and dependable friends you can ever have. As a general rule I always make sure I make time for my friends as they have made the time to get to know me, this isn’t always easy when I have extra complications of anxiety that gets in the way but I always try to explain my current situation to avoid letting people down. If you know someone with Dyspraxia, be assured that they will always stand by you and are incredibly forgiving. This aspect of our character can also lead to people taking advantage of our good nature. As a society we should accept people for who they are, to ask questions, to gain an understanding of what’s going on in the brain and embrace the diversity that Dyspraxia can bring. There is so much misinformation and ignorance in the world, it is so important to gain an understanding of our strengths as well as our difficulties, yes we may be clumsy and unable to cross roads without almost having a nervous breakdown- but that’s only part of it. Dyspraxics are incredibly talented, compassionate, bright, articulate and loving individuals, who more than anything want to be accepted and valued by those around them. Believing in someone with Dyspraxia is so very powerful and can make a world of difference, but believing in yourself is just as important and can make all of those dreams turn into reality. 🙂

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