Dyspraxia Foundation Youth Group member Krystal-Bella Shaw discusses dyspraxia during teenage years.
Dyspraxia Foundation Youth Group member Robert Hodge discusses dyspraxia and PE (Physical Education) in his vlog.
Dyspraxia Foundation Youth Group Member Claire Bradfield talks about social situations.
“Social situations scare me. They always have and they always will to a certain extent. For me it is about developing coping strategies. There are plenty of them and it is about finding the right one for you depending on the situation. I don’t have many friends and people question why but I would rather have a couple of good and loyal friends than have lots who are going to talk behind my back.
Sometimes I can be fine in a situation one time and another time I will completely freak out. I had an audition for a solo in a choir recently and previously I have been able to stand up in front of people with no issues but this time I looked at the others and completely forgot what I was meant to be doing let alone what I was meant to be singing.
Also I have had two interviews recently. One went really well and I managed eye contact and it felt really good but someone else had more experience so I just missed out. Had the other interview with the same company but for a different job. For some reason I completely stumbled over words and fell over the chair which was very embarrassing. I was trying to look at the end of the interviewers’ noses (there were 3 people interviewing me) which makes it look as if you are giving them eye contact but I couldn’t even do that. Some days I have bad days and other times it’s good. I never know how I will react until I’m in the position so now I just give things a go and make sure I’m near a door to make a quick exit if things get too much for me.”
Dyspraxia Foundation Youth Group Member Natalie Williams on dyspraxia.
“At the age of around 12/13, I was once asked whether dyspraxia affects organisation. At the time I said that it can but it didn’t for me, 5 years later and I now realise that that’s because I didn’t have anything to be organised about! Organisation is something that I really struggle with, so I rely a lot on technology to remind me to do things, along with reminders from family members.
Dyspraxia means I’m always bumping into things, spilling things, and tripping over thin air. It’s rare that I ever manage to eat my dinner without spilling anything. I’ve even managed to spill a cup of tea whilst attempting to put the lid on which is meant to stop me from spilling it!
One of the aspects of dyspraxia I’ve always felt there is little understanding of is the social aspect. Social situations aren’t always easy for me, especially when there’s large groups of people. Because my thought processing is slower, often by the time I’ve thought of what to say in reply to something everyone has moved on to the next topic! And that’s when there’s one conversation, let alone multiple group conversations! And then there’s the difficulty with eye contact, the literal thinking… but on the other hand if I’m having a conversation with just one other person it can be hard to get me to stop talking!
Background noise can be so frustrating. I cannot concentrate at all when there’s any background noise, to get on with work it has to be completely silent. Social situations are also made worse by background noise, trying to block out the background noise and focus on the conversation is very difficult for me.”
It takes my brain 10x the amount of effort than it does for other people to perform everyday tasks, which means that I get tired much more quickly than other people.”
Dyspraxia Foundation Youth Group Member Jonathan Andrews on Dyspraxia and Anxiety
I’ve written previously about my “autistic anxiety” – anxiety which occurs as a result of autistic traits – and the impact on me growing up. But dyspraxia is another neurological difference which can make people more likely to develop a mental health condition – and the anxiety I felt was influenced just as much by my experiences as a dyspraxic person.
Many of these areas overlapped with autism – such a different sensory perceptions meaning I would often interpret situations in a different way to most, leading them to question (and at times, when they mistook my intention for rudeness or disruption, criticise) my response. This naturally took me by surprise, and my inability to understand why this misunderstanding had happened, coupled with fear of being misconstrued and judged negatively, triggered social anxiety which could make me very reluctant to speak up, outside of groups I felt comfortable with – like my family or very close friends. And logically, if people were routinely misunderstanding my intentions, and I had no way of gauging what they were reading into them, why wouldn’t I feel anxious?
But others stemmed more from the physical effects of dyspraxia – such as poor handwriting, great difficulty tying laces, and sporting/athletic ability. To this day I still have trouble with clear handwriting unless I consciously force myself to, my laces regularly come undone minutes after I (badly) tie them, and my athletic ability is next to non-existent – but given I type almost all my work, wear shoes without laces and don’t have a sporting career, these don’t really affect me.
They used to, however – especially during my time at school, where great emphasis was placed on the ability to compete in sports, and exams naturally required good – and fast – handwriting. In such a scenario, it was again perfectly rational to feel anxious, because of the response others had to your dyspraxia. Poor handwriting could be dismissed as laziness; answers with good handwriting which were left unfinished (because I’d taken the time making sure I could be understood) could be viewed as “lack of motivation”, “poor time management” or “daydreaming”. Laces coming apart were ascribed to clumsiness, as were any issues I’d have with cutlery; and my hopelessness at PE, also viewed as a lack of enthusiasm, paradoxically created an actual lack of enthusiasm in myself as I realised I’d never achieve anything at all in the area of sports, and turned my energies completely towards intellectual pursuits. This was the right decision long-term, but I still had to sit through it at school, so the anxiety in this unfamiliar and hostile environment never really stopped until the lessons stopped.
But the level of anxiety I experience now as a result of dyspraxia is now much lower, if not non-existent, because as a future trainee solicitor, I’m in a situation where the positives of dyspraxia – a different way of viewing things and emotional intelligence – are prized, while the negatives don’t really matter in the same way. True, sometimes I’m misinterpreted in conversation, and feel the resulting pang of anxiety – but I know now to explain what I meant as soon as I’m aware of this, to minimise the risk of people leaving with a negative impression. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen – but it’s not as huge an issue as it was, when I was too afraid to speak even to correct people when they’d misconstrued me.
So if you’re experiencing “dyspraxic anxiety”, don’t despair – things can and will get better, as you begin to understand yourself more, and recognise the kind of environments you do best in and the path you want to take in life. Anxiety shouldn’t be a shameful secret; neither should it hold you back.
If any of these have affected you, or you want to discuss other issues then please join our closed Youth Facebook group, or contact the Dyspraxia Foundation for further information.