Dyspraxia Awareness: Guest post by Emma at Mrs Shep Unplugged.

This week is Dyspraxia Awareness week. I’ve read bits and pieces about dyspraxia via various special needs parenting boards but not enough to write about the subject. So I have turned to my friend Emma from Mrs Shep Unplugged, who is dyspraxic herself, to tell you more about diagnosis and living with the condition….

Emma photoHi,

You may or may not have heard of Dyspraxia. It’s a funny one to describe really and it’s not easy to get diagnosed with especially as an adult! I have always been described as a clumsy child. I have always been terrible at sports and hand eye co-ordination. However when it comes down to it there is actually a lot more to dyspraxia than being clumsy.

What is it?
So what is it I hear you ask? Well let me try and explain. If I actually list the areas where it can affect you then I will try and explain some a bit better:

Self care, I do ok with this. I have had practise with my hair and make up so I do ok other than attempting a new hair style that can be tricky and will probably end up being getting annoyed, throwing my hairbrush across the room and giving up. I can’t get the co-ordination or the grip to be able to do fancy styles etc.
Writing. Forget it in all aspects! It’s tiring on my muscles in my hand and wrist joints, I can’t grip the pen, I can’t always follow the line. If there is no line I probably won’t write in a straight line. My writing is just everywhere and majority of the time it’s illegible. It usually takes concentration to write so people can read my writing and generally it hurts my arm and my writing can look quite different and very scruffy in just one sentence. Typing. I prefer this but spelling and grammar is not something I am good at which I know annoys my Mum! I do read things back but I might not see the mistake until I have read it 4/5 times even more.
Driving. It took me a while to pass. I was determined to do it for the freedom of going where I want. The trouble with driving is there is so much to do and concentrate on I actually find it very exhausting. I also can’t drive anywhere I don’t know, even with a sat nav. I find it so stressful that I just panic. There is far too much going on for my brain to process all the information as quickly as it needs too. My brain works differently and process information a lot differently and sometimes a lot slower. Driving is a hard task to master for people like me to be honest. From what I have come across anyway.
Cooking. It’s dangerous! I can do it but if I am following a recipe I have to read it through several times first. I have been known to forget a step on some ingredients several times before now haha! It’s dangerous because of the lack of spatial awareness around me and I end up burning myself or slicing my finger with a knife. That said I am actually a really good baker! Ask anyone that has tasted one of my cakes….
Education. There is a lot I could say about this but I am limited for reasons which I cannot discuss. I have a Distinction in Applied Science and a 2nd Class Hons in Clinical Physiology. It took me many years attending university part time to get these. It was during my time at university that I discovered I had dyslexia and dyspraxia. On finding out it was the biggest relief ever I can tell you because it meant I wasn’t stupid and that there was hope for me to gain my degree. After finding out I sought help from others who understood what I was going through and I adapted and changed my way of studying to help me remember and work through my degree. Loosing my son aside, this was actually one of the hardest and most challenging things I have ever done. Unless you suffer with dyslexia and dyspraxia there is just no way you could understand how hard I worked for this. I literally doubled the effort that other people give and doubled my time I put in to this degree and I proud to say I completed this degree on my own. Again my children aside this is one of my proudest achievements in my life.
Time management and planning. I set out plans etc for pretty much everything, what we will eat the following week, what we are doing on a weekend or days off, what I will wear for something. I love planning events and things to do. One of my downfalls with things like this is never actually getting around to doing things. I know it sounds like laziness or whatever but it’s not that. It’s hard to explain. I have seen a few people who suffer with dyspraxia talk about this. It’s not laziness like I said, maybe it’s a time management thing I’m not sure? I know sometimes I have to work backwards to work out what time I may need to start getting ready to be somewhere and I try really hard to be on time for things. I’m not really making myself very clear here to be honest and I’m not sure how else to explain. All I know is I am not on my own and other dyspraxics will get this!! Hopefully haha!
Listening. Interesting one. If someone like me is in a larger group or in an area where there are many conversations going on at once, it is very difficult to focus on the conversation you are meant to be concentrating on. I have also been told by my husband that I can be a little tactless and interrupt people. My tone of pitch can also be way off and sometimes I might be listening to someone but not actually understanding what is going on. I might ask people to repeat themselves if I am with people I know. Otherwise I don’t bother as I just feel like I look stupid. I get really worried as you can tell for people mistaking me for being stupid and clumsy, I try not to let it bother me most of the time as day to day I do really well and I have adapted things in my own way to manage things better so you wouldn’t really be able to tell. Some days though, the bad days, are hard and those are the days were I struggle to ‘hide it’ so that people don’t misjudge me for being stupid. If I was stupid I wouldn’t be able to achieve and do the things that I do do or have done in my life though?! (Not sure if this makes sense?!)

Articulation. Something I probably don’t have much of to be honest!
Speech. Oh gosh I am always repeating myself, my husband goes mad because I repeat myself several times in the same paragraph. I probably do it in my blogs too to be honest but I try not too. I have previously mentioned the whole tone of pitch above (see what I did I didn’t quite repeat myself ha ha!!!). I don’t know why I do it, I think sometimes it’s to re-iterate to myself what I have said, commit it to memory maybe? If I am telling someone a story I can often get jumbled in what I am saying and flit back and forth in what I am saying and may be even miss bits out. If I am on a ‘bad day’ here my dyspraxia is at it’s worst I can develop a pause, stutter or whatever you call it. It’s annoyingly frustrating, embarrassing and I hate it. The worst thing people can do though is say ‘spit your words out’, it just makes it worse and quote often I will give up as the other person saying this has clearly got frustrated waiting for my extremely busy and overworked brain to function properly and say the words I want to say. This goes back to the beginning of the blog where I explained what it is. With dspraxia the brain worked differently and ultimately is in overdrive all the time working ten times harder to do a simple task like gripping a pain, talking or listening or driving
Fatigue. With all this sensory processing over load it’s no flipping wonder!!!!
Balance. Nope. Can’t balance myself or a few drinks on a tray etc. One drink at once and no tight ropes ha ha ha!!!
Flat feet and low muscle tone in legs – therefore unable to stand for long periods of time. Yes I have both of these. I have orthotics to correct my feet and often feel like I look lazy because my legs are sore and aching and I need to sit down. I’m not actually sure why this is, I just know I have it and I wish I didn’t.
Hand eye co-ordination. Something I don’t have ha ha! I have never been able to catch a ball and I think this is once of the many reasons I probably didn’t get picked first in sports at school. In fact try last!!!! I frequently walk into doors and tables and drop things because of lack of co-ordination. I’m often described as being clumsy. I think this should have been my middle name to be honest!!!
Two handed tasks. Generally I can manage with maybe some practise for some things but craft things and musical instruments you can forget it!!!
Inadequate grip. I really struggle to grip things properly most days to be honest. I have trouble with pens and often have several different shaped pens when at work to help me, I can struggle with tools – hammer and nail -, laces and buttons oh my god I hate buttons! I just can’t do them! I would never intentionally buy anything with buttons on as I just can’t do them. They really frustrate me.
Eye movement. So when I am reading I will often loose my place when I am reading. I end up reading that section of the book several times! It can be a little annoying and I end up having to out the book down and walk away from it. I do however find it a little easier now I have a kindle that my husband bought for me as I can increase the font size so there are less words on the page.
Over sensitive to noise. This one is frustrating. It actually upsets me although I try very hard not to show it. If I am in a room with lots of conversations, music and maybe other noises such as toys and mobile phones etc. It reallt affects me. I am not sure I have ever really told anyone to be honest. It all gets too much and my brain is trying to listen to everything all at once and distinguish each one which it can’t do. I end up feeling like I need to leave the room to get away from all the noise. It’s a huge over stimulation for me and I can’t deal with too many noises at once.
Over sensitive to touch. I am a person that likes to hug and make hand gestures and basically use physical contact if appropriate when speaking. If I am having a day where I am having a ‘flare-up’, I actually can’t stand to be touched. This may surprise people who know me but it’s true. It’s like if someone touches me it will send me over the edge. Like my brain and body can’t cope with any more information to receive. I have often had to ask my husband to stop trying to hug me because I don’t want a hug. I think he gets a bit offended or upset sometimes though. It’s not often I turn down a hug from anyone but sometimes it’s too much. I also can’t be doing with clothes being too tight. Especially around my neck.
Accuracy problems. I have a lot of trouble copying things. It’s so annoying. I have to double and triple check what I am copying before actually copying it. It doesn’t matter if it’s something I am reading or listening too. I can follow instructions ok, as long as I only get 1/2 at a time. If you give me a big list of stuff to do there is no way I am going to remember. Tell me one thing at once!!!!!
Concentrating. I can concentrate on things, I mean I drive a lot! It’s just sometimes I have to work a lot harder to concentrate on that one thing that’s all.
Slow at adapting to new situations. This is purely because (well for me anyway) I function better by routine. The familiarity of things enable me to manage everyday things better. If someone was to move where I keep my car keys and start putting them somewhere else, it would take me a while before I learnt where they were. So I am not a fan of change! It can stress me out and even result in accidents depending on what the change is. If I knew there was a situation that I would find too difficult to cope with I would avoid as much as I could. I just couldn’t go through with it as I know how much stress could be involved.

There’s even more that can be added to this list. Don’t get me wrong though, people who have dyspraxia won’t have all of these symptoms. Even the worst case won’t have all of these. The things in the list aren’t even unique to dyspraxia. The thing with people with dyspraxia they will have more than their fair share!

Day to Day Life
Day to day I manage pretty well, I have the usual things of walking into doorways, tables and chairs etc. Spilling things and not being able to spell. One of the worst traits for me is my memory. It’s shocking. I seriously can’t tell you how bad it is! Thankfully people like my Mum, my friends and my husband know what works best for me.

I create lists and ensure instructions are step by step so I can follow easier. I know most of us struggle with remembering things but trust me this is worse! My friends, family and husband will tell you how frustrating it is for them. I have been known to completely forget that I have read a book or watched a film, it’s like I am watching or reading for the first time! It usually kicks in at some point that I have watched or read it before but I tend to argue the toss for a while ha ha! It is really frustrating though and I end up feeling incredibly stupid and self conscious because at 34 years old I can’t remember promising something to someone or that I visited somewhere or read something before. That’s not to say I can’t remember anything, I mean I am not like the character out of 50 first dates.

I have ways and means of making sure I remember things, alarms on my phone, calendars on my phone in my kitchen and a diary. In some ways my brain in quite logical and works in a specific order to do or remember something. For example going food shopping! I could never just write down a bunch of food items and randomly go shopping, I have to follow a pattern on my sheet that matches around the shop, that way nothing gets forgotten about.

Emmas photo 1

I have so many bruises and cuts on me over the years it’s untrue! I have had that many accidents and broken that many kitchen items my husband has banned any expensive kitchen items in our house. Our wine glasses are cheap ones as I break them, he bought 52 pint glasses off eBay around 4 years ago and we have 4 left. All my fault. I’ve broken countless dishes and plates. I have also burnt myself several times and more recently probably scarred myself I was that daft! I mis-judged the distance of my arm to the pan and well I burnt my arm. I spill things all the time too. I have ruined my food numerous times with juice usually because of my clumsiness. I never leave drinks somewhere where I think I could knock it over or break or spill it. My drink at meal times sits further away from my food. I sometimes move other peoples drinks if I think I may knock it over too. All down to lack of spatial awareness. I can’t judge distances. I also can’t judge speed or the weight of things. Not a clue.

EMma photo 3.jpg

I manage extremely well I think for someone with dyspraxia. I have found ways of coping with things and some techniques I have mastered without realising until a specialist pointed it out to me. Like making a cup of tea, a simple task yet I manage usually without burning myself. Purely because I have adapted a way to do it so that I won’t spill anything or burn myself.

It’s not a measure of intelligence either. Just because a simple task may involve more effort for me to manage or that I have memory trouble or struggle with noise etc it does not mean I am not intelligent. I have worked in a hospital environment doing diagnostic tests on people and I have done for 14 years. I also managed to get a degree and a BTEC as well as standard A-Levels and GCSE’s so I’m not thick or stupid. My problem is that my brain works differently and is often working at an extra 10 million miles an hour than your average person.

It is frustrating for people around me, I can sometimes see it in their face or hear it in their voices. She’s broken something again or forgotten something again etc. Do you know what though? It’s ten times more frustrating for me. It’s also embarrassing and upsetting for me too. The best thing though is patience, on both parts. I need to be patient with myself and others with me. It might take me longer to do something or say something etc but be patient and I will get there.

I realise some people may have questions about this and want to know more. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me, come and chat to me over on Instagram.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.
Emma

Emma is currently running a raffle over on her instagram to raise money for the charity SANDS. Heading over to her page now to find out more x (closed 15th October 2019)