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Having Dyspraxia

February 21, 2009

This is a guest post by Paul Burgin, who blogs about mainstream politics at Mars Hill. Thanks to Paul.

I was suspected of having dyspraxia at the age of six and diagnosed at the age of twenty-three. When I was diagnosed it cleared up a lot of concerns and problems I had had for nearly a lifetime.

For those who don’t know what it is, dyspraxia is a condition which affects the signals between the brain and the nervous system. This means that my sense of balance and attention span is slightly off-kilter as it were! I am fortunate in that my condition is in a mild form, but the fact remains that having dyspraxia can cause all kinds of professional and social problems, particually for those who are not diagnosed!

For me it is still something which I am nervous about discussing in public, especially because before I was diagnosed, I knew deep down there was something not quite right; for instance I knew I was fairly bright and had common sense, so why did I sometimes say and do idiotic things that seemed to be in contradiction of that! Plus my social skills were somewhat Rimmeresque to say the least! For the past decade I have had to learn to accept that the areas of my life where I feel insecure and have low self esteem come from situations which are not my fault, nor the fault of others. I have also had to learn to be less secretive in order to try and compensate for any perception that I was not fitting in, plus I have learnt to be less ashamed of making mistakes in day-to-day life, whether minor or not!

It would perhaps also explain that some of the traits of dyspraxia in some who have the condition are akin to some form of autism, which is how it seems to be in my situation, but that aspect, plus the lack of proper coordination, can lead to misunderstandings and social difficulties, especially lack of social awareness. Since I have been diagnosed my life has improved slightly in that I accept my limitations and try and work around them rather than try and overcome them, but it is hard and from what I have heard from other sufferers, I am one of the luckier ones.

But dyspraxia is not about victimhood. Many have gone to lead professionally and personally succesful lives. One friend of mine who has it in a mild form, is a successful freelance business consultant, and there are some famous examples as well. David Bailey is dyspraxic, as is Harry Potter star, Daniel Radcliffe, and the late Donald Dewar (Scotland’s first First Minister), is thought by some to have been dyspraxic. And it is people like that that give people like me an extra bit of hope.

So the fact is that many dyspraxics appear to be normal, albeit seen by some to be a bit strange, but the more that is known about it, the more understanding there will be. You can find out more about dyspraxia and what it means at http://www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/ and at http://www.dyspraxiausa.org/. They will explain the condition more clearly than me in one of the areas where it is too close a subject as to render me somewhat inarticulate!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2009 7:28 pm

    Talking openly about disabilities and the way they affect lives is the only way to bring them to light: but it’s important to understand that dyspraxia, like any disability, is significantly affected by social structures and expectations. Understanding the impact of a disability through a social rather than medical model is extremely important as the medical model will always see disabled people as requiring cures, resolutions or as embodying deficits rather than looking to support the person and adjust the awareness and systems of society (as the social model outlines).

    Yes, Paul, there are things you can do yourself that can help you manage situations so that you feel you cope better with them, but it is important to also campaign for better awareness and adjustments so that the onus is not entirely on you to fit expectations…

  2. Beverly permalink
    June 2, 2009 4:49 pm

    My son was diagnosed with Dyspraxia at age 3, he has been on SSI till now, age 13, now they say he is better and they are taking him off SSI, I contacted a lawyer (as told to) and they say they won’t take the case due to it is ADD related and they cannot win. Is this true? is is ADD?

    Thanks

  3. samedifference1 permalink*
    June 2, 2009 5:11 pm

    Hi Beverly

    I can’t tell you whether or not your son has ADD. What I AM sure of is that you know your son better than anyone. If you feel that he still needs his particular medication (SSI) then you should fight any way you can until he gets put back on it. All the best.

    • katie auburn permalink
      July 4, 2009 2:00 pm

      hi i also fill alon and icealted with in my class nobody understands me thay just lol when i drop thinks like my pen or when i trip

  4. katie auburn permalink
    July 4, 2009 12:25 pm

    hi im 15 and i have dyspraxia i only found out i had it when iwas in year 8 but i find it hard to exsplan 2 pepole exspecile my friends and.i hate it when people lol at me when i can’t catch a ball or when thay call me stupied. also i try 2 advid pe and i lose my friends coz thay dont understand me can u help me

    • July 6, 2009 10:37 am

      Hi Katie

      Am not sure how to help as there are varying degrees of dyspraxia and my case is somewhat mild. That said, it takes time and paitence for others to understand and its best to explain when the issue natrually comes up in conversation. Try not to get scared and nervous and take time to respond to whatever they have to say
      I hope thats of help, also have you been in touch with the Dyspraxia Foundation at all, as they probably have some good ideas as well.

      Sincerely

      Paul

  5. Katie permalink
    July 6, 2009 12:09 pm

    I was diagnosed with dyspraxia last year at the age of 20, I referred myself ( with the help of my partner) to the disabled student support at my university for an assesment along with support of my mental health issues. Up until this point I had not received any support with the education system but as the assesor said that as soon as I walked in the room (and tripped over the floor fell into the door and slumped into my seat) she knew that I was dyspraxic. The main problem, as expressed with a few people is the ridicule I get from being clumbsy and haphazard or not being able to run fast or catch a ball like others . I was bullied at school rather badly because I was well a bit awkward, I also have mental health issues which made me seem even more strange I guess. This was especially bad in PE, the only thing I was good at was hockey as a goal keeper. This was because I could hurl about and didn’t need to be too accurate. But I was told I wasn’t allowed to do that anymore and got put in dance, dance is probably the most ridiculous thing for someone with dyspraxia to do and I spent all my time feeling stupid and being laughed at. To the point where I stopped attending PE and instead went to the detention every evening to make up for my abscence.

    I feel a bit annoyed sometimes that no one picked up on the dyspraxia earlier, as I think it may have helped. I remember being told off for sitting on my leg and fidigiting, or holding my paper at a 90 degree angle because I couldn’t cope with it being straight. My parents were contacted because I wasn’t able to button my shirt fast enough and I always walked around the 1500 metre track. I was a clever student but was placed lower and told I was not as capable as I was because I didn’t do things in the way that others did, I was disorganised and my writing was ungrammatical. I wonder what it would have been like if someone had seen that I wasn’t just being awkward but found it actually difficult to do these things in the way that others did them. At the same time I feel fine, because I managed and created my own strategies (which I would have had to have done anyway).

    I don’t think I am a victim, this is who I am it is who I have been all my life. And I have suceeded I have done a degree with little help, apart from my final year ( which I think is good although don’t want to seem big headed). I am hoping to go on the be an educational psychologist and hopefully help individuals in similar situations. I just wish that I could have had a happy time at school free of the isolation and ridicule that I got from both teachers and students for being the way I am. I think it is interesting that the LEA which supplies me with disabled support would not first accept dyspraxia as something that needed additional help, rather associating it with the old term of clumbsy child syndrome.

    Katie (Nice name)- It is hard to know what advice to give to you about the people in your class. I have found that now what I have to do is laugh, and my friends always give a little remark but I find laughing with them is a lot easier. Have you tried explaining that you have a problem with being a bit clumsy and it gets you a bit upset when they laugh because you can’t help it. Try and not get too upset, I know it is easy to say, but I find when I get too anxious about being clumsy I actually end up knocking more things over, so I try to just pick it up and count to ten and then start again. I also find that relaxing muscles can help ( I have poor muscle tone and get very tense and seize up). If you tense up all your muscles then release them one by one and try again. Do you teachers know about the dyspraxia, you could think about some things you can do in PE, like I said I did goalkeeping in hockey and ask to do them instead of the ball catching .
    Have a look into groups you could join in activities that you enjoy, then you can meet people who like the same things as you, this will mean you can do those activities and won’t need to do anything too physical.

    • Tanya Gwynne permalink
      January 21, 2010 1:15 pm

      I would just like to say well done!!!!my son has dyspraxia and is going through all the same kind of stuff at school.kids can be so cruel

  6. rhianna marchant permalink
    March 13, 2010 11:31 pm

    Hi guys,
    ive been all over the web looking for help on how to deal with partners that have it. i’ve been with my partner for two years but i also have a friend thats got it as well, and i dont mean at all to sound cruel but i am finding it so hard to cope, as i havent really heard about it, ive only really found out the symptoms of it recently and it explains so much, and im trying to understand and cope, but really finding it a struggle. and i feel like im letting them down as sometimes i just forget that they both have it. if anyone could please help or give more informati on it would be gratefully appreciated. i did look at the dyspraxia foundation website but couldnt find really anything that could help me cope or understand more. anything would be lovely.

  7. beth permalink
    March 15, 2010 9:30 pm

    hi everyone

    im in year 8 and was diognosed with mild dyspraxia in year one.i feel i am very lucky as if i was born a few years earlier i would have just have been dimisted as ‘thick’ or ‘slow’. lerning dificultys came up in conversation with my friend. i told her i had lerning difficultys and she replied ‘relly, but your normal’. there should really be more awareness of dyspraxia, as most people know about other disabilitys duch as dyslexia (im not saying dyspraxia is more important, its just its a disibility lke any other) and part of the reson i havent told anyone in school about the condtion is the bulling i could experince from it. some one shoud definetly start a dyspraxia awerness campain. Thanks

  8. patrick lipinski permalink
    March 20, 2011 8:19 pm

    hi im 15 and i have dyspraxia i was diagnosed when i was born and i was wondering coz i want to be a singer i want to know how to dance but its the coordination and stuff im poo do you reckon if i keep trying i can dance as well as sing??? please get back

  9. jellybelly123 permalink
    February 21, 2013 7:40 am

    Hi There,
    I really liked your post and thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    Children with Dyspraxia can not do daily activities so easily like lacing the shoes, arranging their books, and even their handwriting is worst.Helping these children includes,consulting with a mental health expert, and continuous care and love can also support.

  10. Christine permalink
    March 2, 2013 2:47 pm

    Hi,
    I am a parent of a gorgeous little eight year old girl with dyspraxia globally and a few sensory issues, which contributes to her being anxious as well as the speaking difficulties which is her main thing. She had a nice set of friends, but at the end of Year 2 and going forward I am seeing some nasty behaviour from this set of girls (and although I want to kill them, which I know I can;t!!!) i find it really diustressing as she keeps gravitating towards these girls and I htink they are being quite mean to her. My daughter has high anxiety at birthday parties and unstructured things, and I thought it was improving but the sophistication of games are increasing and she seems so young. She loves school and gets help so it is good in the classroom, just the continual hard work as a parent to try and fix it all.

  11. Peter Keegan permalink
    March 17, 2013 9:42 am

    Hi I’m Peter Keegan, Adult Representive & Trustee of Dyspraxia Foundation I have a page on facebook Dyspraxia Foundation National Adult Support Group.

  12. July 3, 2014 12:37 am

    This a little old, but my daughter 7 has been diagnosed with dyspraxia this year, she is considered severe, they were surprised during evaluation that she could function as well as she does. 99% of kids her age have better motor and processing skills than she does. She is almost like having an 18 month old. Kindergarten was a nightmare, 1st grade she had an awesome teacher and did well. She has been in OT for a little over 6 months now. It has made an an amazing difference in her. I recommend to anyone who thinks their kid has a problem to get them evaluated by an OT, our pediatrician did nothing to help. We fought for help from the time she was 3 because she was not developing normal motor skills. In addition to therapy, she does tumbling and dance. Dance is a great thing for these kids, but you have to find the right teacher. My daughter was made fun of by the moms her first year, well those moms are no longer there (asked to leave), but my daughter is. These kids need a chance and deserve to participate in activities like any other kid. Things that have helped my daughter improve have included, chiropractic care (major changes with this), Occupational Therapy, High Protein Diet (she has very poor muscle tone and is underweight), daily multivitamin, doing therapy exercises at home, tumbling/dance class, weighted vest/lap pads, vision therapy exercises, and lots of love and patients. I also recommend to parents to read a book called The Out of Sync Child, it will help in understanding what your child is going through. I know she has a long road ahead of her, but right now things are starting to look bright for her.

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