Classified as a learning disability, dyspraxia is usually picked up by educational staff who have contact with multiple children on a daily basis and who are trained to identify developmental problems. Once this issue has been raised, the pupil is tested by a specialist and then once the diagnosis is received additional support is provided.
I didn’t grow up knowing I was dyspraxic. My problems were only discovered at 21 after I had a mental break down. By this point, I’d failed at university because I couldn’t keep track of when and where my classes and exams were and, feeling ashamed, I had left the city I’d grown up in without letting anyone know where I was. In my head I was useless – worse than useless – and every-one’s life would be better if I wasn’t in the way ruining things. When I left, I genuinely had no intention of returning – I wanted a new life, where no-one knew how much of a failure I was.
Emotionally, there is an overwhelming feeling of failure and frustration as you live your life trapped in a body that doesn’t work properly
An example of this is learning to swim. From the age of six people attempted to teach me how to swim. I understood the basic principle, you lie on the water kicking your legs and moving your arms in a scooping motion to paddle through the pool. Despite this it took an additional five years, and hundreds of pounds worth of group and private lessons for me to even achieve five metres of basic doggy paddle, by which point my 10-year-old peers were on their 25 metres badges using front crawl – a stroke I still haven’t managed to conquer.
Despite all of this, I did quite well academically at school, and eventually returned to University to get an English Literature degree, followed by a journalism MA. I now make a living doing a job that I love. But the low self esteem associated with my dyspraxia persists; the psychological ramifications of years I spent being told I wasn’t good enough still remain. Following years of bullying from my peers for being clumsy, I still struggle to trust people. I’ve also got an intense phobia of being watched.
Not being able to co-ordinate my body is still something I’m always incredibly insecure about but my response to these anxieties continues to evolve
I’m still clumsy, and it appears there’s nothing that can be done about that – but the support available helped address some of the more frustrating limitations of having dyspraxia. Not being able to co-ordinate my body is still something I’m always incredibly insecure about, but my response to these anxieties continues to evolve and I no longer feel stupid.
I'm not able to tell you where I would be if my problems had been recognised sooner. But I can’t understand why diagnosing dyspraxia – and other cognitive problems in young children is being criticised. If additional support is being made available to learners from a younger age, support that prevents them from going through life feeling stupid and worthless like I have in the past, well, surely that can only be a good thing. If I had a message for my younger, as yet undiagnosed self it would be this: you are not stupid.