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10 Challenges I Face Because of My Dyspraxia

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I have a condition called dyspraxia. It’s a developmental coordination disorder that affects my short term memory, my speech and my fine and gross motor control. I have an extremely poor working memory, I’m terrible at remembering numbers and instructions, and I have a tendency to walk into walls and trip over my own feet. Life with dyspraxia can be very irritating. I had trouble getting through school, and some days I struggle with low self-esteem. When you are dyspraxic, just trying to do everyday things can sometimes be a huge challenge. You have to develop coping mechanisms and routines to get yourself through each day. Here are 10 things I struggle with because of my dyspraxia:

1. I am always spilling food on myself.

A good way to understand how dyspraxia works is to think of my brain like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The crew in my head might give an order to another part of my body, like “Don’t walk into that wall!” but the message will get garbled on the way down to my feet. I have the same problems when it comes to eating food. I’ll swirl some spaghetti around my fork, raise it very carefully to my mouth, aaaaaandd… drop half of it onto my lap. I’m not the best person to take to a fancy restaurant. I’m the girl who always ends up having to fish meatballs out of her bra.

2. I am loud. Embarrassingly loud.

Every person who has dyspraxia is different. My dyspraxia makes the pitch of my voice uncontrollable sometimes. I can be very loud when I don’t mean to be. I can make heads turn with my loud, booming laughter, and I can silence a room with my angry, frustrated grunts and sighs. I can go from quiet to loud in a blink of an eye, and it can startle people who think of me as timid and introverted.

3. I put my clothes on wrong.

I have bad fine motor skills, so things like buttons and earrings and zippers are difficult for me. But what really makes me blush is when I leave the house with my clothes on backwards or inside out or sometimes both. And God help me if the shirt I’m trying to get into might have a blouse underneath. I’ve gotten stuck more times than I can count, and usually need my husband to help me figure out which holes to put my arms in and where my head should go.

4. I have trouble reading maps, and can get lost easily.

I grew up before smartphones were invented, so if I wanted to go somewhere on my own I had to plan the route I would take ahead of time and draw a map to help guide me. I used to hate going places on my own. I found it so stressful. I would always be worried that I would get lost. I can remember sitting on the bus anxiously counting off street signs while clutching a hand-drawn map, hoping like hell that I wouldn’t miss my stop. It was hard. Smartphones have made life so much easier for me. I can even ask my phone “Where am I?” and it can tell me. What a time to be alive!

5. I have to work harder than the average student.

I hate the term “learning disability” because it implies that people like me have a problem learning new things. It’s not true. I prefer the term “learning differences” because I think it’s a more accurate description of how our brains work. I have trouble understanding some concepts because my brain is wired differently, but that does not mean I cannot be educated. I learn things in a different way. I did a grammar class in university, and it almost brought me to the brink of a mental breakdown because I found it so difficult to understand. But I pushed ahead, bought extra text books and made flash cards, and managed to cram enough knowledge into my head to earn a passing grade. It was difficult, but I succeeded.

6. I hate when people try to tell me what I can and cannot do.

A person once said to me, “You have to accept that there are some things you cannot do,” and it shook me to my core. I will never forget those words and the look on her face when she said them to me. I disagreed with her then and I disagree with her now. The worst thing you can say to a person with a disability is that they should be aware of their limitations. Believe me. We know. I will never be a maths teacher or a scientist. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot in this world that I can achieve. It’s amazing what I can do when people encourage me.

7. I make the same spelling errors over and over again.

It’s like my brain has a limited amount of space to store things. I have a habit of making the same spelling mistakes again and again, and sometimes miss entire words in a sentence. But my brain – bless it – just glosses over the errors half the time and reads the sentence back to me like it is error-free. I used to think I wasn’t that bad at spelling until people began pointing out my errors to me. Now I make an effort to double and triple proofread my work in the hope of spotting any mistakes.

8. I forget important numbers.

I have a problem remembering numbers. Before I had a smartphone, it was almost impossible for me to remember more than one or two phone numbers. The only way I could get myself to remember a phone number was to chant it in my head until it stuck. But what’s weird about my brain is how quickly I can lose numbers. If I focus too hard on trying to recall a bank PIN, it can disappear like water out of a leaky bucket. It’s incredibly frustrating and has reduced me to tears in the past.

9. I have a habit of losing things.

I go to the gym two to five nights a week. I have a habit of taking a lot of things with me into the gym. I read and listen to music and play video games. If I’m going to spend some time on the exercise bike, I have a routine. I unzip my backpack and take out my 3DS and iPad and iPhone and prop them in front of me so they’re in easy reach. One night I packed up to leave the gym and left my 3DS and iPad sitting on the exercise bike. I didn’t realize what I’d done until 20 minutes later, causing me to burst into sobs and start hyperventilating. How could I have forgotten two of my most precious possessions? Two things that I take with me to the gym all the time? I knew the answer: my memory had failed me again.

I am easily distracted. I can quickly lose track of what I am doing, and once that happens – it’s gone. Poof. Just like a candle being snuffed out. Thankfully, I managed to get my 3DS and iPad back from the gym. I’m much more careful about remembering to take them with me now when I leave. I double check my backpack and turn back to give the exercise bike one last look, just to be sure.

10. I can be angry a lot of the time.

I’m not proud of this one, but in my defense, it can be very frustrating to be me. I am always injuring myself. For example, I’m often hitting my toe against the side of a door or a bed leg. It hurts a lot, and every single time I do it, I immediately want to burst into tears or scream in rage. I’m trying to work on my anger issues because it can upset the people around me. I tell myself to calm down and take a breath, and most importantly to not be so hard on myself about something I cannot control. It’s just a sore toe. I’ll be OK.

In conclusion, my dyspraxia does make life difficult for me, but it also has a lot of positive effects on me. I am creative, organized, detailed, and inventive. I am the sort of person who loves to dive into a messy cupboard at work and slap labels onto things and neaten everything up, because the more organized my environment is, the better I can thrive in it. If you are struggling with dyspraxia, the best advice I can give you is to try to have faith in yourself. You are not unintelligent. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. I’ve found that the only thing that has stopped me from achieving things in this life has been my own self-confidence. If you believe you are smart enough to do something, go out and do it.

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Originally published: October 31, 2016
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