Today’s post is another guest post by someone who has a lesser talked about condition.
This post is written by Natalie who reached out to see if I’d be interested in posting her experience with dyspraxia. Not knowing much about dyspraxia myself, I was eager to know more so here we have it!
Most people have heard of dyslexia before, but have you heard of dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia isn’t just dyslexia spelt wrong! It’s a condition which affects the way signals are sent from the brain to the body. The main way this affects individuals is physically, in terms of balance, coordination and motor skills. Everyone is affected to different extents and in different ways.
One of the most common examples of something people with dyspraxia struggle with is tying shoe laces. Personally, I can tie laces, but find that it takes me longer and they often don’t stay done up. So I use elastic laces. This is an example of how dyspraxia affects fine motor skills. It can also affect our gross motor skills, the bigger movements. This can cause us to be quite ‘clumsy’, often knocking things over and tripping up. Difficulties with spatial awareness, knowing where our body is in relation to everything else around us, can also contribute to this. Added to this are difficulties with balance and coordination, meaning that sports can be really difficult for us (although I personally enjoy running!). PE lessons at schoolon the other hand…I hated them!
Although physical difficulties are the main difficulty those of us with dyspraxia will experience (and is what a diagnosis is based on) it affects such a range of other things too – which are often forgotten about! Speaking of forgetting, one of those things is memory – short-term memory in particular. This can mean that if someone asks us to do something that involves multiple steps, we have difficulty remembering these. Either breaking this down into smaller stages or writing the steps down can help. Organisation can also be difficult, so as you can imagine these two difficulties often coincide in certain situations!
Dyspraxia can also affect the way we process information more generally. This could be in relation to school or university – taking longer to process information in a lesson or lecture. It can also affect us in social situations. This is one of the areas which I feel that people understand the least about dyspraxia. People often don’t recognise that, both being neurodiverse conditions, dyspraxia and autism share a lot of things in common. This includes having difficulties with eye contact, taking things literally and finding it hard to keep up with conversations with big groups of people. Added to this is the fact that dyspraxia can also affect our speech, we might speak much quicker or slower than others, it can be difficult for us to control the volume of our speech and we might get our words muddled up.
So, to help to put some of this into context. Imagine you’re going out for a meal with a big group of people. Firstly, you’ve got the physical challenges of eating. Cutlery can be awkward – I know for me it’s not uncommon for food to go flying off the plate! I use a straw for drinks because of the tendency to spill things – there’s more coordination and spatial awareness involved in drinking a drink than you would think! And then there’s the social aspect. It’s a big group, so there’s perhaps 2 or 3 conversations going on at once. Due to difficulties with auditory processing, we often find it difficult to filter out other conversations and focus on the one we’re having. Someone may be talking to me and I’ll say ‘pardon?’ even though I heard what they said, I just couldn’t process it because of everything going on in the background. Now the conversation has moved on and the whole group is in the conversation. That should make it easier, you may think, but no. There’s so many people commenting on the topic that it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on. Often by the time our brain has processed what we’re going to say and thought about exactly how we’re going to say it the conversation has already moved on to another topic! For some dyspraxics, there may be too much sensory input too – the noise, lights, crowds etc. And getting back (in addition to getting there) can be difficult due to the fact that we often really struggle with our sense of direction!
That’s not to say we don’t necessarily enjoy a meal out with friends, it just comes with a few extra challenges. But when you’re dyspraxic yourself, you just get used to this and don’t necessarily notice it – it’s our version of normal. Little things can make a difference, things like offering to carry our drink if we’re struggling.
Due to the extra effort our brain is putting into everyday tasks, we can get tired easily. Concentration can be difficult as it is when you have dyspraxia and fatigue makes this 10 times worse! We can also struggle emotionally and get easily frustrated, sometimes as a direct result of tasks being more difficult due to our dyspraxia, other times it could be something unrelated. As I mentioned earlier, dyspraxia shares things in common with autism – we often like routine and get stressed when something changes. Dyspraxia is also linked to anxiety and depression. Some individuals with dyspraxia may have a diagnosable mental health condition, whilst others might not but may still experience symptoms of anxiety or depression to a higher level than most neurotypical people. The links between dyspraxia and mental health are being understood more over time.
As I said near the beginning of this post, everyone with dyspraxia is affected in different ways. So not every dyspraxicwill experience every single difficulty in this post. For example, personally I don’t really struggle with sensory sensitivity or organisation to the same extent as others might. In addition, there’s probably some things that I’ve missed out. You can’t tell someone has dyspraxia just by looking at them either. Well, when you have an understanding of what dyspraxia is, sometimes you can ‘tell’ someone is dyspraxicafter spending some time with them, but it isn’t something that you can obviously tell someone has. Hopefully this post has helped give you an insight into what dyspraxia is. If you would like to read more about dyspraxia, visit my blog at: theblogwithonepost.wordpress.com. Thanks to Melanie for giving me the opportunity to write this post, I’ve really enjoyed writing it!