This article was written by nataliemlw.
Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder, is a condition that affects motor coordination and planning. Despite being a commonly misunderstood and underdiagnosed condition, it affects a significant portion of the population.
I thought I would write a blog on 10 things I wish people knew about dyspraxia. Generally, I have found that as I’ve got older I have been surrounded by more understanding people – so some of these things are based more on past experiences. Other things come from knowing others with dyspraxia and the experiences they’ve had. Nonetheless, they are still things that I feel are important for people to know about dyspraxia.
1. Dyspraxia is NOT the same as dyslexia.
The number of times I have mentioned dyspraxia to someone, only for them to respond with “Oh yes, dyslexia”. Thankfully, this happens less often now – awareness is definitely improving! They sound similar and have some overlapping traits, but they are most definitely two different conditions!
2. There is so much more to dyspraxia than just ‘clumsiness’.
People can assume that having dyspraxia means you’re just a bit clumsy, but it is so much more than that. If that’s all it was, it would make many everyday tasks a lot easier! In addition to fine and motor skills, balance, coordination, and spatial awareness it can also affect our thought processing speed, short-term memory, concentration, organization, sensory processing, speech and it can affect us socially too.
3. We are already trying our hardest, even if it doesn’t look like it.
For me, this mostly applied when I was in school in PE lessons. Due to the way, dyspraxia affects my movements, coordination, etc. it often looked like I just wasn’t trying hard enough in PE, when in fact I was having to put so much more effort in than anyone else was. For many years at school, this just wasn’t recognized at all. The same applies to things such as writing and drawing – it may look like we’ve not put any effort in when in fact it has probably taken us a lot of effort. So please don’t judge whether someone with dyspraxia is trying hard enough based on what their movements look like or what the outcome is like – judge us based on how many times we try and try again but don’t give up.
4. We shouldn’t be judged based on a diagnosis.
Just because we have dyspraxia, please don’t make a judgment about what we can and can’t do. Get to know us as individuals, ask us about what we find difficult, ask us if we need help with something, ask us if we would like to go to an event – don’t just assume. Although dyspraxia does affect the way we do many things and makes us who we are, that’s not the only thing you should know about us either – get to know us as individuals and find out what our interests are.
5. The things that you take for granted can be difficult for us.
It is the simple things that can be difficult for us, and the things that are easy for others. Things like carrying a drink without spilling it, eating food without spilling it down ourselves, writing, knowing how to react in a particular social situation, and coping with a change to routine. We often experience fatigue as a result of the increased effort we have to put into everyday tasks. As I mentioned above, don’t make assumptions – but at the same time please be mindful.
6. Just because we can be quiet, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything to say.
This is an individual thing, everyone with dyspraxia is different. However, many of us struggle with social situations, particularly with large groups of people. It can be difficult to process everything to keep up with the conversation – often by the time we’ve thought of what to say and how we’re going to say it the conversation has moved onto another topic. It’s not uncommon for those of us with dyspraxia to struggle with confidence too, sometimes due to the difficulties we have and sometimes due to a lack of understanding from others. Personally, my confidence has improved a lot compared to how it used to be. I’m still not the most confident person ever, but it has improved. If I’m with someone I know well, on the other hand, it can be hard to get me to stop talking! Including us in conversations and asking us questions are simple things that can help.
7. Dyspraxia may be hidden but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Whilst dyspraxia is hidden and you might not necessarily be able to ‘see’ it all the time, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a disability. Yes, we may ‘look’ the same as anyone else but that doesn’t mean that we can’t experience the difficulties we do.
8. There are positives!
Despite the difficulties that come with dyspraxia, there are positives too. I don’t want people to think that having dyspraxia is a bad thing. Yes, it makes certain things more difficult but without it, I wouldn’t be as determined as I am, have as much empathy as I do, and remember very random details and conversations from years ago!
9. We are all unique – if you’ve met one person with dyspraxia, you’ve met one person with dyspraxia.
A common phrase used when describing autism is “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” and the same applies to dyspraxia too, or any condition really. Everyone is affected in different ways and to different extents for certain aspects. For some, organization may be a big difficulty, for others not so much so. Some people may struggle more with fine motor skills than they do with gross motor skills, and vice versa. Again, don’t make assumptions.
10. ‘Normal’ is boring – what is normal anyway?
One thing I really don’t like is when people describe people without dyspraxia (or any other disability) as ‘normal’. Firstly, it implies there is something wrong with being dyspraxic. Secondly, why do we use the term ‘normal’? Everyone is unique in so many different ways. Is ‘normal’ really something we should aspire to? The world needs all different kinds of minds. The difference is good!