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HOW I MADE SENSE AT 31

I was 31 years old when I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia. Not as late as some, but certainly not soon enough for anyone, by any stretch! The reason why I found out at that age is because as I turned 30 I decided to go back to University, and study a Masters in Film History.

At the time of starting the course, a close friend was proof reading one of my essays and thought something wasn’t quite right from how I come across when speaking, to how I came across in how I write.

I was referred to an Educational Psychologist by the University, and sent on a long magical mystery tour. Walking through snow, in January, in a part of London I had never been to. I eventually found the house, in Victoria Park, where my whole life would start to make sense.

I went through various tests, such as memory games, and trivia, to compare my intelligence to my ability to retain new information.

When we finished the testing, the Psychologist explained that my academic attainment has been impeded and encumbered by a highly complex mix of specific learning difficulties and identified them as Dyspraxia Co-morbid with Dyslexia.

It was the reason why I have problems with planning and organisation of independent written work, and difficulty in logical deconstruction of text in order to comprehend it. On top of that, the Dyslexia impeded the full development of reading skill, and together these two LDs affected my ability to spell. Additionally, my weak working memory affected me following lectures whilst simultaneously taking notes.

Afterwards, I made my way back home, with feelings of shock, and puzzlement. I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of what I had just been told. So, like anyone else in the 21st century, I went to Google, typed in “Dyspraxia”, and began my journey of discovering who I had been, who I was, and who I will be.

Reading through the various websites, including Wikipedia, and the Dyspraxia Foundation website, suddenly my whole life made sense: Why I did and reacted to everything the way I had, why I saw life and processed everything different than those close to me. It wasn’t just my ability to struggle with leaning new tasks, or copying notes during a lecture, it explained my emotions, my likes, my attitude to life, basically what made me me!
Even though I finally discovered who I was, I had mixed feelings for a long time. At the time I knew no one who had Dyspraxia, and so I felt isolated, and a little lost. This feeling of isolation did change gradually over time, as I discovered what it meant to have this disability. And eventually I started to meet random people with the disorder, or others in the spectrum.

When I was ready I began to tell family, and friends, but not all of them! After nearly 10 years there are still some friends who don’t know. Telling friends helped in some very specific ways, like getting out of being hugged by them, which is one of the biggest parts of my unique version of Dyspraxia.
The positives, as you always need to find something good out of any situation, is my ability to learn facts and retain information on my favourite subjects, such as Doctor Who, or films in general. That I can recall details of conversations, or things I did with friends or even my wife, who forget like it never happened. Long term memory is definitely my favourite part of having Dyspraxia.

Additionally, I started to not berate myself anymore for not wanting to go to busy events or noisy pubs, as they are too much sensory input, and just damn right horrible for me. I also know why some days I feel like a raw nerve, and on cloud nine the next.

Over a period of months and years I eventually came to terms with having Dyspraxia. I spent time re-discovering who I really was, and how the Dyspraxia would fit into my world, and how it already had.
I feel like a super computer processing information with 1 GB of Ram using DOS! It’s all in there, but it is hard to come out some days. If I am stressed or upset, or overwhelmed, then my brain just can’t push out what I know, or retain new information.

But after all this time I have come to terms with what I have. That’s not to say some days when I don’t get another job I am more than capable of, I hate the fact I have Dyspraxia, and other less capable people don’t! But I know that those friends who are close to me, and especially my wife, love me, and like the fact that I am a bit odd. Being in the spectrum has definitely created a quirky side to me.

Nowadays when in doubt, when I make mistakes, or miss something, or upset someone, I blame my Dyspraxia. If I am upset, or sad, or overthinking, it’s my Dyspraxia. It’s usually to blame for the good and bad times, and isn’t that a great thing! Remember folks it wasn’t you, it was your Dyspraxia!

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Jonny Johnson

Jonny lives in London with his wife and many cats. He works in the media industry, is a major film and TV buff, and was diagnosed at 31.

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