A Disability That Does Not Count
Dyspraxia is hard to diagnose, more common than people realize, and affects every aspect of my life
A couple of years ago, I was sitting outside a bar in Victoria, London, with a pretty Australian girl from Victoria, Australia.
Conversation was flowing when I noticed that my hands had turned blue, the dye from my new jeans having run on to them. I showed her what had happened, and, through fitfully antipodean laughter, she said: “Ronan, you are the most awkward man I have ever met.”
She was correct.
My attempt to buy ethically sourced (and runny-dye) jeans had backfired, sure, but the overall awkwardness was not atypical for me.
I am dyspraxic. I’m clumsy, I stumble over words as much as curbsides, bump into table edges as often as I do familiar faces at my local pub. Like many dyspraxics, I have trouble with handwriting, coordination, and sequencing, all typical symptoms of a condition which, in the U.K. at least (and I’d bet in the United States, too) is largely considered a joke.
Most people are clueless what it means when I say I’m dyspraxic, comparing my handwriting to “a doctor’s,” my inability to remember recently seen information to bone idleness, my mistakes to a lack of professionalism. Generally, they’re wrong — though my handwriting is that bad.
For most people, the left-hand side of the brain controls what the right-hand side of the body does. For dyspraxics, that criss-cross functions more like a tangled jump rope. Dyspraxia manifests itself in numerous ways: from near-illegible handwriting to severe difficulties with physical movement. Like any learning difficulty, it varies in severity.
I recently stumbled across one of my school reports from Year Two (Britain’s equivalent of the first grade). My teacher noted that I was intelligent, but often distracted and inattentive, with a propensity to answer questions completely different from the one I’d been asked. Am I any different now?
Around 5-6% of school-age children are thought to have dyspraxia, possibly as many as 10%. Because it’s a disorder with a range of symptoms, it can be difficult to estimate…