Growing up with dyspraxia can be a very lonely place at times – particularly if you grew up in a time where it was almost unheard of or you were the only one among your peers who had it.
It was my, as I am sure countless others’, experience that there was an endless amount of support for parents of children who had dyspraxia but once you reached the age of eighteen there were no support groups for adults who had dyspraxia – at least none that I could find.
I can’t discount the fabulous support that Harry from Dyspraxia Ireland gave, and still gives, me from the beginning of my adulthood up to the present day and giving me continuous guidance along the way.
Nevertheless, I still felt (and very much still do) very out of place – like I don’t belong, like I don’t fit in anywhere and longing to meet someone who just understood exactly how it felt.
When I saw that there was a conference on in Birmingham in October 2019 for adults who have dyspraxia, my first thought was “I wish something like this could happen over here because I would love to attend”. Then I remembered that I was a big girl with a job and earning my own money – so with a few minutes of ping-ponging between “Will I?” “Won’t I?”, I decided that I would, and booked my flights and ticket before I lost my courage.
The morning of the conference arrived and I was very nervous. Was I doing the right thing? What if I got lost – I had never been to Birmingham before and my mother had unintentionally succeeded in making me terrified about the train station.
But I got to the airport and managed to board the right flight.
The weather that day was awful and so, ironically, despite travelling from another country, I was first there. I was very nervous to begin with but then I was met by two very friendly people at the check in desk who made me feel so welcome and handed me a name badge with my full name on it and where I was from and I felt like I belonged.
Then everybody started arriving and I started overhearing conversations and I thought “I belong, these people sound exactly like me”.
I met some people who I had been speaking with online and it was great to finally meet Pete who, by setting up Dyspraxia and Life Magazine, had given me a voice and an outlet to express myself to people who would understand.
Being at the conference was incredibly emotional and very special. For the first time in my life I felt like I fit in and that I belonged and wasn’t the odd one out.
Nobody batted an eye lid when I spilled my milk on the floor or spilled crumbs of pastry – because they were doing it too. All the speakers understood that people who have dyspraxia have great difficulty with concentration and listening for longer than a few minutes at a time. We were given permission to get up and walk around and stretch and fidget as many times as we wanted or need – that was so lovely – they understood.
The conference helped me to develop a better understanding of why I become fatigued so easily and why I experience burn out. It helped me realise why I experience low self esteem, depression and anxiety.
What struck me was the thought and effort that went into the day.
There were information leaflets about learning to drive when you have dyspraxia, tips for managing finances when you move out of home for the first time, tips on being organised in the workplace, tips for managing sleep, anger, stress and anxiety.
They had thought of everything.
It was wonderful to see such a huge emphasis on mental health. There is so much emphasis on dyspraxia being primarily to do with coordination – people don’t realise how it can affect your mental health and self-esteem.
By far the most emotional part of the day was hearing a few people share their real life experiences about their struggles with jobs. I got a massive lump in my throat because that one cut close to the bone – but then I look around the room and saw everyone else nodding in agreement and realised they all had the exact same struggles when it came to working life.
When the conference was over I sat with a few of the people who I had met from support groups. We had a drink before we headed off to the train station and the airport.
I flew back home that evening with a sense of hope, confidence and happiness – I belonged.
Nothing can ever put a price on that feeling.
Having gone to the adult conference in Birmingham, I really want something like that to happen over here in Ireland and if I ever came into some money it would be one of the first things that I did – give the adults with dyspraxia a sense of the belonging that I felt.
I’d definitely go back, no question.
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