I was diagnosed with full body Dyspraxia at 18 months old, I could not walk or talk properly until I was 6 years of age. I consider myself to be lucky that I received the support required to facilitate my needs and that I was diagnosed at such an early age. However, this did not occur without a fight.
My parents went to tribunal to ensure I received appropriate support which resulted in physio, occupational and speech therapy throughout my childhood.
I remember all the meetings that took place at school with my parents, sat round a rectangular table, specialists talking about me but not directly talking to me; setting up plans to ensure I was getting the right support. At the time, I did not really know what was going on, I just remember a lot of meetings around the same rectangular table; just like I remember a lot of children staring at me and calling me names whilst I had a teaching assistant with me throughout my education.
I always felt the odd one out, I never fitted in, I struggled to make friends and I never felt accepted. I didn’t feel accepted until I went to university, when those around me appeared to be more open minded and accepting.
I laugh at myself a lot. I suppose this is my biggest coping mechanism. I always crash my car, I’m the first person to fallover in a yoga class and I am a terrible cook, nonetheless I continue to drive, exercise and cook, as long as the cooking does not involve using a tin opener!
There are many physical traits of Dyspraxia that are discussed when raising awareness of the disability, however the emotional traits are often overlooked. Severe fatigue due to processing of information and poor-quality sleep; being able to only focus on one task at a time and dealing with daily muscle pain due to delayed physical development.
Anxiety and issues with mental health are also common features that in my experience are often ignored or over sighted. One statement people have frequently said to me is ‘you are reallyconfident, I never thought that there was anything wrong with you.’ This is a complete misconception. I in fact over compensate, I have had to in both academia and socially. Professionally, people consider me to be a perfectionist, but what is perfection?
Yes, I am extremely efficient and organised, but I do not see a problem in striving for the best, however there is always room for development. I suppose my drive and determination has helped me achieve a good career, but this has not come without a battle. A battle to work so much harder than everyone else, just to get average results. I remember during my GCSE’s, I revised 3-5 hours per night. This was not something that was forced upon me by my parents, it was because I knew what I was capable of. I also knew that without excessive revision to ensure I remembered the content of what I was learning, I would not achieve as well as I knew I could. Luckily, due to my determination I gained good grades, but every strength has its pitfall.
Determination has allowed me to succeed in life, however it has come at a cost. I have high levels of anxiety, increased fatigue and put a lot of pressure on myself. Throughout the years I have had many emotional outbursts. I am fortunate to have people around me who understand that my frustration and emotions are linked to Dyspraxia and its daily obstacles.Those who think I am just being ‘irrational,’ ‘overly emotional’ or ‘erratic’ have very little, if any meaning in my life and I’m ok with that.
As I got older, I thought others would have an increased understanding of Dyspraxia, but unfortunately ignorance of the disability still occurs. Throughout employment, I have had to fight for reasonable adjustments. I have lost count how many times I have had an appointment with an occupational health nurse who does not know what Dyspraxia is. I have had many reasonable adjustment meetings where I have had to explain over and over again what Dyspraxia is. Despite having educational psychologist reports, statements of educational needs and occupational health reports, I still feel as if I have to justify why I need reasonable adjustments and explain the affects of dyspraxia in every day life. However, I am a fighter and I will never give up fighting for my rights, as tiring as this may be I will stand up for what I need so that I am not placed at a disadvantage.
When I have previously requested reasonable adjustments, I have been made to feel like a trouble maker or an inconvenience but I am not. I am an individual who just needs some extra support and understanding. A phrase that infuriates me is ‘business need.’ Ask your employer what the business need is, get this in writing and always remember that ‘business need’ does not over ride the Equality Act 2010.
I would encourage anyone who experiences difficulties in the workplace to seek union support. Some union reps understand what Dyspraxia is, others have limited knowledge but are open to learning about it. Most importantly, the unions have a great understanding of the Equality Act and nothing can override that. Also, if you are unsatisfied with an outcome you can grievance. This is a stressful process, however if adjustments are not negotiable or if you are unhappy with an outcome then do it. You have the inner strength to deal with Dyspraxia on a daily basis, therefore you have the innerstrength to fight for your rights.