Since I started writing this blog, I have received many messages and comments from people enquiring about Dyspraxia and issues related to disability. I thought I’d list the most common questions here. I hope you find this useful.
(The information below is related to the United Kingdom as that is where I am based, but I am sure some of it will be useful for other countries too)
Where can I get help with my Dyspraxia?
This depends on your stage of life. Schools/workplaces/universities will all offer support for people with specific learning difficulties. You can also go to your GP for referrals to occupational therapists or physiotherapists.
The best place to start to get help with understanding your Dyspraxia and for signposting onto relevant Disability charities is The Dyspraxia Foundation. They offer a wealth of knowledge, expertise and information on Dyspraxia and how to support yourself or family members to overcome challenges. You can also contact their helpline Monday- Friday, 9-5 on: 01462 454986.
How can I get a diagnosis?
If you are in Education; through your GP, school or university support centre. If you are an adult not in education, some employers offer to pay for an assessment, otherwise many have to go private. I’m not experienced in this process as I was diagnosed as a very young child, but I have heard stories of difficulties in getting diagnosed as an adult. I would advise if you have a young child, to get them diagnosed sooner rather than later. Please contact The Dyspraxia Foundation if you have any more specific questions on diagnosis.
When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed when I was three years old, by a consultant paediatric neurologist. This was after being labelled as a ‘floppy baby’ at birth. I was late reaching most of my developmental milestones- I didn’t learn to walk until I was three, however I was very verbal, with a highly developed vocabulary- knowing all of my colours and nursery rhymes before I could walk. I also saw a couple of educational psychologists, finally reaching a diagnosis of NVLD (linked to my Dyspraxia) when I was eleven.
Will I/my child be able to go to university?
I believe that anyone who is given the support and has the determination will be able to go to university. A diagnosis of Dyspraxia or any other SpLd should never be a barrier to higher education. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to pass my year 6 Sats but now I have a Masters from Durham University. Anything is possible.
Can I get benefits if I am Dyspraxic?
Yes. Depending on your circumstances, Dyspraxics are entitled to benefits.
Some people with Dyspraxia are also successful in claiming personal independent payment (formerly known as disability living allowance.) I would urge anyone thinking of applying to apply, although it can be a demeaning and very long drawn out process- people shouldn’t be put off from applying for what they are entitled to because of the intimidation of DWP and ill-informed Atos assessors. My advice to anyone attending an Atos assessment is to stand your ground and to take someone with you. You can also apply for Disability living allowance for a child under 16. PIP and DLA also acts as a passport to other services such as railcards, bus passes or the blue badge. You can find out more about PIP here or DLA for children here.
Another benefit that is less well known about is Access to Work. This is a benefit for disabled people who are employed or self employed, to make life easier at work. It can fund things like; taxis, chairs, computers, desks or specialist software. You can find out more about how to apply for access to work here.
If you are a student you are also eligible to apply for Disabled Students Allowance, again to fund resources to make life in education easier. I didn’t take advantage of this while I was at university because of my desire to be ‘normal’ but regret that decision now. Make sure you apply.
If you feel as passionately about disability welfare issues as I do, I urge you to sign this petition here.
What is the best way that I can help my child?
Empathy. The best way to support a child or even an adult with Dyspraxia is with empathy. There is nothing you can do to make it all go away or get better, but what you can do is listen, to have that bit of understanding to help make life easier. You also don’t have to completely understand to show empathy. I realise that the difficulties of those with Dyspraxia are often far beyond what others can comprehend.
I am a teacher, how can I support Dyspraxic children in the classroom?
Please see above. Empathy and understanding works well in the classroom too. A lot of children with Dyspraxia (myself included) are misunderstood. Make sure you are the teacher who understands. Another strategy is to make them feel included, adapt your teaching style so they are not left out. For example in PE choosing teams by naming children ‘apples, pears etc’ rather than picking teams through ‘team captains.’
Are there groups for Dyspraxic people to meet?
Yes. The Dyspraxia Foundation organise a number of local support groups, have a look here to see if there is a group in your area, if not why not set one up?
Can Dyspraxic people drive?
This depends on the individual. Some Dyspraxics can drive and some are told that they can’t. Some with Dyspraxia just choose not to drive. I have heard that some people have been assessed to only drive in an automatic rather than a manual car. Dyspraxia (as far as I understand) doesn’t prevent you from applying for a provisional driving licence, whereas in my case having a Nystagmus caused them more concerns than the difficulties with coordination that my Dyspraxia presented. Personally I am still waiting for an assessment through Drive Mobility to see if I will be able to drive. More information on Dyspraxia and driving can be found on the Dyspraxia Foundations website.
I struggle in the kitchen, do you have any advice?
Navigating the kitchen can be a challenge for anyone with fine motor coordination issues. I think the best advice I can give you is to take your time and to practice. I remember times when I’ve been unable to use a tin opener to open the tin of beans for my beans on toast, and having no one in the house to help me. Other times I haven’t managed to turn the oven on. Its important to persevere as you will get there. I’ve recently brought myself an electric tin opener which has helped to resolve the baked beans issue. There is a video on YouTube, by Phoebe and Kerry Pace, that I’ve found to be very useful in understanding different gadgets for the kitchen to make life that little bit easier.
How can Dyspraxic people get help at work?
Please see the section above on benefits about access to work. I also think that it’s important to be as open as possible with your employers, so that they understand your difficulties and can put reasonable adjustments in place. There are also organisations such as Disability Rights UK who can support you with any issues you have at work.
Is it worth getting diagnosed as an adult?
Yes. If the opportunity is there to get a diagnosis, it’s important that you do. I’ve heard stories of people getting diagnosed as adults, and despite having to reframe a whole childhood and work out why they did certain things, a diagnosis gave them a greater understanding of who they are.
Is Dyspraxia just about coordination?
No. Coordination is often the first thing people mention when they hear about Dyspraxia but it is so much more. Dyspraxia can have an affect on mental health and emotional wellbeing, visual perception and sense of direction, to name a few. There are also many positive qualities of Dyspraxia to understand too.
Do children grow out of some of their Dyspraxia?
As we grow older, we develop strategies to overcome some of the difficulties we faced as children. As adults we’ll encounter different challenges to those when we were younger, for example issues related to independence and driving become more important than improving our handwriting. Children will never ‘grow out of’ Dyspraxia but will learn to compensate for their difficulties.
I don’t want my child to be labelled, how can I help them without having the diagnosis?
The concept of labelling a child is difficult to understand, as a child and teenager I denied any label I was given simply because I wanted to be treated like everyone else. However having a label at such a young age helped me in the long run and is one of the reasons why I’m where I am today. Having a label enabled me to get extra time in exams, my disability living allowance, a statement for special educational needs and helped to explain why I was different. It explained who I was, and as much as I hated being viewed as ‘special needs’ at school, being labelled as Dyspraxic became the making of me. If you have the opportunity to get your child diagnosed, I’d say go for it- it’s so much harder to get a diagnosis as an adult and the younger they are the more beneficial it will be. Of course it is possible to support your child without a formal diagnosis but with a diagnosis you will be able to better target that support and provision.
What is a statement?
A statement of special educational needs is a formal document drawn up by the school and local education authority, that outlines the support and provision the school has to provide. It also makes it necessary to carry out annual review meetings between parents and all of the professionals involved in the young person, to discuss targets and progress. I know that the process has changed since I was at school and now a statement is called an ‘Education, health and care plan.’ I don’t know anything about how to obtain an EHCP, so I suggest you contact the Dyspraxia Foundation or your local LEA for further advice and information. I obtained my statement when I was eleven, which stayed in place until I was eighteen. This enabled me to have extra tuition for Maths GCSE, extra time in all of my exams so that I had enough time to process the information and formulate my answers, my own room for German and Music listening exams as well as regular meetings to monitor my progress.
Will you come and talk about your experiences of Dyspraxia in my school/university/workplace/organisation?
Yes. Please contact me to discuss your needs and requirements.
My son struggles with public transport, is this related to Dyspraxia?
It could be. Many people with Dyspraxia have difficulties with spatial awareness, sense of direction and depth perception which can impact on using public transport. I didn’t learn how to catch a bus independently until I was 17 and later learned to catch trains confidently by 19. Difficulties with reading maps or travel time tables, differentiating left from right, giving and receiving directions can all effect our ability to travel independently. I often struggle to retain more than two directions at a time (unless they are written down) which leads to getting lost and disorientated easily. I’ve found that planning and preparing myself for the routes I need to travel really helps me to overcome these difficulties.
How can I help my friends to understand me?
This is a difficult question, and a journey that I am still on myself. I don’t think anyone can really truly understand you unless they get inside your head, and if you are anything like me that’s probably best avoided. I think the best way for friends to develop an understanding of your Dyspraxia is to talk about it, or to write it down if you struggle to express yourself verbally. If you find something hard or fall over for no apparent reason- explain why, tell them how they can help you and give them the opportunity to have an understanding. If you shy away from the realities that your Dyspraxia presents, you will deny them that opportunity to understand. Don’t expect them to get it right all the time, your friends are allowed to make mistakes whilst on this journey of understanding you. Since I started talking about my Dyspraxia, I’ve realised who my true friends are- those that so far haven’t ran away in terror, I’ve made so many new friends and have began to network with a whole community of Dyspraxics who have this innate understanding and ‘get it’ in a way that so far no one in my life has been able to do. This for me has been the most valuable piece of learning to date, that and learning how to write a book- but that’s a totally different ball game. Guide your friends towards empathy, so that they can understand how brilliant a Dyspraxic brain can be.
How can I find somewhere that I can fit in?
This is a worry that is sadly a common occurrence amongst children, young people and adults with Dyspraxia. The best advice I can give anyone struggling to fit in or belong, is to develop an interest or hobby- this way finding like minded people will be so much easier. The best thing I ever did as a teenager, is use music as a way to meet people so that I could fit in- then later on in life, in my early twenties I started talking to and meeting so many lovely and brilliant people with Dyspraxia, all with their unique story to tell. I found that by talking about my own difficulties and diagnoses opened up a whole new world for me. Talk about your Dyspraxia if you can, you may be surprised by how many doors it can open for you.
If you’ve found the above useful, feel free to have a read of Maxine’s FAQ here, offering more support, advice and answers to common questions on Dyspraxia.