Coping with Dyspraxia
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The Invisible Handicap

I dedicate this page to sufferers of dyspraxia all over the world.

I have Dyspraxia, a disability which means messages to and from the brain are not transmitted properly. The cause of Dyspraxia is unknown but it may be caused by poor development of nerve cells in the brain. Up to 7% of the British population have dyspraxia and 70% of them are male.

Dyspraxia is a disability but it does not make you look disabled. This is  a good thing but can also sometimes cause confusion and misunderstanding because people do not understand your difficulties. Often, this can lead to bullying and discrimination by adults and children.


Problems Caused By Dyspraxia

  • Clumsiness

  • Difficulty writing, both forming letters and the speed. I have always gripped my pen too hard, so my hand aches!!

  • Reading difficulties

  • Poor short term memory. E.g. If given a list of instructions to carry out, may remember the first and last one but not the ones in between .

  • Difficulty throwing and catching a ball

  • Awkward walking and running.

  • Can't skip or hop

  • Have trouble learning or may never be able to ride a bike.

  • Trouble using a knife and fork. E.g. cutting food or spreading butter

  • Sensitive to touch. E.g. uncomfortable brushing your teeth, brushing hair and having it cut, certain clothes uncomfortable to wear. Also, if people touch me, it makes my skin itch like mad! One other thing, the feel of certain foods in my mouth is unbearable e.g. mashed potato drives me crazy!

  • Speech problems.

  • Poor Concentration. E.g. easily distracted by background noise in a classroom

  • Poorly organised. E.g. leaving things you need for school at home

  • Have trouble learning new tasks and may never be able to do tasks such as football.

  • Bump into objects or people by accident, but it doesn't go down very well!

  • People will not understand your problems so you may not be accepted socially and you may have trouble making friends.

  • Sometimes impatient, but lets face it, who can blame us!

These are just some of the things people with dyspraxia suffer. They may not have all of them but will certainly have many of them. Dyspraxia effects every day of a sufferers life, for life and it  can't be cured! There are therapies, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy, which may help some people.

Dyspraxia does not make you thick or stupid. In fact you may be very clever or even gifted!

Here is a description of what it feels like for someone with Dyspraxia to walk through a crowded shopping centre - written by Vicky aged 17.

Ask them to imagine their high street on a Saturday morning. People chatting, weaving in and out of shops, smoking, eating food, talking into telephones. When they've got the idea, tell them this:

Some people don't see crowds as individual people, but as one huge seething mess that sucks them in. They have to physically work out how to bypass people, and they often misjudge distances and bump into things. These people naturally hate being touched. The texture of someone else's clothing brushes their cheek, it's a texture that they can't stand, and they start to feel sick. They think, "These strangers have no right to invade other people's space - stand back from me!" Fragments of conversation are pulsing through their heads. Everyone else can block out background babble, but these people can't anditsoundsalldistortedandyoustartotpanicsomuch. Cars are zooming by with huge roaring noises and the floor seems to lurch. The smell of cigarette smoke is thick and irritating and they can't cope. Smells, sights, and sound all jumble together to form a messy porridge that gunges up their brain and they can't THINK. No wonder it's scary. How would this particular teacher/relative cope if their mind suddenly short-circuited and they were plunged into what feels like a torture chamber?


How Dyspraxia Affects My Life


Dyspraxia affects every part of my life, from when I wake, until I go to sleep. Many able bodied people, can carry out the following simple things with ease and without thinking too hard about it:

Preparing food and drink

Eating and drinking

Walking through crowds

Washing and dressing

Writing

Running

Following instructions

I am able bodied. I do not use a wheelchair, I have full use of my arms and legs, in fact I look completely "normal", but for me, carrying out the above tasks requires extra concentration and I often do them wrong. For example, while pouring a drink of orange juice, it will miss the cup! I don't know why, but the cup never seems to be where I think it is. Then there is getting dressed, my shoelaces never stay done up! As for socks, how do you get the heal of the sock on your heal? Now using a knife and fork, that's interesting! Cutting food can be a nightmare and spreading butter on toast, well that's always fun. Walking through a crowded shopping centre is a real challenge, dodging all the mums with pushchairs, people with cigarettes dangling in my face (I am quite short for my age) toddlers, etc. It is rare I don't bump into someone and upset them. As for following a list of instructions, if I was asked to go upstairs and get a pencil, some paper, a text book and an eraser, by the time I got upstairs, I would have forgotten what I went up for, and come down just with the pencil!

Anything that requires co-ordination of movement or thought, even a simple thing that many take for granted, causes me difficulties throughout my day. It does become very frustrating, because I know what I want to do but my body sometimes lets me down.


Some True Stories

Mannequin Mayhem

One day I was in a well known children's clothes store with my mum and sister. My mum, asked me to stand aside, as she needed to measure some trousers against my sister. The shop had a window display and the front door opened against it. I stepped back and leant against what I thought was the door. The next moment, I found myself sprawled in the window display among the carefully dressed child mannequins. The assistant bustled over. She didn't ask if I was alright, she just gave me a hard stare and tried to sort out the display. Mum asked me to go outside while she apologised and explained it was an accident. I said I was sorry and left the shop. Outside, there were two elderly ladies, who had obviously watched the "entertainment" I had provided but were not impressed! They held a conversation, loudly so I could hear, about my "bad" behaviour. I can understand their reaction but I think people are too quick to judge without knowing the facts. They assumed I was being naughty and this is a typical reaction. I'm not perfect, but most of my disasters happen by accident. I was embarrassed already but they made the situation worse.

Oops, Sorry!

One day the family paid a visit to Warwick Castle and my sister, Clare, and I were allowed to go off on our own. Clare was running ahead and I was trying to catch her up when I bumped into an elderly lady, who turned to me with a real look of disgust on her face and told me not to push. I said I was sorry but she ignored me and carried on. I really was sorry but often when I say sorry, people think I am apologising for "My Bad Behaviour."

Your time starts now

When I was still at school, I was preparing for my Year Six SATS. We had 15 Minutes to plan a story and 45 minutes to write it. That day, the teacher was explaining about the test. I had heard it all before, and I was finding it hard to concentrate on what she was saying. I went off into a dream about a computer game I had been playing the night before. Then I had a bright idea. I decided I would incorporate the game into my story and I had some brilliant ideas. 20 minutes after the test had begun, I still had not finished my plan. I was gripping my pen really hard and my hand hurt, I was trying really hard to get my thoughts down, I knew that I would be in trouble if I didn't get it down on paper in 40 minutes. I had a mixture of sweat and tears of frustration pouring down my face. The ideas were going out of my head one by one. Soon I had 10 minutes, left. It was going too quick for me. Soon, the test was over and I had not finished. Still, I was proud of what I had done. The teacher was not. She ignored the good things about it and told me if I didn't finish in the proper test, I would fail. I was disappointed because I wanted so much to show what I was made of.

Stop Dawdling!

I was in the local shopping centre with my Mum and Dad, and we had to go up an escalator to get to the car park. I DON'T like escalators anyway. I hate them. I just can't time getting on and off. Anyway, I stepped and looked down, to see my shoe lace staring up at me, undone. I thought "Oh well I'll do it up when we get off".

So I got to the top and suddenly I nearly tripped myself up for some reason. I tried to just walk off but it was like someone had grabbed hold of my leg and would not let go. I looked down to discover my shoe lace was caught in the gap between the moving steps and the floor. I had visions of explaining to the fire brigade how I had got myself in this position!

"Erm, mum..."
"Come on Matthew, stop dawdling!"
"But mum..."
"Come on, stop messing about."
"But mum, I'M STUCK!"

She turned round, took one look, and started pulling on my arm. Dad, meanwhile, managed to pull the lace out of the gap. It wasn't funny at the time. On the contrary, I was very embarrassed. When I got out of shopping centre, I had to laugh. I had to admit that it must have been hilarious to see me stood at the top of an escalator tripping myself up tugging my foot rather hysterically!

For me laces are a hazard. However tight I tie them, they always come undone.


Living with dyspraxia is hard, but I have learnt to adjust and cope. The most difficult thing to deal with is other peoples reaction and impatience. I wish people were more understanding and tolerant towards people who are different from themselves.