It took 26 years of my life for me to realize that I had dyspraxia. Before then, I had spent 26 years of my life wandering through life being diagnosed with ADHD and an “undiagnosable” learning disability. I was extremely clumsy, often tripping up and down stairs, constantly walking into strangers, and even dropping stuff constantly.
Dyspraxia, referred to as DCD in the United States, is a neurological disorder. It primarily affects motor function(the ability to eat, speak, and move). Symptoms range from; poor balance, difficulty planning or organizing ones thoughts, to tendencies to bumping and falling into things or people. Many people with dyspraxia are prone to having low self-esteem, and depression. It is estimated that between 2-10 percent of the population has dyspraxia. Dyspraxia can also be common in people who were premature at birth, and had low birth weight.
Simply put: Not all of the messages your brain is sending to your body are getting through.
Think of it like a post card or a package getting lost somewhere along the way. It’s happened and still happens to this day. The signals basically get muddled and lost along the way.
Dyspraxia is often under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc. Many doctors are unable to readily diagnose DCD and are not as familiar as they should be with it. Which explains to me why as a child, most of my teachers and physicians knew I had a learning disability, but could never put their finger on it.
I was constantly in and out of learning strategies classes in school to help me learn to, “be more organized”. Teachers would often get frustrated with me and label me as an underachiever and lazy when I’d struggle to find the energy to finish a task.
Some celebrities with dyspraxia are; Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine, Albert Einstein, and Jamie Lambert and Daniel Radcliffe, who struggles with tying his shoelaces.
Here are 18 signs you may be dyspraxic:
1. You Find It Hard To Concentrate
Getting distracted, and finding it extremely hard to focus is a common struggle for people with ADHD and dyspraxia.
For me, my ability to concentrate or not will show up in specific situations. Sometimes I’m able to have conversations with people for hours on end, and sometimes after five minutes I’ll just start staring at the ceiling fan. I can curl up on the couch by the fire and read a book for hours, however I find it hard to sit still and watch a movie for hours. I end up getting jumpy and distracted and need to move around. I can sit and watch a baseball game for hours, soccer however I lose concentration after the first five minutes.
2. You’re Constantly Losing Everything
I feel like a good portion of my day consists of me walking around going, “Where did I leave my car keys?” or, “Where on earth did my shoes go?’.
I struggle with making a place for everything and then remembering where those places are.
The struggle is real, y’all.
3. You’re Really, Really Clumsy
In the ’70s dyspraxia was known as “clumsy child syndrome”. Now, the term is no longer used among experts and physicians who diagnose.
While many with dyspraxia might actually be – clumsy – and clumsiness might actually be one of the most common symptoms, many aren’t actually that clumsy. Many suffer from other symptoms in dyspraxia more so than clumsiness.
4. Your Balance Isn’t Great
I can be known to trip, or randomly fall even if there’s nothing there.
5. You’re Really Bad At Self Care Tasks
While many people with dyspraxia may have mastered tasks like tying shoelaces, dealing with the struggles of fine motor skills can be a struggle. Tasks like trying to do your hair, putting on make up, etc.
My best friend from high school, who is basically my sister, has done a great job throughout the years of helping me learn to coordinate my movements, and to teach me tricks and ways of styling my hair, doing my make-up and even helping me with fashion advice.
Practice makes perfect.
Eventually. Or at least that’s what I say to myself.
6. Can I Have A Medal For Doing Two Things At Once?
During meals, I’m often really silent because I have to focus on eating.
And if I’m not eating, I’m focused on making conversation and then everyone else finishes and I’m left to eat really fast.
So, usually I’m left eating slowly.
Slow and steady wins the race, right?
People with dyspraxia find it nearly impossible to hold two objects in separate hands at once or even do two tasks at the same time. It’s not only the physical multitasking that’s difficult.
For instance: There is no way for me to listen to music and read or study at the same time. I’ve tried, trust me.
I end up getting distracted and having to re-read the same lines about 15 times before I give up making them go hand in hand.
7. You Walk Awkwardly
My mom has always told me that I tend to walk slightly off kilter and off balanced. The way she describes it brings to mind me walking like a duck. With my feet out to the sides and everything.
For me, I think I walk just fine.
I’m sure as I’m gotten older that my walking has improved.
At least, I think it has…..
I have a hard time walking next to friends. I tend to end up walking into them – sort of like bumper cars but without the cars or even elbowing them.
I finally had to tell my friends not be be offended if I want a two person distance between them and me during walks.
8. Learning New Skills Is A #Struggle
I currently work at a coffee roastery as a chef. Each day is an interesting challenge for me. A few weeks ago, I was struggling with learning how to whisks eggs(correctly). My whole life I’ve struggled with the movement of the wrist when learning to whisk. Whether I’m whisking eggs, or whisking batter. It usually looks like I’m beating the batter or eggs.
Learning new skills is a struggle when you have dyspraxia.
It requires a lot of focus and concentration.
For instance, I spent years learning how to correctly play the djembe – african drum. For years, my rhythm was off, it took me ages to eventually learn how to play it so that I was getting a rhythm I wanted.
9. Your Eye-Hand Coordination Sucks, Let’s Admit It
In middle school and high school I used to dread P.E. class because my eye-hand coordination was basically non-existant. People would throw frisbees at me, and I’d be ten feet away from it and be like, “I got it!”. That or I’d throw a baseball or basketball to a team member, and it would be like I was making them run a mile just to get the ball.
Hey, at least they got a workout from it.
I often give people a fun little eye-hand coordination test: Throw a ball(preferably something small and soft) at a wall and see if you can catch it. If you’re anything like me chances are your response will either be, “Oh, shit! I just broke my nose” or, “Oh, shit! I just broke that lamp!”.
10. You Find Speaking/Eating Difficult
People with dyspraxia are extremely aware of all of the different mechanisms involved with eating food, “Bite! Chew! Swallow! Repeat!” All while making sure you don’t choke on your food in the process and make a mess(which for me ends up happening anyway). It makes eating food especially tricky. When I eat, I have to concentrate extra hard. There is no possible way for me to speak during meals, unless I just forget eating altogether.
Usually my go to foods are soft foods; like soup, pizza, seafood, or even mashed potatoes. Especially if I’m eating with friends or at a social gathering and I have to focus on speaking at the same time.
11. Please, No Daily Tasks That Require Moving.
You know how at parties most people have fun?
I mean, you drink, meet up and chat with friends and eat great food and enjoy great music.
However, while everyone else is enjoying themselves and worry and stress free, you are:
- trying not to bump into any furniture
- trying not to bump into anyone
- trying to make sure you don’t bump into someone and spill your drink
- trying to make sure you don’t drop your glass as you maneuver through the crowds
- trying to make sure you don’t spill anything on the carpet
- trying to make sure you don’t spill your food everywhere
12. Are You Left or Right- Handed? You’re Not Sure….
13.. You Don’t Sit Normally
I’ve never been able to sit normally in chairs.
It just feels odd and weird to me to sit with my feet on the ground.
Instead I either sit half cross-legged, or totally cross-legged.
14. Organization Is Not Your Strength
I spent much of my school years in classrooms that helping me learn better organizational skills. Sometimes, I’d spend the whole class period setting up binders, and having everything organized and in the correct place. By the end of the day the binder would look like an army had raided it for top secret information.
I was constantly late to class, I was always losing homework, forgetting due dates, etc.
Needless to say, organization is not my forte. Technology is.
As an adult and grown woman I understand that I need to be organized.
Half the apps on my phone are devoted to organization, reminders, lists, etc.
I set myself reminders on what I need from the grocery store, exactly what’s on my schedule, where I need to be and at what time.
If I didn’t, I’d be getting lost constantly and probably spending half the day in bed.
15. Driving Is Like Learning To Read When You’re Blind. It’s Just So Complicated
I struggle with driving.
I struggle with spacial awareness enough as it is.
Sometimes I think cars are further away than the actually are or that they’re WAY WAY TOO close to my bumper. Sometimes I’m a little too much left or right when I think I’m completely straight.
16. It’s Incredibly Difficult To Learn A Physical Sequence
One of the many reasons I gave up teaching yoga was that I could never fully master the art of teaching the yoga poses in the correct sequences.
I would either teach classes really fast and hard so that people were completely drenched in sweat by the first 15 minutes, or I would teach the sequences so slowly that I’m sure some people just sat in the back reading.
If I do manage to remember sequences, I have to do them so much that they’re eventually engrained into my mind and it’s become my whole life.
17. You Struggle With Insomnia
Yeah – that’s my every night…
18. Does Your Spatial Awareness Even Exist?
My lack of spacial awareness helps to explain to people why I’m often stepping on their toes, or bumping into them or inanimate objects.
See, most people understand that when you’re close to coming into contact with people, you need to move away and shift your body. It’s not that people with dyspraxia don’t understand, it’s just that we struggle with spacial awareness big time.
If you have dyspraxia, you may find yourself crashing into people on the street. For instance:
- You misjudge how far away another person is from you, so you narrowly miss walking into them or walk into them
- When you eat, you misjudge the distance from the plate to the edge of the table, or the distance from the plate to your mouth. I know whenever I’m done eating, I’m either coated in food particles, or the table is a work of art.
So, What’s Your Point?
Simply put, there is no cure for dyspraxia. It is a life long disorder. Pretty much the cure is to try to be as organized as possible. Many people with dyspraxia often go to speech therapy and occupational therapy which I went through as a child. Or they’re put in classes to help them learn organizational skills.
As an adult, I organize my days with a daily planner. I write every little detail on it, where I have to be at what time, when my rent is due, etc. Doing so helps me to set realistic goals and not get lost and forget where I need to go or what I need to get done.
Dyspraxia is really under-diagnosed by physicians, teachers, and parents. Especially in the United States. It’s also really hard to diagnose because it is basically a cluster fuck(excuse my language) of dealing with different difficulties and often when being diagnosed, physicians label it as something else.
My goal through this blog post is to spread awareness of dyspraxia and help others in similar situations as mine. Many people who actually have dyspraxia are often misdiagnosed with other disabilities.
Do you have dyspraxia? I would love to hear your story!