My name is Tom and during Lockdown 2020 I have become somewhat addicted to Zoom. The idea of using Zoom to bring Dyspraxic folk together, in our case, was pioneered by Pete Guest. Pete previously ran some sessions, long before Lockdown. With us all being ‘locked down’, we had the perfect opportunity to expand the idea. We’ve had folk from across the globe joining our sessions, with some getting up at very unsociable hours to join in. I’ve met some great new friends.
Pete has organised a number of very helpful Wednesday Q&A sessions. Speakers have included:
- Lindsey Hall who very kindly talked about Kitchen and other gadgets to help at home and in work
- Karen an OT from Coventry
- Monique a campaigner on behalf of Neurodivergent Folk
- Jamie who talked about strategies for helping us look after our Mental Health
- Chris and his colleague Sue from Genius Within; a company who provide training and workplace coaching for Neurodivergent folk.
- Rosemary, a speech and Language Therapist, who is also Dyspraxic herself
- Andrew Fleming a British Diplomat in India.
Amy, a regular attendee of these nights said: “The sessions have provided me with endless support and have made me feel better about being Dyspraxic. It’s made me realise that Icam not alone in the struggles I face and that there is a community that I can count on. These meets are the highlight of my week and these sessions allow you to meet a wide variety of people who now feel like family.”
I myself have run a number of informal facilitated chat sessions with various focus questions, such as What are your favoured coping strategies, ‘Dyspraxidents’ and sessions where people have shared experience of disclosing or discussing Dyspraxia with employers and/or trying to explain to family members or partners. These have not been a formal thing since I’m really not qualified to tell anyone how to run their life.
Back in May with the help of Brandon (aka The Theatric Dyspraxic), we ran an Artistic passions session. So many of us are creative types despite the notion that we would find such pursuits impossible we do love to defy such notions. There are many talented dyspraxic crafters, musicians stand-up comedians, writers, actors, artists, cake decorators and even dancers out there.
I’ve also done a couple of smaller group sessions where I restricted participation to five people plus the facilitator as I was very conscious that more than a dozen enthusiastic dyspraxics can trip even me into sensory overload.
Since there are only a small handful of us, regrettably we only have capacity to reach a limited number of dyspraxic folk at any one time, Planning organising, and sending out invites and running these sessions takes time and effort away from our already hectic lives and family/household and/or work responsibilities. Getting the balance right can be difficult. We are not trained professionals, just a very small motley group of individuals who very much enjoy giving something back to try to help our community, We have no formal standing and we have to be able to be realistic about what we can sustain and manage. Not that that will stop us pushing the boundaries and contracting Zoom Fever!
In late June, I had to back off a bit from running sessions as I was finding the pressure I was putting on myself to make the sessions perfect and try to accommodate everyone was beginning to get to me and I was risking it becoming too much of a burden. However, last week Mike (of Dancing on your Doorstep Fame) and I ran an Everyday Tasks session. The aim of the session was to create a forum where folk could share tips and ask about things we might normally be too embarrassed to admit we struggle with. Mike facilitated the chat while I handled the admin side of inviting and letting folk into the chat and muting/unmuting. It has very much been learn by doing, but running the sessions as a pair was so much easier than trying to do it all on your own. I feel this is a much better way forwards.
I also wish to give a Big shout out to Phil and his East Scotland group and Chris and Charles from Determined Scottish Dyspraxics, Lanarkshire and indeed anyone else running similar initiatives, including DF Youth and Jess from Dyspraxic Me. Not forgetting all those who advocate for Dyspraxia on You Tube and other platforms where they create content to help others. Also a big thank you to all who have joined and contributed to the sessions we have run under the Dyspraxic Circle Banner.
I see another way to move forwards would be for folk to get together in interest groups and/or by geographical location/timezone and chat together in small groups using Zoom (or other platforms). I’m conscious of stories about Zoom Bombers and of Zoom not being sufficiently secure. If you take some sensible precautions, the risks can be sufficiently mitigated*. The host retains the power to eject anyone should anyone cause significant trouble or distress to others.
Lastly, but certainly not least, I feel we all owe an exceptional debt of gratitude to Pete Guest for blazing this trail and bringing us together. Hopefully our example can be replicated by others to bring even more people together.
*A planned follow on to this article will be a How to guide to setting up and running small group chats.