7 Things I Want People to Know About Dyspraxia
When I say to someone that I have a learning disability, they usually think of dyslexia. While dyslexia is very common, and I do have a severe form of dyslexia, it is not the disability I want to write about today.
I was first diagnosed with developmental dyspraxia at age 13. The diagnosis then was mild, but on May 27, 2015, that changed when I went for my post-16 assessment before I began university. It was that day I was diagnosed with dyspraxia, scoring way above or way below average for each test done. My combined score for the developmental coordination disorder (DCD) criteria was 91, when a score of 56+ is needed to be considered to even have the learning disability. It has a profound impact on my education and my life; it affects how I speak, how I walk, how I write, and even how I see. Even though it affects these aspects of my life, it has never slowed me or my motivation down.
Here is a list of things I want people to know about me and my dyspraxia:
1. My dyspraxia makes me who I am, but it does not define me.
My dyspraxia has given me many little quirks, like my inability to pronounce my “th’s” correctly, or my inability to walk in a straight line (which changes when I’m intoxicated, the one time I can walk in a straight line). However as endearing as these quirks are, I am not my learning disability. My disability does not affect how I love, or how I dress, or how I act towards people. My disability is a part of me, and always will be, but it will never affect certain things about me.
Just because my disability affects my timekeeping and organization, that doesn’t mean I’m 100 percent disorganized. In fact, it makes me be more organized: I keep a physical diary as well as an electronic one, and I always make sure I know how to get to important meetings before I set off.
Dyspraxia and autism, according to the Dyspraxia Foundation U.K., can coexist together. While dyspraxia can exist by itself in someone, the Dyspraxia Foundation notes that it frequently exists in those who also have Asperger’s syndrome and many other autism spectrum disorders.
I myself am not on the autism spectrum, but I feel it’s important the connection between autism and dyspraxia.
Dyspraxia affects my speech quite severely, meaning I forget how some words are pronounced or I can’t pronounce them at all. Reading out loud is usually met with stutters and frustration, and math is the hardest thing in the world to me. But it doesn’t affect my knowledge on my course at university, or my knowledge on makeup or skincare (I work part time as a beauty consultant). Yes, I forget things due to memory loss caused by the disability, but I have the ability to retain important knowledge and work towards and achieve my goals. A learning disability does not mean that I, or anyone else, has a low IQ.
Secondary school was tough for me because I did not have the direct diagnosis or recommendations. When my re-diagnosis happened, my secondary school refused me extra time saying they did not have enough evidence, despite the 40 page report my mother sent to them. Because of this, I have fairly average GCSE and A-Level grades, but they were still enough to get into university. My learning disability made school tough for me, and sometimes I think that maybe if I had the extra support then, I could be at a higher level university now. But I am at a university that cares about my tuition, and by this time next year I will know if I am accepted into City University of London to do my Graduate Diploma in Law.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, school will be tough if you have dyspraxia, or have a child with dyspraxia, but school grades do not limit what you can do.
I’ve always been clumsy, and I now know that this is because of the way dyspraxia affects my motor skills and my coordination. Breaking things and dropping things is extremely common for me. It’s taught me to be extra careful, and to take extra care of myself. I will always have the odd scrape or bump, however. And I’m very sorry if I come to your house and accidentally break something; take my word that it was not intentional.
7. Other people.
The actions you do and the things you say to someone with dyspraxia can affect how they view themselves. Saying things like “you’re just clumsy”, or “that’s not a real disability” are damaging to people like me. We’re not just this or that, and it is a real disability. When someone tells me I am just clumsy, or that I’m lucky to get extra time on exams or coursework, I secretly feel like giving them a smack. I’m not “just” anything, and I would never consider myself lucky to get extra time or help. The extra time and help I get is what I need in order to succeed at the levels I truly can. If I could do it without, I would, but they are in place to help me for a reason.
It’s just a list of seven things, but these are the seven things most near and dear to me that people should know about dyspraxia. It’s a learning disability I feel needs to be more widely recognized, and it should be more respected as a disability by people who don’t have it.
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Thinkstock photo by Digital Vision.