Living with Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia is a common condition that affects fine- and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. Sometimes it runs in families, but dyspraxia is thought to be around three or four times more common in boys than in girls. It is distinct from other motor disorders, such as cerebral palsy and occurs in people of all intellectual abilities. Dyspraxia is a lifelong, spectrum condition like many of the other SENs we have covered in our ‘Living With…’ series (Dyslexia, Autism) and the way in which difficulties present may differ over time, depending on environmental influences upon a person’s life. Today, Picaroon Kim talks to Rachel, a midwife from England about her experience of living with dyspraxia.
Kim: Hi Rachel. Thank you for speaking with me today. I’m really interested in your experiences of working as a midwife whilst living with dyspraxia. Could you tell me what at what age you realised you were dyspraxic?
Rachel: I didn’t know I was dyspraxic until I was 18 years old when I went to university. However, I have known I’m dyslexic since primary school, but I’m not too sure how old I was when diagnosed.
Kim: Did it affect your school life in any way and did you receive additional support?
Rachel: It affected my school life a lot. I always felt I was behind, but because my dyslexic tendencies were recognised early in my life, I was given extra help from teachers in school - especially with my speech, spelling and English language as a whole. My parents got very involved in helping me out and sending me to different tutors for subjects I was falling back in, which made a difference. I feel lucky I went to private school because this meant I was in smaller-sized classes and received more individualised help when needed. Since learning about my dyspraxia at university, I’ve never needed much extra help as I was given the tools to help during my time at school, which I applied to my studies at university. I needed a ruler to help me read properly as I couldn’t stay on the line whilst reading, or I would read the same sentence over and over again. When I was stressed or tired I tended to get distracted more than usual as I wouldn’t be able to follow what was being taught or couldn’t communicate very easily. For example, on retelling a story of events, I could not put it a systematic way (in fact, I still struggle with that sometimes) but I taught myself that if I don’t over-think it, it comes out easily and it’s the same with reading.
Kim: It’s good that you acquired tools to support your learning and I like the suggestion of not over-thinking retelling a story. Sometimes, we just need to trust in ourselves that the words will come out of our mouths in a coherent fashion. You’ve shared with me how your dyspraxia and dyslexia affected your time in school and university, could you tell me if it impacts your adult life at all?
Rachel: Yes, it interferes mainly because I feel frustrated that I cannot systematically verbalise a story, but working in the profession I do has helped. Although, when I’m tired, I really struggle. It takes me a lot longer than my friends to complete a task like writing a letter or a personal statement because I find it hard to collect the words – it’s very frustrating! Similarly, I would read something that I’ve written and it would make sense to me, but it may not to others.
Kim: It does sound frustrating. Have you experienced any misconceptions about dyspraxia?
Rachel: To be honest I don’t really tell many people about it, and I really try not to let it affect me and how people look at me. This is probably because when I was younger when people knew that I had it, I felt they treated me differently. For example, a couple of teachers wanted me to take lower-level GSCEs (which capped the grade at a C) because they thought I might really struggle with answering the long-winded questions - but I was like, ‘absolutely not!’ And I managed to an A anyway; I just had to put an awful lot of work in – I’m stubborn and don’t like extra help if I can avoid it but I will ask for it when I’m seriously struggling.
Kim: Rachel, your experiences have been very insightful. Thank you for telling us about living with dyspraxia.
Written by: Holly Pigache.