In the years before I had a clue what Dyspraxia was, my twin brother commented as I munched on a sandwich. He said I was eating it with the concentration and focus of someone trying to dismantle a bomb. To the untrained eye, there’s not much that goes into eating a BLT. To me, however, there are so many things to consider…a) coordinating the mouth to ensure you are doing what your mum always taught you – eat with your mouth closed.
b) eat quietly
c) keep a good grip of sandwich not so firm that you squeeze all the filling out onto the table and not too delicate that you drop it onto a lap.
d) no crumbs
Which brings me to awkward moment number one – eating in public. Add in the multitude of questions like:
a) how long SHOULD it take to eat a sandwich.
b) are the people around me judging how fast or slowly I chew.
c) Do I make eye contact and laugh at jokes going on around me. Will attempt to do this mean I lose control and choke on a quaver?
I went through primary and secondary school many millennia before chip and pin, contactless and banking apps were around. After school on a Friday, it would be ‘sweets day’. The good old days when penny sweets actually cost a penny and a tin of Roses would do a family of 8 and last beyond Boxing Day. What this meant is coins. Coins and maths and worst of all handling coins. Awkward moment number to for me is taking change from a shop assistant without letting a coin slip between two fingers. Even today at 32 I’ll throw out a hand to receive my change in awkward anticipation of whether I’ll catch my prize. Eye contact with the shop assistant, smile, say thank you and catch the change all at once? Seriously? I’m not superman!
Awkward situation number 2, sorry, I mean 3! Forgetting what I’ve just said. It happens a lot to me. When I’m talking in full flow I’m having to concentrate so hard on selecting the right words. Word selection and picking words out of the ether, phrasing things in the right order, pronouncing words clearly and at the right speed and volume, then there’s eye contact, smiling at the right points, background noise, fresh ideas jumping into my head, all this is a recipe for me to forget what I’ve just said. This equally applies to forgetting where I left my keys, forgetting verbal instructions too but for me at least, forgetting what I’ve just said feels the most awkward. I’m not losing my train of thought because I’m not concentrating- I’m probably concentrating more than 10 people combined.
Being asked a question. See above but add in the fact it takes me slightly longer to process the question so an umm and errr is likely to fall out my mouth , my capacity to take a question quite literally and then throw in all those things like talking clearly, remembering what I’m saying and add it all together makes me being as ANY question a tad awkward even if I know the answer.
* This post is sponsored by Cadbury’s Roses***
Ahem, sorry to interrupt. This brings me to number 5.
Awkward in the extreme and common for me. Interjecting in group conversations. In other words, knowing when someone in the group is coming to an end of their point and when it’s your turn to start speaking. It’s all in the timing and the number of times I’ve accidentally interrupted someone, I lose count. This does not mean I ‘lack social skills’ or I’m on the ‘autistic spectrum’ – I’m not. My sense of timing is just out because my brain is doing battle with a million thoughts and considerations. Now count me in 3.2.1. Go.
Awkward moment number 6. I call this awkward, to the recipient it’s more painful. Daily dalliances with London Underground rush hour means that I’ve come quite adept at manoeuvring out of the way of the oncoming stampede of suits and briefcases, one thing I still struggle with is walking in a pack. I’m always accidentally kicking the heels of the person stood in front of me which normally earns me an unimpressed glare. I’ll add here another commuting dual where someone is coming directly towards me and I have absolutely no idea if they are planning or going left or right. I’ve never actually clattered into someone (yet) but it’s always a daily dance we do.
Awkward moment number 7. This was more an issue when I was at uni and was young enough to be seen in a nightclub. Fatigue. You get the picture by now that dealing with Dyspraxic traits can take a lot of effort and energy. I distinctly remember telling my housemates I’d hurt my back attempting a standing ovation-earning breakdance (or that’s how I remembered it) Truth is I was absolutely knackered. Making an excuse to go home early. Awkward.
3 o’clock! 3 o’clock! We’ve all heard it. The plea from the friend next to you to look around all so subtly at someone or something without being noticed. A few issues here. Instantly throw up an image in your head of a clock face, remember left from right. Now here’s the clincher. It’s the occasional Dyspraxic trait that’s so seemingly inconsequential and random that you never really consider it an issue. Visual tracking. That’s holding your head dead still and scrolling your eyes from left to right as if to scan a room. I can’t do it. I HAVE to move my head. All this adds up to the least smooth and least subtle attempt at being subtle. Then I get caught. Awkward!
Sometimes life calls on you to do one of those things that the rest of the world can do in their sleep but I struggle with. Recently I watching sat in the crowd at Wembley cheering on my football team of choice. A chant broke out and suddenly 40,000 men, women and children were all clapping along to a song. Cue awkward. According to one 90’s club anthem, ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’. I never understood what that meant but whatever rhythm is, we don’t get on. Out of sync with everyone else and looking around feeling just a tad awkward. My team lost that day. I’m not accepting blame!
For the last point, Pete wanted a bit of help, so I’m Ryan and here’s my contribution.
Sorry, what is Dyspraxia? Is it like Dyslexia? Well no, not at all.
We have touched on social awkwardness so much in this article, which says a lot about how awkward we can feel in social situations.
One particular thing that I personally find to be a struggle is explaining Dyspraxia to someone who is either completely unaware of what it is or has a completely wrong idea of what it is.
Now I’m confident in my own experience and research on Dyspraxia, I’ve done my dissertation an audio documentary on the subject so if I had time for a presentation, I could cover a lot about Dyspraxia and the needs of people with Dyspraxia particularly in school and college.
With all that, I’d only be scratching the surface of Dyspraxia.
So how could I explain in a 2-minute conversation or even less Dyspraxia really is.
Also, take into account previous points Pete made in this article particularly with stumbling on conversations and oftentimes the result becomes a rushed mess that:
a. Does not help the person understand Dyspraxia anymore than they did previously
b. Makes me look like I don’t understand Dyspraxia at all.
I understand that a lot of people have never heard of Dyspraxia, which is why amazing people such as our contributors, our commenters and our readers do what we do.
It is a hidden thing that needs more awareness and reading this article and even sharing it can help make more people aware of it.
So next time someone asks you what Dyspraxia is and you feel like you’re at a loss, you’re not alone, it’s not easy an easy disability to explain from beginning to end.
Did we miss something?
Please let us know if there is an awkward moment you have with Dyspraxia that we did not mention, we always love hearing new contributions!