THE BIG INTERVIEW: SIMEON WRIGHT, DYSPRAXIC YOGA TEACHER
1) When were you first diagnosed with Dyspraxia and how did you feel about being diagnosed?
Well to be entirely honest I’m not officially diagnosed more self diagnosed. However once I found out by scrolling down a dyspraxia checklist off dyspraxia foundation website (2015) it was like I had a lightbulb moment and all my past embarrassing moments or unexplainable behaviour suddenly made sense.
I then took a test at university to see if I could have some extra support and funding to assist my studies and it came back as mild Dyspraxia. Maybe if they spent the day with me they would have scored me a bit higher.
2) How was it growing up with Dyspraxia?
Where to even begin with this one wow. Growing up I always felt like there was something a bit different about me but I could never articulate it and now I can finally put my finger on it and say I’ve recognised it. Now I know why there is a method to my madness !
I was always aware of my lack of sports skills, (don’t ever ask me to play catch), my ability to trip over my own words, and atrocious handwriting but figured I would improve in time(my hand writing is still terrible now). School was a mixed bag one moment I could be wildly creative and think of something really out there and the next moment I would struggle to copy and simple sentence on the board or keep myself from looking around the room.
Eventually you learn little strategies to cope and accept the things you find hard and celebrate the things you do well. Now I’ve got to the place where I don’t see my Dyspraxia as a barrier. After all if I did I wouldn’t ride a bike daily or practice Yoga and Krava Maga. Just don’t ever ask me to dance. You’d think a half black guy would have some rhythm but trust me nobody needs to witness that.
3) If you could go back in time and pass on a message onto a younger you what would it be?
There’s a reason for your weirdness. A reason why your thoughts race at a million miles an hour, why you get stressed easily and are prone to addiction. A reason why you’re so creative and clumsy. I’d also let myself know that you will realise in time why you are the way you are and all will become eventually clear. It gets easier. Most of it not all of it.
4) What would you consider to be the traits that impact your daily life the most? Has this changed over time?
This may come as surprise to some people but it’s not the lack of coordination, spatial awareness, tripping over my words, following a conversation in a group or my short term memory that I actually find hard to handle on a daily basis. That stuff I can live with and get through. It’s the emotional side of thing that’s the biggest challenge for me. The lack of self esteem, the erratic behaviour the emotional outbursts which I hide very well (most people and work will never see that side of me because I’m good at switching it off there), the depression and addictive behaviour but more on that later.
5. What do you do as a job currently?
I’m currently a teaching assistant (7 years and counting). A sports coach in the half terms and soon to be a children’s yoga teacher.
In the past decade I’ve also been a playworker, barman, barista, kids club assistant, and an au pair. I can just about pour you a decent pint but never ask me to make you a Coffee.
6. Do you feel your Dyspraxia rears its head during your working day? Do you have coping mechanisms to help?
Absolutely ! I used to be the king of faffing around and would have an Olympic gold medal if they were going spare but now I’ve got so much better. I’m actually pretty smooth in the morning, manage my time well and some how manage to make it to work on time. One coping strategy for that is multiple alarms and giving myself enough time. Although that snooze button is my best friend and worst enemy at 6am.
So others way my brain and body like to remind me I’m neuro diverse throughout the day is if I’m playing sports with the kids which they find hilarious to watch and regularly do a running commentary. My creativity likes to come out too. Back when I worked in reception for 5 years I’d be responsible for setting up areas outside that the children would interact and play with and would spend huge amounts of time researching ideas the night before so I could create shocked little 4 year old faces with awe and wonder in the morning when I’d made another crazy idea. Usually involving something messy like paint, shaving foam or water. Oh I miss those days but they still come now and again usually with my friends kids. I also find it hard to retain information so I’ll usually scribble down everything. We could be here forever with this one but those are some key examples.
7) Does your work know about your Dyspraxia and have they made adjustments to help you thrive?
Yes they are very accommodating and welcome my creativity and uniqueness quite openly. They’ve also been understanding when I’ve been late but luckily I’m on a hot streak and those days appear to be over.
8) Working with children do you feel your ups and downs help?
I’ve had moments where I feel like it’s really been both. There have been times where my fingers don’t have the dexterity to do certain things such as doing up coats back in the day or kids, cutting things out (THE WORST) or tying things up. However on the flipside not to toot my own horn I feel like my creativity, spontaneity and erratic energy chucked in with a bit of empathy and silliness are among my best qualities when it comes to working with children.
9) How do you feel about your Dyspraxia is it part of your identity of something you try to put to one side?
It’s such a blessing and curse. On one hand it gives me all those qualities in the previous question as well as a strong sense of determination and good sense of humour. I LOVE my creativity. I can’t draw or paint but I’m pretty good at designing spaces and environments that people seem to enjoy. First came the dad’s club, then a wildlife garden at work which I’ve been repainting and making decorations for and my upcoming Yoga business. I’m a pretty good ideas man. But depression, loneliness, addictive tendencies, and low self esteem is a bitch. However I fully embrace it. It’s part of who I am and I don’t shy away from it at all. I’ll openly talk about it and think we need to do more about it. I’d love for it to become as recognised as Dyslexia or autism. Having famous people who have it like Florence Welch (Florence and the machine) and Daniel Radcliffe is a start.
10) What have been your greatest struggles?
Oh no the big question. I’ve mentioned addiction once or twice already so now might be a good time to reveal I’m currently 2 years sober. Sugar, clothes, money and social media are up there too but not as destructive. I’ve tried to replace them with good things such as yoga, meditation, the gym, clean eating, journaling and prayer. For the most part they seem to work. Its better to be addicted to stuff that makes you feel good than terrible. You can’t fill the hole with materialistic items it just doesn’t work.
To be even more brutally honest too dating is hard these days especially if you’re not into Tinder and you’re constantly busy and have had some bad luck in the past. It’s scary out there and easy to stay in self preservation mode. I love what Emma Watson said about being self partnered. I don’t think singleness I celebrated too often in our culture and I think some people think you can come across quite odd in society if you still haven’t gotten married and had kids by a certain age. Supposedly that’s what we’re supposed to do. But says who. I’d love to be a dad and find “the one” more than anything but I’ve still got other jobs I’d like to have, other degree’s I’d like to get and most importantly countries I’d like to travel to. I think everyone thinks the grass is greener I have friends with kids and would sometimes love a bit of that. But my friends would like to be able to have a week off or go jump on a plane and travel the world like I can. We all want a bit of what everybody else has got and think we should have x,y and z by the time we’re a certain age. As I approach 30 I’m quickly realising life doesn’t go the way you planned and you have to be ok with what you do have and the things that you don’t, or should think you should have or have yet to achieve. The compare game is a dangerous game to play.
11) You are a Yoga teacher? When did you first discover Yoga? Would you recommend it?
There’s a few things that have changed my life. Moving to Ashford, becoming a Christian and discovering Yoga. I know some people might find that hard to believe but I don’t feel Yoga affects the relationship I have with god or my faith. I could understand why it would with it’s roots based in other religions but my sole purpose for practising Yoga is to get my body in the best shape it’s ever been in and improve my mental health. I’m aware of the spiritual side of Yoga but I choose not to partake in it or embrace it.
Thought I’d get that out the way. I first started doing it a year ago and realised that my Dyspraxia quickly wasn’t a barrier. Yes my balance and coordination could be better and will never be amazing but now I feel like I value my body more than ever. It’s made me appreciate (along with clean eating) that our body is the greatest possession we have and we need to treasure it. That 45 minutes of stretching and breathing also gives me peace and allows stress to melt away too. It’s also helped to improve my self confidence as I can now get into poses I never thought were simply possible as well as helping my sleep and depression. So YES I recommend it everyone should try it once and if it’s not for you fair enough.
12) You’re planning on starting your own Yoga business who is it aimed at?
My upcoming Yoga business is designed for 7 to 11 year olds. With the possibility of a class for 5 to 7 year old in the future. The earlier the children learn these skills the better. However I work with children in the 7 to 11 age range more often in a variety of different environments so my client base pretty much already exists.
13) What made you decide to become a children’s Yoga teacher?
Children’s mental health ! I’d love to be a play therapist one day but it’s long and expensive road that I haven’t quite set foot on yet bar an introductory course. So Yoga seemed like a way I could help children now. In the 3 maybe 4 years it would take me to save and train that’s a whole lot of children that I could have taught Yoga to.
Yoga has been great for me and really helped improve my mental health and if we can help children’s stress levels, sleep, anxiety, self esteem, and positive interactions with each other than the next generation will turn out to be a generation that will be better equipped with whatever the world has to throw at it.
I’ve also worked with some very challenging children over the last few years and feel like if I had these skills now things could have been vastly different.
To be honest with all the Snap chat, Tik Tok, Mine craft, Youtube, Roblox & other media out there I’m dying to create a place where kids can just have fun and connect with each other again in a positive environment. Most of the kids I teach don’t actually have a lot of autonomy or choice anymore. Write this, read that, go here, you can only play outside for this amount of time. I want to bring their voices back and let them know that their voices and opinions are just as important as mine if not more. It’s not my class it’s ours. I might teach them the poses but there’s going to be a lot of sharing and collaboration. They need to feel empowered again.
Kids are also going outside less and less now because the technology is taking over and I want to help change this western addiction our kids seemed to be trapped in. I know we can’t go back to my 90’s childhood where we played outside all day and barely stayed at home. I know times have changed but this amount of screen time is dangerous. I’ve seen it with my children at work it’s like a drug and if Yoga can help get rid of some of the problems these screens are creating by teaching kids how to be kids again and to reconnect then it’s a start. Because the anxiety and anger is only going to get worse if we don’t do something.
The incredible world renowned Hungarian Physician Gabor Mate put it best when he said “It’s what our children are not doing when they’re on their screens. They’re not drawing, painting, playing outside or socially interacting in person anymore. Those skills are dying out. Many children are relying on this technology to meet their emotional needs”.
Lastly there’s not a lot of Yoga teachers currently in my town so the idea that I could create something that could really take off especially as a man in a female dominated profession fills me with excitement. I like breaking barriers.
My upcoming Yoga poster it’s going to say “a place where children can be positive, find calm, grow and have fun”.
If I can achieve that and children can leave with that feeling that I know I will have done my job right.
14) Looking back on your journey to where you are now what things/events fill you with the greatest amount of pride?
• Working in early years as man and being a positive male role model to both boys and girls. It challenges and surprises me like nothing else ever has.
• Being a brownie leader for 6 years and breaking barriers in a female dominated organisation (I did cubs for a while too). Getting to teach kids important skills, helping them improve their self confidence, and teaching them about the world outside their own front door and school gates for the last 6 years has been amazing. It was one of the best career moves I ever made and as well as help to run it with 2 amazing people it has never been boring.
• Going to Romania and volunteering with young adults with disabilities. It taught me the power of voluntary work (as well as brownies) and reflect on the relationship I have with my own twin sister who has several disabilities of her own.
• Graduation from university with a foundation degree. By far the hardest thing I’ve ever done !
• Creating a dads club at my school at the age of 26. Creating a space where fathers, grandads and uncles can interact and have the time to play with their children was wonderful. Dads often don’t have enough time because of work commitments and opportunities like these can be rare. To watch an idea in your head come to life and bring so much joy is an unbeatable feeling and never gets old.
• My ability to weather storms of adversity and hardship and still come out the other side more determined than ever. Whether it’s living 6 places in the space of a year, being broke, suffering from depression or addiction or losing a job.
15) What are your ambitions moving forward?
• To teach Yoga to as many children as possible and improve their mental health.
• To continue to travel the world and learn about other cultures.
• To one day have a family of my own filled with as much love and laughter as humanly possible.
• To become a play therapist.
• To never stop learning, growing or becoming whatever it is I am called to do.
• To accept the things I can change and accept things I can not.
• To do better than I did the day before