Q&A WITH THE DYSPRAXIC DOCTOR
We sat down with Emma Tremaine who goes by the name The Dyspraxic Doctor to find out all about her life, Dyspraxia and the work she does to help others with Dyspraxia.
Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and your journey leading up to your dyspraxia assessment?
My name is Emma, I qualified as a doctor and specialised in psychiatry, working with adults and children with mental health difficulties. I was diagnosed with severe dyspraxia as an adult after significant struggles with learning practical skills, falling over and finding busy workplaces difficult but never understanding why. I’ve written a long blog article about my journey which is here: https://www.thedyspraxicdoctor.com/blog
When you were assessed were you shocked?
Yes and no. I suspected I had dyspraxia, but I didn’t really recognise the severity of it nor all the ways in which it affected me.
Did you see your assessment as a positive?
Yes. It was only later that I began to process it all and make sense of how it had been affecting me all my life. It was the missing piece in understanding a lot of the difficulties I’ve had.
Could you tell us a bit about what you do for a living and how you can to do what you do?
I now work as an independent therapist and coach. I work 1:1 with dyspraxic adults and young people, as well as children who have Autism and/or ADHD. I set up ‘The Dyspraxic Doctor’ which is growing to be a comprehensive unique support service for dyspraxic people. I provide coaching and counselling specifically for dyspraxic people and their loved ones. I also provide training and consultancy to schools and businesses, as well as setting up a Dyspraxia Resource Bank. Along with a physiotherapist I am designing yoga classes specifically for dyspraxia.
As for the ‘how’ I do what I do, I am definitely determined and want to make a difference to other people with dyspraxia. Nowadays I have a small supportive and understanding group of family and friends around me and that makes a huge difference too.
You work with Dyspraxics, we are a diverse bunch. What would you say are the biggest myths surrounding dyspraxia?
A lot of people still haven’t even heard of dyspraxia. When they have, they think it’s dyslexia. The next level of awareness after that is that it’s just clumsiness. Clumsiness is actually pretty damaging to your self esteem (and body!) at times, but it’s also all those hidden difficulties with dyspraxia – the sensory differences, the processing, organising and sequencing difficulties, as well as the low self-esteem and anxiety that can develop as a consequence, that can really make life very difficult.
The condition seems to suffer from a lack of awareness – why do you think this is?
Dyspraxia is a relatively new diagnosis compared to a lot of conditions, it will take time for it to catch up. It’s frustrating but on an individual level it just means taking every opportunity to tell people about dyspraxia and spread the understanding.
What were your own personal dyspraxic traits growing up? Are they still the same now?
Growing up, my motor skills were really poor. It took me a long time to learn new practical tasks, and still does. I struggle with co-ordination and balance, as an adult that’s meant some nasty falls. I tend to process information slowly, particularly auditory information, and have difficulties with my working memory and sequencing. When I was younger, I suffered with anxiety a lot because I didn’t understand why I was so slow, clumsy and different to other people. Now I understand my dyspraxia and have developed a lot of strategies, I manage a lot better.
What would your advice be to a parent who suspects their child had dyspraxia?
Don’t panic! Having dyspraxia doesn’t change who your child is. There are a lot of struggles with being dyspraxic but we are a diverse, talented and determined bunch. I really enjoy working with dyspraxic people, they amaze and impress me every day.
With regards to getting a diagnosis, people feel differently about labelling children, and I totally respect that. It’s worth having a conversation with your child’s GP about the diagnostic process locally. For me, having a diagnosis has meant that I understand myself and can connect with other people who have dyspraxia too, as well as accessing support.
What you say to an adult who thinks it may be too late in the day to get assessed?
I was diagnosed at 30. My mum has severe dyslexia to the point where she couldn’t read or write, she’d never read a book, and she was diagnosed as dyslexic at 50. She’s done her Maths and English GCSEs since. It’s never too late to find out more about yourself and learn new things.
As a dyspraxic does your dyspraxia affect you daily and what coping mechanisms are you most proud of?
Yes my dyspraxia is a part of who I am and it affects me every single day. I have all sorts of ways of managing different difficulties. I suppose I’m most proud of my determination. Everything is harder and takes more energy when you are dyspraxic, but I don’t give up easily!
What do you consider your great achievement to be?
Aside from setting up ‘The Dyspraxic Doctor’?! I think actually it’s helping others towards their own achievements through the work I do. It’s a privilege to be able to work with people through the challenges they’re experiencing.
What advice would you give to a 10 year old version of yourself?
Kindness is more important than anything else (including being able to skip). You’ll find your niche!
In your work, what services do you offer and who to?
I offer coaching and counselling for adults and young people with dyspraxia, as well as support to their families. I also provide emotional and social skills therapy to children and teens who have Autism, ADHD or Dyspraxia. Alongside these services I train staff in schools and businesses to help them better support neurodiverse people.
Are the mental health effects of having lived with dyspraxia something you think gets overlooked?
Definitely and I think the Dyspraxia Foundation’s recent survey results around the mental health experiences of dyspraxic teenagers really showed there are some clear links. This is why I use my years of psychiatry experience and my personal experience of being dyspraxic to provide counselling specifically for adults and young people with dyspraxia. I do this because I believe the way our brains are wired means we do need specialist support and counselling which:
1. is tailored to the way we process & think
2. understands the causes of emotional difficulties in dyspraxia (which can often be a bit different from those in the neurotypical population)
3. is with someone who ‘gets’ what dyspraxia is all about
Dyspraxia assessments aren’t funded by the NHS – why do you think this is? Why do you think dyspraxia isn’t seen as a priority?
I think dyspraxia is seen as just clumsiness. I think a lot of education needs to be done in the NHS about dyspraxia.
Did you receive any support for your dyspraxia and do you in your working life?
No as I wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood the only support I’ve had has been informal or physiotherapy after falls/injuries. Since my diagnosis I have had support from Access to Work.
What are the positives of having dyspraxia? Should we embrace what makes us different?
I try to help the people I work with to embrace their dyspraxia. Otherwise you are constantly fighting against yourself which is a stressful and unfulfilling place to be. I try to be a role model for accepting my own differences, particularly with the children and young people I see, and I’m open with them about having dyspraxia myself. I’ve written a whole blog article about the positives of dyspraxia too (https://www.thedyspraxicdoctor.com/blog)
If anyone is interested in learning more or working with you, how can they get in touch?
They can have a look on my website for information about my 1:1 work as well as training: www.thedyspraxicdoctor.com
Or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
What research into dyspraxia do you think needs to be done moving forwards?
Some research into accessible ways of helping adults. I’m setting up a dyspraxia yoga class with a physiotherapist, we’ll be doing a short educational session on a topic related to managing dyspraxia followed by a therapeutic yoga class, we’ll hopefully be able to get some outcome data for the classes, which is a start.