Something I’ve noticed over the years is that my dyspraxia affects me differently. It’s not the dyspraxia itself that changes – dyspraxia isn’t a condition that gets progressively worse or better – it’s the environment and the challenges that come with that environment.
For example, the school environment had a lot of structure to it. There would be a timetable which I could go through to plan exactly what books I would need to take in that day. At that age there wasn’t very much outside of school that I needed to be organised about. This meant that I came across as being quite organised – this was something teachers would even point out in parents’ evenings etc. I would always remember the books I needed to take in that day. I think there were only one or two occasions where I forgot my planner or pencil case! Yet now organisation is something I really struggle with!
There’s so many more things to think about now that don’t have a structure to them, whether it’s making a phone call or replying to an email. I know I should make use of reminders on my phone more, but often I find I forget to set a reminder in the first place!
Whilst I was in primary school I would notice that I was the last one to finish the race on sports day, but I wouldn’t notice how I struggled socially. As you get older you tend to become more self-aware of how your dyspraxia affects you, I think that’s the same for any disability. It can seem as though you’re struggling with more – sometimes I think “I don’t remember finding this difficult when I was younger”, but in fact it’s that when I was younger I didn’t realise I did certain things differently to my peers. I didn’t really understand how dyspraxia affects me in social situations until I was in secondary school.
Perhaps this self-awareness could be part of the reason why many people aren’t diagnosed with dyspraxia until they are much older (although I still think one of the main reasons is due to lack of awareness). Another reason could be education. It’s been mentioned to me that lots of people don’t realise how their dyspraxia affects them until further up in education when it gets more challenging and they realise how it affects their working memory, thought processing etc. This could make sense as to why many people are diagnosed as being dyspraxic whilst studying at university. Personally, although I was diagnosed as dyspraxic at an early age I didn’t really fully understand how it affected me academically until I was doing my GCSE’s.
One example I remember was in school in year nine when I started using a laptop in lessons. Someone asked me why I used a laptop and I explained why and they were confused as I didn’t use one in year seven or eight. It wasn’t that my dyspraxia had suddenly got worse, it was because in the lower years we did less writing. So, yes, I still struggled with my hand-writing before, but as the volume of writing required got bigger it was something I struggled with even more, finding it harder to keep up.
Whilst the academic subjects get harder as the years go on, physical subjects like P.E. stop when you get to the end of year 11 (unless you take it as a further option). This means that you’re not compared to your peers so much in terms of your physical ability, so you’re not reminded of the fact that you find it difficult to catch a ball, for example. For this reason you may not notice the gross motor affects of dyspraxia so much anymore.
Dyspraxia is not something you ever grow out of – dyspraxic children grow up to become dyspraxic adults, but over time there may be certain coping strategies you develop to help with certain things. This might mean you don’t notice certain difficulties as much. An example is shoe laces. I used to struggle with my laces, but now I use laces with a magnetic closure. So although I know that I do find shoe laces difficult, I don’t necessarily experience that difficulty now.
However, as you get older there are different challenges that arise as you start to become more independent – things like making phone calls. Something else that I’ve noticed as I’ve got older is how a lot of things that are involved with being independent seem to come so much more easily to others. I’ll often find myself asking others how to do things that other people seem to know how to do straight away.
In addition to the long-term differences, there are also differences from day to day. Although earlier I said that dyspraxia itself never changes, there are some days that can be ‘typical dyspraxic days’ where everything seems to happen 10x more than normal – constantly tripping over, dropping things, getting words muddled up. This can be made worse by being tired or stressed.
Dyspraxia is never something that can be grown out of, it will always be there, but it comes with different challenges over time.
Oh and for those of you who might find it amusing, seeing as we’re talking about dyspraxia over time, here’s a video my dad made for my 18th birthday last year. Spot the dyspraxic moments!😉
The Dyspraxia Foundation need your help!
With funding being cut they are in urgent need of your donations to help continue the vital work they do. Today they have launched an appeal, “Call to Action” with a message from Jamie Lambert (from Collabro):
Please donate and share to help spread the word!
This last weekend was a very dyspraxic weekend! And no, I didn’t keep tripping over things or getting my words muddled up…that wasn’t quite what I meant! On Saturday I went to the Dyspraxia Foundation’s AGM/Conference in London and on Sunday I took part in the British Vitality 10k, again in London, to raise money for the Dyspraxia Foundation.
I had never really considered doing a 10k before, being dyspraxic means running a long distance isn’t really my sort of thing! However, a few months ago me and my Dad heard about an event in London in September called ‘Parallel London’. It’s a fully inclusive event, you can choose a variety of distances and you can either walk, run or push (for wheelchair users). Me and my Dad thought it sounded great and considering it would be around the Olympic Park too it would be a brilliant experience. So we decided we would walk 10k and do lots of walks over the summer in preparation. A few weeks later I then heard that Rosie was looking at entering the British Vitality 10k if anyone was willing to walk it with her. I looked on the website and saw that you get to go past some great sights in London and it would be a perfect opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the Dyspraxia Foundation, so I said I would do it with Rosie. I will also still be taking part in the Parallel London event, which I’m really looking forward to!
I then wasn’t sure what to do about the day before, when the Dyspraxia Foundation had their AGM/Conference. As it was being held in London, I really wanted to go to it (especially as I had never been able to make it to any of their events before) but I had the dilemma of making myself too tired for the 10k walk the next day. This year I became a member of the Dyspraxia Foundation’s Youth Focus Group, where young people with dyspraxia discuss ideas and plans for people aged 13-25 with dyspraxia. There would be a room booked at the event on Saturday for the Youth Focus Group along with other young dyspraxics who wanted to come along and discuss ideas. So I decided that I would stay for the morning on the Saturday so that I would be back during the afternoon, meaning that hopefully I wouldn’t be too tired for the next day.
My plan was to get the train tickets on the Friday before I went, so that it would be less to think about on Saturday morning. But guess what? Me being a typical dyspraxic meant I completely forgot! This was also my first time travelling to London on my own which when I first thought about seemed quite daunting. Me navigating the tube on my own…would I get lost? Would I have a clue what I was doing?! Me and my Dad went over the route on Google Maps beforehand and I knew what train line I needed to get etc. and luckily the route seemed quite straightforward with no changes. I definitely felt a bit more confident about it after having gone over the information I needed to know.
The weekend came around quite quickly actually! Saturday morning was an early start, although not ridiculously early, at 7:00. When I got to the train station I had to message my Dad to double check I was buying the right ticket. I thought it was but as the name of it was slightly different to what I thought, I wasn’t 100% sure.
It felt strange travelling into London on my own, but it actually turned out to be a lot easier than I had thought. The various times I had been into London before with my Dad and brother it had all seemed so complicated. I think because I knew exactly what line I had to get beforehand that made it simpler too. So I managed to get there without getting lost! All I had to do now was walk out the exit to meet Rosie, her Mum, Matt and Alice and we would walk down to the AGM/Conference. Except I couldn’t see them! I walked around, back out to the other side of the tube station but had no idea where they were. Eventually after messaging Matt we realised that they had been quite near the whole time, it was just that I hadn’t realised you had to go up the set of escalators outside! It wasn’t until I got home later and was talking to my Dad that we realised there were two exits out of the tube station, and the one I had come out of was actually the opposite side to the one I needed (which was why after going up the escalators we then had to walk around the corner and down some steps into a different bit!) It was a good job I did meet everyone there, otherwise I would have walked out of that exit, turned right down that road and wondered where on earth I was!
We still got there in good time though, we were there for about 10 minutes before the AGM started. It was typical that I couldn’t stop coughing during the AGM when it was quiet, and afterwards when it was a bit louder I was fine! We then went into a separate area booked for Dyspraxia Foundation Youth, where there were about 10 of us altogether. We were mainly discussing plans for creating an awareness video and arranging a meet up for young people with dyspraxia in October. When the glasses were brought in someone made the comment “I wonder which one of us will break them first!” Haha! I’ve only been to two meetings with the Youth Focus Group so far, one of them I couldn’t make due to travel, but it’s been great being part of it and being able to discuss ideas. It’s quite funny thinking back to when I was around 8 years old and my Dad was telling me about a really good website about dyspraxia he had just found (The Dyspraxia Foundation website), I wouldn’t have thought that 11 years later I’d be helping to think of ideas for it (well, the youth section of it)! If you haven’t already, take a look at the youth website and if you’re someone aged 13-25 with dyspraxia feel free to join the Facebook group. Also what’s great is being with people who “get it”. Although I was only there for the morning, so unfortunately didn’t get to chat people that much, it was lovely being surrounded by other dyspraxics and knowing you’re not the only one. I will definitely have to come to one of the Dyspraxia Foundation conferences for a full day at some point!
The timing worked out quite well actually, as the youth part of the day only went on for the morning so after lunch I made my way back home. I managed to navigate my way home successfully, I didn’t go out of the wrong exit this time or miss any escalators either! The only annoying thing was that when I got to King’s Cross station I must have just missed the train home because the next train wasn’t until another 45 minutes! I was then meant to buy my train tickets for the next day on the way out of the station before I walked home but I forgot, again! So after getting home and having a cup of tea, I went back out again to the train station again to get the tickets.
I was surprised how tired I was that evening. I didn’t expect to be so tired considering I only stayed for the morning, but I probably would have been even more tired if I had stayed for the whole day. Although according to my fitbit I had done a total of 14,328 steps that day – so that could have something to do with me being tired!
Seeing as I was so tired I got to bed quite early at 9:45 and read for about 15 minutes, imagining I would get to sleep quite quickly. For some reason, though, I still took over half an hour to get to sleep!
The next morning was an even earlier start at 6:15, as we had to catch the 7:56 train. The weather wasn’t looking too good while me and my Dad were walking to the train station, as it felt really humid. I met Rosie and Matt at St James’ Park and we walked over to the timing pens. It was amazing how many people were there taking part. I knew there would be a lot but I didn’t expect it to be that many! There were so many different charities too. Apparently as someone walked past me they pointed my t-shirt which said “Dyspraxia Foundation” on the back and said “Awesome!” We then saw someone else who was running for the Dyspraxia Foundation, so we chatted to her for a bit before going into the timing pens. My Dad brought his 360 degree camera with him. Holding it up high in the air with a selfie stick resulted in lots of people looking up and waving at it – brilliant! I wish I could upload the 360 photos/videos on here but unfortunately I can’t as WordPress doesn’t support that format yet.
We then heard the blue runners start (we had either blue or red numbers depending on speed) and after a while we started to make our way over to the start line. The crowd seemed to all merge into one at that point, so there didn’t seem to be much point in the timing pens! We were towards the back of the crowd which was good. Although I’ve never put it down to dyspraxia (not sure whether it actually could be due to the sensory aspects?) I feel really faint and dizzy when I’m in a hot and crowded place, and have to find somewhere to sit down (even if it is on the floor!) Luckily it wasn’t humid at all. It did rain during the 10k but that was actually quite nice and refreshing! As we were walking towards the start line someone came up to me and Rosie and asked what dyspraxia was, so at least we helped to make one more person aware!
We then heard one of the commentators reading out the names of the charities on people’s t-shirts, so me and Rosie decided we would wave and get their attention to get them to read out The Dyspraxia Foundation, and they did!
Eventually we got to the start line – I had done about 7,000 steps before I even got there! It wasn’t advertised as being a fully inclusive event unfortunately, but we did see someone in front of us walking with a prosthetic blade who unfortunately fell over at the start, but she got up and completed the race. Someone else in front of us was walking the 10k for the National Autistic Society, and you could tell it was very overwhelming sensory-wise for them as they were putting their fingers in their ears. I thought it was amazing that they did it though considering how much sensory information there was.
Most of the crowd were very supportive, but we did have someone (who I think was working there) say to us “Stop talking and start running!” I know he said it in a half-jokey way, but I bet he wouldn’t have said it if we had a disability that wasn’t hidden! We were talking a lot to keep each other going! It worked because when we got to the 2k mark we were both surprised as we hadn’t even realised we had passed the 1k mark yet!
The crowds weren’t too busy (they were probably a lot busier towards the start of the race) but there were always people clapping and cheering us along. It was nice (but strange) to be walking in the middle of the roads in London too and it was brilliant getting to see the sights as we went along.
At one point we were offered a lift (in a car there for the event) the rest of the way! Maybe they thought we were running and struggled so were walking or something! But we carried on walking till the end!
There were times when people cut in front of us, at one point someone cut across directly in front of us with suitcases. Not ideal for dyspraxics who struggle with spatial awareness!
Some of the team from the Dyspraxia Foundation came to support all of those who were taking part to fundraise for them (there were 11 of us altogether). As Rosie said to me, it was nice knowing they were there towards the end of the route motivating us to finish! Before we came up to Big Ben (where the supporters were) Rosie’s mum came up to us and suggested sprinting past the Dyspraxia Foundation. We didn’t quite sprint but we did do a bit of a jog!
My Dad took photos of me and Rosie throughout the route, he walked parts of the route and waited for us at certain points. It was quite funny because I wasn’t keeping track of where he was, he just kept appearing at random points! It’s great to have so many photos from the event – thanks Dad! But then again, when would my Dad ever go to an event and not take photos?😉
After going past the Dyspraxia Foundation supporters we didn’t have long to go. We were slightly confused when we came up to the 9k mark though about five minutes later, as we thought the supporters were at the 9k point!
We couldn’t quite see the finish until we were right near it. The last part seemed to go on for ages, we didn’t know when we were going to get there! The comment from the commentator made us laugh though, she said something like “Look at these girls having a proper gossip on the way round, they probably stopped off for a cup of tea” – the best part is it’s even on video!
Once we’d crossed the finish line we were given a medal, a goodie bag and a t-shirt – and a much needed lucozade! We then walked over to the pub, where the Dyspraxia Foundation had a room booked upstairs. After walking 10k the 10 minute walk to the pub felt like the longest walk ever!
We got to the pub, had some sandwiches and had a photo taken of all of those who took part for the Dyspraxia Foundation, after which the certificates were handed out. Whilst I was there I had a look online to see what my time was for the 10k, and it said “DNF”! I was quite worried about that, as I knew for a fact that I did finish! It must have just been like that before the time was processed though, as it soon updated and I finished in a time of 1 hour 56 minutes (and one second)!
This time, unlike the day before, was perfect timing with getting the train home as we got to King’s Cross 5 minutes before the train departed! I didn’t have any tickets to remember to buy this time either. I sorted my stuff out as soon as I got home as I knew that as soon as I sat down I wouldn’t want to do anything!
After that I sat down, had a much-needed cup of tea and looked through photos! My legs were hurting/aching so much (I did a total of 27,124 steps yesterday) but it was a great day which I really enjoyed!
Me and Rosie even had a tweet from Mollie King from The Saturdays to congratulate us!
Thank you to: Rosie (we kept each other going with our chats throughout the 10k!); the Dyspraxia Foundation and everyone else who came down and supported us; and my Dad who walked 75% of the route himself to get photos of us! And of course, a huge thank you to everyone who generously donated! Although if you would like to, there is still time to make a donation.
Alice and Janet, who also had “a very dyspraxic weekend”, have also written some really interesting blogs about their weekend, which can be found at the following links: https://alittlemoreunderstanding.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/general-life-reflections/ and http://dyspraxicadult.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/dyspraxia-foundation-adult-advisor-im.html. Since writing this blog, Rosie has also blogged about the weekend, which can be found at the following link: http://thinkoutsideofthecardboardbox.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/looking-deeper-to-understand-dyspraxia.html.
Here’s my personalised video from Sunday (featuring the amusing comment at the end!):
A question that I’ve seen a lot recently on social media, such as facebook groups for dyspraxia, is: “Is dyspraxia on the autism spectrum?” This seems to cause a lot of confusion, while some people say “No, it isn’t” others say “Yes, it is”. So I thought I would blog about it for those of you who may have been asking this question.
So, what is the answer to this question? No, dyspraxia technically isn’t on the autism spectrum. I know I’ve talked about how much overlap there is in my previous blogs, but the reason it isn’t actually ‘on’ the autism spectrum is due to the diagnostic criteria.
An autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed primarily on the basis that you have difficulties with social communication & interaction and you engage in restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities (I know this sounds very medical, but this is going off the diagnostic criteria!). Whilst I mentioned in my previous blog on autism that lots of autistic people also have difficulties with spatial awareness and motor skills etc., these are not the primary criteria used for diagnosing autism.
Dyspraxia, on the other hand, is diagnosed primarily on the basis that you have difficulties with motor skills. Again, as I have mentioned before, many dyspraxics also experience difficulties in social situations, change of routine etc., but these are not the primary criteria used for diagnosing dyspraxia.
Whilst there is so much more to autism, and also dyspraxia, than the primary diagnostic criteria it can help to understand why dyspraxia isn’t officially on the autism spectrum. I use the word “officially” because I don’t think it’s right to deny the fact that there is definitely a link between autism and dyspraxia, given how much overlap there is. I’ve gone into more detail about this in a previous blog post (https://theblogwithonepost.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/dyspraxia-autism-the-overlap/) but a few examples are that dyspraxics can struggle in social situations, find changes in routine difficult, have difficulty with eye contact and be very literal thinkers, which are all things that are most commonly associated with autism.
I’ve been told before that dyspraxia is classed as a Specific Learning Difficulty, whereas autism comes under Autism Spectrum Disorder. Whilst that’s true and dyspraxia and autism are two different diagnoses, I don’t personally view them as being completely separate from each other – I tend to view dyspraxia as being close to the autism spectrum.
I’ve also seen online that some people believe that what may further add to the confusion is that dyspraxia itself is a disability on a ‘spectrum’ – literally just meaning that it’s severity ranges. Some people may get this confused as meaning the autism spectrum, especially as when talking about autism people sometimes shorten the sentence to say that someone is “on the spectrum” (meaning that they are autistic).
In addition to the overlap, some people are also diagnosed with both dyspraxia and autism! According to the National Autistic Society’s website, people with autism quite often have difficulties with motor co-ordination and they may be formally diagnosed with dyspraxia (in addition to their autism) if this significantly affects them. On the other hand, people who have an initial diagnosis of dyspraxia may also be additionally diagnosed with autism. Although I don’t know a lot about this, I imagine that most people with dyspraxia who do have overlaps with autism don’t experience these “symptoms” to the same extent that people with autism do (myself included), whereas when they do experience these overlaps to a more significant extent (so that they meet the autism diagnostic criteria) they are given an additional diagnosis of autism.
I seem to remember seeing that there has been quite a bit of research into the percentage of autistic people who also have symptoms of dyspraxia, yet there hasn’t been any research (as far as I know) into the percentage of dyspraxic people with symptoms of autism. It would be interesting if there was research carried out which looked into this, as well as the percentage of dyspraxic people who have an additional diagnosis of autism.
It is not just autism and dyspraxia that overlap though, there is a lot of overlap between many different types of neurodiversity. For example, dyspraxia also shares quite a bit in common with dyslexia (such as difficulty with short-term memory) and ADHD (such as difficulty with concentration). Many people have a range of different diagnoses and some people believe that there should be a single spectrum for neurodiversity in general and that we should take a more individual approach, rather than separate diagnoses. The following link provides quite an interesting view on this, particularly towards the end: http://suehyland.co.uk/ond/neuro-developmental-delay-ndd/?doing_wp_cron=1442032150.5499830245971679687500. I’ve heard that it is actually more common for someone to have dyspraxia along with co-morbid diagnoses than just a single diagnosis of dyspraxia!
However, with dyspraxia being a very individual thing it is important not to make assumptions. There may be dyspraxics reading this who don’t experience any similarities to autism at all. It’s a case of getting to know the person as an individual and finding out how their dyspraxia affects them. So for that reason, yes it is important that dyspraxia isn’t just seen as “something that’s sort of similar to autism”. It does need to be recognised as just “dyspraxia”, but at the same time it needs to be remembered that quite often there is a link. …the world of neurodiversity can be a very complicated place at times!
I thought that whilst on the topic of dyspraxia and autism I would share some tweets I saw recently. The National Autistic Society recently held an event which they live-tweeted from and one of the topics they were talking about was autism in girls. Some of their tweets I found, interestingly, I could relate to a lot as someone with dyspraxia, for me it was the first three in particular. Many dyspraxics will probably be able to relate to the anxiety related ones too, as that’s another link, between dyspraxia and anxiety.
Other dyspraxic bloggers who have written great blog posts on the similarities between dyspraxia and autism include Rosie and Anna, whose blogs can be found at the following links: http://thinkoutsideofthecardboardbox.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-social-side-of-dyspraxia.html and https://freeingthedragon.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/autism-from-the-dyspraxic-side/.
Although dyspraxia is a hidden difference, there are certain aspects of it that can be seen. For example, you may notice that a dyspraxic holds their cutlery differently, or grips their pen in a different way. Tiredness, however, you can’t see. It’s a hidden aspect of a hidden difference.
Being dyspraxic means our brains are wired in a different way and it takes us 10x the amount of effort to do things than it does for other people. We have to think more about the way we carry out certain tasks, including the things which come naturally to others. It takes us so much longer than others to do things too. Whether it’s processing a conversation, trying to navigate our way through a crowd without bumping into anyone, or trying to concentrate on a lecture or lesson, our brain always has to work so much harder. This means that we may get tired much more easily than other people would, without necessarily having had what people would consider to be a ‘busy day’ (it’s busy for our brains though!) A lot of dyspraxics also have hypermobility. I don’t know a lot about it, but I can imagine that this would further contribute to tiredness due to the effect that it has on your joints.
When I was younger I used to get tired very quickly when walking. I used a buggy up until the age of six/seven if we were going somewhere where there was a lot of walking involved. During my first year of secondary school I started taking part in disability athletics. Although no amount of sport can magically make dyspraxia disappear, doing athletics did help in terms of getting used to doing more exercise. So added to the fact that you get used to doing more walking as you get older anyway, this meant that I didn’t get as tired as I used to when walking.
Something I’ve always struggled with due to tiredness is carrying things. At school I’d have quite a lot to carry: my laptop in my rucksack, my books, my P.E. kit. Sixth form was the worst for that though, with all of those folders full of paper. For this reason my dad would give me a lift to and from school. My school also put arrangements in place too. I didn’t have a locker so I had permission to leave my P.E. kit in the Pastoral Office during the day when I didn’t need it. In sixth form luckily I had a locker though – I needed it with all those folders! The teachers provided me with an extra copy of the textbooks so I could leave one set in my locker and one set at home to save carrying them around so much. At uni I have a taxi provided through DSA between home and the train station and the train station and uni. It’s not so much due to the tiredness itself, it’s more to do with the impact of it. Tiredness makes it extremely difficult for me to concentrate, which would mean if I was to walk I’d be making concentrating in lectures even more difficult than it already is (due to my dyspraxia affecting concentration).
If I had nothing to take with me to uni though, I’d probably be fine. I seem to find that when I’m carrying things it makes me so much more tired than I would be if I was walking the same distance without having anything to carry. It’s weird because I wouldn’t have thought it would make that much of a difference, but that’s dyspraxia for you! Or is that more a CP thing? I can never tell…
Something I’ve noticed more as I’ve got older is not only the physical side of tiredness but also mental tiredness, particularly during sixth form. The increased workload meant that I was getting extremely tired and this impacted on my concentration too. I remember at one point hearing someone at school say “I’m so tired!” and then they turned around and carried on typing their essay. Yes, they probably were tired. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who got tired from sixth form, even if to a bigger extent than others. But I was sat there thinking: “How on earth are they able to concentrate when they’re tired? I wish I could do that!” It’s not something I would just say to procrastinate either, I genuinely cannot concentrate at all when I’m tired. I remember coming home from school attempting to complete the pile of homework or revision and there were often days where I just had to leave it as I couldn’t concentrate. The frustrating thing was that I couldn’t just reduce the amount of revision I did, because due to my dyspraxia it would take me so much longer to do it. But then due to that increased amount of time spent doing it, I’d become tired – you can’t win! I then started to get really early nights because I was just shattered. For a couple of months I was going to bed between 8:30 and 9:00!
I also had a similar thing again more recently during uni. Suddenly over the Easter holidays I was getting extremely tired. The most frustrating thing was that I had assignments and so much revision to do too. I had planned on getting so much revision done during the Easter Holidays, and during the first week I got barely anything done at all. I tried all sorts of things: taking more breaks, listening to music, but nothing seemed to work. I then realised that maybe I’d have to start getting to bed early again. So I was getting to bed around 9:00 and then reading for a bit, which meant that I got 10 hours sleep. That seemed to work, as if I got any less sleep than that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate the next day. It was really annoying to have to keep getting to bed early, but it was the only way I was going to be able to get revision done. By this point I was very far behind on my revision timetable! Luckily when I was back at uni after Easter I was able to concentrate okay without getting to bed ridiculously early…well, most of the time! So I eventually managed to catch up with my revision timetable…somehow!
I think one of the things that can be frustrating about getting tired easily is that unlike other aspects of dyspraxia you can’t just do it differently. For example, if you spill drinks easily you can just use a lid and a straw. Although saying that, you can to some extent plan things around it. For example, for two out of three days I was in uni I would finish at 2:00. I knew that this meant technically I should go home and get on with revision. But I knew that by the time I’d got home I’d be tired and revision wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to stay at uni in the library for a couple of hours and do revision. I preferred it that way too because it meant that when I got home I could just relax.
Another example is a weekend in July. There’s the Dyspraxia Foundation AGM and conference on the Saturday and I’m taking part in a 10k walk on the Sunday. Yes, I’m blogging about how I get tired easily and then telling you I’m walking 10k… It will certainly be a challenge! But I’m looking forward to the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the Dyspraxia Foundation (if you would like to donate, here is the link to my Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Natalie-Williams24) Anyway, back to what I was explaining. So I’d already signed up to do the 10k on the Sunday but I really wanted to go to the conference on the Saturday, but at the same time I didn’t want to get too tired from the Saturday before I’d even done the 10k on the Sunday! I haven’t completely made my mind up yet but what I think I’m going to do is go on the Saturday for the morning so I’ll be back by early afternoon. That way I shouldn’t be as tired as I would be if I was to get back later on.
From speaking to others with dyspraxia, one effect that tiredness can have is making our dyspraxia seem ‘worse’. We can be more clumsy than usual (yes, that’s possible!), forget things more etc.
Another difficulty we can have being dyspraxic is getting to sleep. There was one time (I think this was also during the Easter holidays at one point) where I was really tired but then took ages to get to sleep. Not the best combination! I have absolutely no idea why it’s made such a big difference, but the only thing that worked is switching to decaf tea. Now the majority of nights I get to sleep quite quickly. I do always read in bed first though as I find that helps me sleep too.
Although I don’t personally take naps, I was told that lots of dyspraxic and dyslexic people find that naps are helpful. So if any of you are struggling with tiredness, that’s something you might find helpful.
Tiredness is experienced by lots of us with dyspraxia but I don’t think it’s the first thing people would think of to associate with dyspraxia. Interestingly, though, last year I saw something about a study that was being carried out to compare fatigue in people with dyspraxia and people with chronic fatigue syndrome. It would be interesting to find out what the results of that study were.
It’s always nice to get more than one perspective on a particular topic so here’s a couple of other posts on dyspraxia and tiredness: https://thinkoutsideofthecardboardbox.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/fatigue-overthinking-and-sleep.html and http://starsbythedoor.tumblr.com/post/60453187123/dyspraxic-problem-122-the-great-tiredness.
In just 40 days (10th July) I will be walking the Vitality British 10k in London to help raise funds and awareness for the Dyspraxia Foundation. My Just Giving page can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Natalie-Williams24.
As those of you who read my blog will know, I have dyspraxia and mild cerebral palsy. Whilst cerebral palsy is something that the majority of people have heard of before, dyspraxia isn’t – despite the fact that dyspraxia is more than twice as common! Dyspraxia is estimated to affect between 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 people.
I was diagnosed with dyspraxia at the age of three and in those 15 years I have come across a lot of misunderstandings about dyspraxia! 9 times out of 10 when I tell someone I have dyspraxia they look at me with a blank look on their face. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was something relatively simple to explain, but attempting to explain dyspraxia to someone who has never heard of it before isn’t easy!
That’s because it affects such a variety of aspects of day to day life: having difficulty getting the right grip on the pen when you’re writing; having trouble judging the distance of the cars when crossing the road (I’m the one who’s stood there for ages, having missed 10 opportunities to cross!); trying to drink without spilling it down yourself (I’ve resorted to using a straw, much easier – although I still find a way to spill it!); forgetting things (I was literally just about to write something else, but forgot – it’s safe to say short term memory isn’t a strength of mine!); literal thinking (for people who know me it’s not so bad, but it can make situations awkward sometimes especially with unfamiliar people); trying to keep up with a conversation amongst a group of people (this is made difficult by having difficulty with thought processing, often by the time I’ve thought of something to say they’ve all moved on to the next point!) That’s just a few of the ways dyspraxia affects me. Not everyone is the same though, some dyspraxics will be over-sensitive to certain noises, whereas I’m not. On the other hand, some people won’t have the same difficulties in social situations that I do. As you can see, it affects people in so many different ways. I’ve gone into more detail in my other blog posts if you would like to find out more.
I’m not saying all this to make you feel bad. Being dyspraxic also means there’s plenty to laugh about and one advantage is that our long term memory often makes up for the fact that our short term memory is awful! But having this view on dyspraxia doesn’t just happen on it’s own. It comes from the support of the Dyspraxia Foundation – getting to know others with dyspraxia on their Facebook group for people aged 13-25 with dyspraxia, looking through the factsheets they’ve created for tips to make things that little bit easier and knowing that their helpline is there to answer any dyspraxia related queries. It’s the same for so many others too. The Dyspraxia Foundation are the only charity in the UK who are dedicated to raising awareness of dyspraxia (and coincidentally they’re local to me too!) They do a huge amount in helping to raise awareness of dyspraxia – distributing leaflets and books about dyspraxia to local schools. They hold conferences for parents, teachers or adults with dyspraxia – full of information and the opportunity to get to know others with dyspraxia. They have a vital helpline service, supporting adults and parents of children with dyspraxia. They run local support groups, making sure no one with dyspraxia feels like they’re alone. Despite the fact that there still isn’t enough awareness, it really has come a long way so far with the help of the Dyspraxia Foundation and they’re constantly doing what they can to raise awareness even further through talks and through their social media accounts.
The Dyspraxia Foundation do not receive any government funding, and consist of a large number of volunteers with just a few members of paid staff. They cannot continue their work without vital funds, so that is why I am walking 10k in London to raise money for them. One way in which dyspraxia affects me is getting tired more easily. When I was younger I would use a buggy for longer distances, even up until the age of six/seven. So walking 10k will be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to raising money and much needed awareness for dyspraxia!
Please donate – it really would mean a lot if you could! As little or as much as you like, it all makes a difference!
I will be walking the 10k with Rosie, who is also dyspraxic, and her boyfriend Matt will be running the 10k. It would be great if you could take a look at their Just Giving page too.
You can either donate via my Just Giving page or there is also the option to donate by text if you would prefer. Just text “NWDF90” followed by the amount you wish to donate to “70070”.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Please donate if you can!
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” is a phrase I’ve heard so many times, yet a phrase that couldn’t be more accurate! There are traits that everyone with autism will have to some extent or another, such as difficulty in social communication. However, there is a reason autistic spectrum disorder is called autistic spectrum disorder….
Everyone with autism is different! Some people with autism will be non-verbal, others will be verbal. Some people with autism will hate being touched, others won’t mind it. Some people with autism will hate certain noises, others will love those noises. The list is endless. Autism really does affect people in a whole range of different ways.
If someone tells you that they, or someone else, is autistic, I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that you know someone else with autism. As long as you make it clear that you understand that everyone with autism is different. And don’t make assumptions about the person based on what you know about someone else with autism.
You may have heard lots of different terms about autism: ‘Asperger’s’, ‘High-Functioning Autism’, ‘Low-Functioning Autism’. What do they all mean? So autism can range from ‘mild’ to ‘severe’, with mild autism also referred to as ‘high-functioning autism’ and severe autism referred to as ‘low-functioning autism’.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of autism that is generally considered to be on the ‘high-functioning’ end of the autism spectrum. People with Asperger’s Syndrome often have fewer problems with language, in terms of speaking, than people with autism (not that people with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t have autism…because Asperger’s Syndrome is a type of autism).
Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome tend to be the most commonly known Autistic Spectrum Disorders, but they are not the only ones. PDD-NOS (Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) is an ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) where the person has some, but not all of the characteristics of autism.
PDA (pathological demand avoidance) has only recently been considered to be part of the autism spectrum, as they share many of the difficulties of people with autism but people with PDA tend to have a better social understanding and communication than other people with autism. The main difficulty people with PDA have is that they have a high level of anxiety when demands are placed on them. The National Autistic Society website has some useful information about PDA: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/pda.aspx
You may have noticed that I have used quotation marks when referring to ‘High-Functioning Autism’ and ‘Low-Functioning Autism’. There is a lot of debate surrounding these labels. Firstly, where is the ‘cut-off point’? How can you say that one person on the spectrum is ‘High-Functioning’ and the next person along the spectrum is ‘Low-Functioning’? And what about the people who are ‘High-Functioning’ is some situations but ‘Low-Functioning’ in other situations? A brilliant discussion about this and other labels can be found on Chris Bonello’s website ‘Autistic Not Weird’: http://autisticnotweird.com/labels/. In addition to the debates about who is categorised as ‘Low’ or ‘High’ Functioning, there is also the issue that calling someone ‘Low-Functioning’ isn’t the nicest of things to say is it?
Now, we come onto the discussion of ‘mild’, ‘moderate’ and ‘severe’ autism. Some people disagree with these labels to the same extent as they disagree with the labels ‘high’ and ‘low’ functioning. I personally think that saying someone has ‘mild’ ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ autism is necessary though – and it’s true, some people do have more severe autism than others do. For example, one person might have autism but their difficulties don’t stop them from living independently, while another person with autism may need lots of extra support and be unable to live independently.
We do need to know more about the person as an individual, as saying whether they have mild or severe autism doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about the person. I don’t believe they’re distinct categories either, as I mentioned before autism affects people in a whole range of different ways and everyone with autism is unique. But nonetheless, it gives us an idea as to how much the person’s autism affects them.
A common stereotype of autism is that people with autism are all savants, which means that they have an exceptional ability in a certain area. In reality, only 10% of people with autism have savant abilities. I think a large reason for this stereotype was due to the film ‘Rainman’ – again, remember that is just one person with autism! Something that lots of people with autism do have though, are ‘obsessions’. But even if someone with autism has an obsession with a particular topic, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a savant ability in that area.
Also, many people with autism may have additional learning disabilities, specific learning difficulties, or medical conditions, while other people may just have an autistic spectrum disorder.
One particular example of where someone has assumed that every autistic person is the same with my little brother, Ramsey, is when my mum was looking to get a dog. My mum was told by the animal shelter that someone else who had a child with autism had to return the dog because their child kept hitting the dog, and that it wouldn’t be a good idea for my mum to get a dog because of that. That’s one person with autism! That doesn’t mean just because Ramsey has autism too that he would do the same. And also, any child may hit a dog anyway whether they’ve got autism or not! Such an ignorant comment to make!
So please remember, autism is called a ‘spectrum’ disorder for a reason – don’t just assume that everyone on the spectrum is the same!
This week (2nd-8th April) is World Autism Awareness Week! My little brother, Ramsey, was diagnosed with autism just over a year ago. If you would like to read the blog post I wrote for last year’s autism awareness week, here is the link: https://theblogwithonepost.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/world-autism-awareness-week/
I used to hear people emphasise how much more important autism acceptance is than awareness, and if I’m being honest, this used to confuse me. I would think “But surely if people are aware of autism then they will be understanding?” It’s not until you have a family member with autism, or are autistic yourself, that you really gain an insight into the difference. Whilst I still believe awareness is very important, so is acceptance.
According to a survey carried out by the National Autistic Society, 99.5% of people have heard of autism before. Yet that doesn’t mean that those people understand or are accepting of people with autism.
I can think of so many times when I’ve been out with my mum and Ramsey and people have acted ignorantly towards Ramsey. These are just a few of them… At Ramsey’s playgroup Christmas party, a comment came from a parent about how ‘naughty’ Ramsey was being (he wasn’t sitting with the other children and he was running around and jumping up and down with excitement). It wasn’t Ramsey’s fault that he didn’t understand, he’d done really well that day actually as it was a complete change of routine for him. On holiday last year, whilst we were on the train Ramsey was screaming due to sensory overload and people were staring and sighing as though they thought he was having a tantrum. Do they realise how distressing train stations are for him with being in a different setting, all the sensory information – the tannoys, the trains, the people? And even medical professionals can be ignorant! When mum was at the doctor’s Ramsey’s GP commented on how she thought Ramsey was getting ‘a bit big for his buggy now’ – unbelievable! Firstly, his buggy is a disability buggy designed to go up to an older age, so he’s not too big for it at all. Secondly, he uses it for his own safety. GPs of all people should know that!
And the problem is, the majority of these people will have heard of autism before. They just don’t use that knowledge to think “There might be a reason why they’re doing that, maybe that person has autism.” People then need to simply accept the fact that everyone is different, not everyone behaves in the same way. Autistic people need patience and understanding, not ignorant comments and stares.
A new drama on BBC called ‘The A Word’ (a brilliant series by the way, I definitely recommend watching it) is about a boy with autism, Joe, and his family, and so far it has covered a lot about acceptance. The mother in the programme finds it hard to accept the fact that her son is autistic, whilst something Joe’s sister says sums up acceptance perfectly: “He’s Joe, he’s always been Joe, why wouldn’t we want him to be Joe?”
Autism awareness is being aware of the fact that people with autism may stim, which may involve hand-flapping. Autism acceptance is accepting the fact that there’s nothing wrong with stimming, and not staring or making judgemental comments.
Autism awareness is being aware of the fact that some people with autism may experience sensory overload and dislike new situations. Autism acceptance is accepting this, but not excluding the person and still inviting them to yours/your child’s birthday party, and asking if there’s anything you could do that might make it easier.
Autism awareness is being aware of the fact that someone with autism might make a certain noise when they’re upset or excited. Autism acceptance is accepting the fact that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘weird’ in doing this, it’s just another way of expressing emotions.
Autism awareness is being aware of the fact that someone with autism may struggle with communication. Autism acceptance is accepting the fact that not everyone communicates in the same way, and trying wherever possible to use the person’s preferred method – whether it’s just a bit more time they need, less literal use of language, or visual aids such as objects or symbols to refer to.
Autism awareness is being aware of the fact that 1 in 100 people are on the autistic spectrum. Autism acceptance is accepting the fact that 1 in 100 people may think in a different way, and may struggle with some of the things you find easy. But most of all acceptance is: embracing these differences, not just assuming someone with autism is being ‘naughty’ or ‘lazy’, treating them with understanding and patience just like you would with any other person, not seeing autism as something that needs to be ‘cured’ but as a different way of seeing the world.
Whilst sharing things about autism to raise awareness and acceptance is great, please think about where that information is coming from. Autism Speaks, for example, are an autism charity in the USA, but they are not accepting of autism at all! They see autism as something that needs to be ‘cured’, they see autistic people as a burden, only a small percentage of the money goes towards directly helping people with autism and their families, those are just a few problems. This article talks about some of the problems with Autism Speaks: https://thecaffeinatedautistic.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/why-i-am-against-autism-speaks-and-you-should-be-too-2/. Some of the things they have done are absolutely awful, so please don’t ‘light it up blue for autism speaks’!
If you do one thing this week during autism awareness week, please watch this video by the National Autistic Society:
And use what you have found out from the video to be accepting of anyone who may look like they are having a difficult time in public. Consider the fact that they may not be naughty, they may have autism which means that they don’t need judgemental comments or stares, they need acceptance.
As I’ve mentioned before in my blog, I was diagnosed with dyspraxia at an early age. In fact, I found out the exact date the other day – 20th July 2000, which is when I was 3 years old. Growing up with dyspraxia, I always thought it was rare and I think my parents thought the same too. I didn’t know anyone else who had dyspraxia, and no-one else seemed to know what it was or had even heard of it before. At the start of secondary school, when I also started to take part in disability athletics I began to hear of other people who had dyspraxia too. I then realised that maybe it wasn’t as rare as I had originally thought…
More recently in the past couple of years, I began to find out more about dyspraxia online – through other people’s blogs, the Dyspraxia Foundation website etc. I was surprised when I found out just how common dyspraxia is! It’s difficult to give an exact number, for various reasons, but it is estimated that around 5-10% of the population have dyspraxia – so dyspraxia is actually a lot more common than many people might think!
That’s between 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 people. So to put this in perspective, how does this relate to other conditons? It is estimated (again, it is not possible to give an exact number) that in the UK: 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, 1 in 100 people have autism, and 1 in 400 people have cerebral palsy.
So that means that dyspraxia is: almost as common as dyslexia, 10 times more common than autism, and 40 times more common than cerebral palsy! What makes this surprising is that while most people will have heard of dyslexia, autism and cerebral palsy before, not many people will have heard of dyspraxia before.
Although this is not always the case, as it can be hidden, cerebral palsy is often a visible disability, so that may explain why more people have heard of it before. However, dyslexia and autism are hidden, so the same reason can’t be applied to them. It is difficult to know the exact reasons for why there is such little awareness of dyspraxia, despite how common it is. On the positive side, there is much more awareness of dyspraxia than there used to be – maybe in the future it will be something that most people have heard of!
For people who are reading this who don’t have dyspraxia, I think something important to remember is that it is likely that you will know at least one other person, or even more, with dyspraxia. You may be sat there thinking, “But I don’t know anyone with dyspraxia…”. This is the moment when I realise everyone will be sat there thinking “No we’re not thinking that, because I’m reading this blog post so technically I do know someone with dyspraxia…you.” So, if you don’t know me personally then think of someone you personally know who has dyspraxia. And if you do know me personally, then…well, just think of someone other than me who has dyspraxia.
Anyway, I’ve gone off topic. So if you’re sat there thinking “But I don’t know anyone with dyspraxia…” then consider the fact that maybe you do. It could be that there is someone you know who has dyspraxia who just isn’t open about it, or maybe they don’t even know about it themselves so haven’t been diagnosed with it. Or it could be that there is/was someone in your class at school who is dyspraxic. Although it is important to be aware of all disabilities, whether they are common or rare, it is important to remember that having dyspraxia isn’t uncommon. So, for example, if someone is struggling to get across what they are trying to say, struggles to eat their lunch without spilling it down themselves, or isn’t making a lot of eye contact then consider the fact that there may be a reason behind it, they may be dyspraxic. I’m not saying you should go round labelling everyone dyspraxic based off just one trait, that would be silly, but it is important to be open-minded and remember that just because lots of people don’t know what dyspraxia is, that doesn’t mean it’s not common.
And for those of you who are reading this who are dyspraxic, hopefully the fact that dyspraxia is more common than many people think makes you realise that you’re not a minority, there are so many other dyspraxic people out there!
As someone with dyspraxia there are day to day tasks that, although may seem easy to others, I struggle with. Over time I’ve found my own way of doing certain things, so I thought I would write a blog post where I give some tips based on some of the things I do. Some of them are very little things, and some may be things that anyone might do regardless of whether they have a disability or not. Hopefully you’ll find some of them useful though!
Firstly, there’s getting ready in the mornings. Being dyspraxic means it can take us twice as long to get ready as everyone else, so getting clothes ready the night before can be helpful and save a lot of time! Saying that, it’s not always easy to remember to actually do it (I need to start remembering to do it myself!) – memory/organisation is a topic I’ll come on to later in this post.
In addition to the amount of extra time it physically takes me to get ready in the mornings, a lot of the time is also spent daydreaming! No matter how hard I try not to, I just find myself daydreaming and I completely lose track of time. Especially in the bath…I’ll be in there and before I know it I’ll hear a knock on the bathroom door from my dad or brother asking if I’m nearly done (the only toilet we have in our house is in the bathroom)…I’ll then look at the clock to find I’ve spent an hour and a half in the bath (that’s honestly no exaggeration)! I saw somewhere that using a kitchen timer can be helpful for dyspraxics when getting ready, to help with time management, so I decided to buy a kitchen timer and it has helped so much! I went from taking an hour and a half to have a bath to just half an hour, or sometimes even 20 minutes! That worked really well for a while, until the steam and water broke the kitchen timer. So I got another one, and that broke too…but then I got a waterproof timer – it’s even in the shape of a droplet! I’ve only had it for a few weeks but it seems to be living up to its name so far…Trying to take the shampoo & conditioner bottles off the shelf without knocking all the other bottles over in the process can be tricky. In addition to then trying to squeeze the shampoo/conditioner on your hand and not in the bath! My mum had got some shampooo and conditioner that she didn’t like but asked if I wanted them as they were in bottles with a pump, which she thought I might find it easier. I did find this easier as it meant I could just keep the bottles where they were and it also made it easier to get the right amount. I stopped using them though, as I preferred other brands. I do sometimes use 2 in 1 shampoo & conditioner though for when I need to be quick, as it saves a lot of time!
For shaving I use an electric shaver. I’ve never attempted to use a normal razor, but it’s probably a good idea that I haven’t, considering I find it hard to judge the amount of pressure to apply to things! If you do use an electric shaver though, make sure you have plenty of spare batteries! I got myself into a bit of a dilemma once where I had shaved one leg, and half of my other leg (not top or bottom halves, one side of my leg) and suddenly the battery ran out. So I went downstairs to ask my dad if we had any spare batteries, but we didn’t! If I was wearing jeans the next day it wouldn’t have been so bad, but this was in the summer and the weather was extremely hot which meant I was going to be wearing shorts the next day! Very awkward but so funny at the same time. Luckily my dad found some spare batteries in a remote control, so the dilemma was solved. So if you do use an electric shaver, make sure you have plenty of batteries…or just buy a rechargeable one instead!
Next, what to wear? I wear jeggings quite a lot, as the material for them seems to be mostly the same as jeans anyway. I find them really comfortable, but there’s also the benefit of having an elasticated waist, which means no belts! Belts aren’t something I find majorly difficult, but finding out I’ve missed out a belt loop when putting it on can be annoying, and they take me that little bit longer to do up. Although I haven’t tried them myself, I’ve heard of EasyBelts, which are belts with a velcro fastening, so are easier to do up.
During winter time when you need to wear a coat, having a coat with zipped pockets can be helpful. Although I didn’t choose it deliberately because of this, when I bought a new coat last year the pockets on it were zipped, whereas my old coats had pockets with no zips. I know it’s a simple thing, but it is so much easier as being able to keep things in your pockets saves lots of time that would otherwise be spent fiddling through your bag trying to find what it is you’re looking for. I still use a bag as well, but find that putting things like my phone and train tickets in my pocket is helpful.
Next it’s shoes…which for many people with disabilities (including me) are a nightmare! Trying to find a pair of shoes that won’t wear down in a matter of weeks can be very difficult, although it is much easier to find a sturdy pair of shoes for the winter than summer. I rarely wear sandals in the summer, partly because I find most of them uncomfortable and also because they just wear down extremely quickly. I did find a pair of open shoes for summer a couple of years ago that were perfect – they were really comfortable and they lasted a while…but two years later and they had completely worn down and I couldn’t find another pair the same again! Converse style shoes are good for summer, if you’re like me and most sandals wouldn’t last you long, especially the lighter colours which tend to go with most summer outfits.
I can do laces up but find it takes me slightly longer, sometimes it will go wrong and I’ll have to start again, and they never seem to stay done up for very long either! I always double knot my laces now, but believe it or not even double knots I’ve done have come undone quite a few times! A useful thing for laces is to do an extra wrap at the beginning (this website explains it: http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/doublestartknot.htm). You then don’t have to worry about holding it tightly in place while doing all the other stages. The only problem is, though, that it means the actual shoelace knot itself is looser so can come undone more easily (I didn’t find this out until just now when I looked on that website, but it makes sense). You can also get elastic laces (I haven’t tried them before so I have no idea what they’re like) so that you don’t have to worry about tying your laces. Or slip on shoes might be easier, then there’s no laces involved at all! I did have a pair of slip on shoes at one point, until the elastic bit on the tongue of the shoe broke (shoes just never last long with me do they?)
After you’ve got ready, time to eat breakfast! Or if you’re like me this will be the first thing you do in the morning. If my food involves anything that is spillable, then 99.9% of the time I will spill something. For this reason I always get changed into pyjamas or old clothes when eating something with any sort of sauce. Not an option when you’re round a friend’s house or eating out, but useful for at home.
You know there’s a proper way you’re meant to hold cutlery? Yep, I never stick to it. Using my fork in my left hand would be difficult for me, so I hold it in my right hand. Then I hold my knife in my left hand if it’s something that is really easy to cut, but for cutting most things I swap my knife over to my right hand. Who needs cutlery rules when you can have your own? Or even easier, wherever possible use a spoon!
My favourite drink by far is tea. I even used to drink it from when I was around 7 years old.
But as you can imagine, a dyspraxic 7 year old trying to drink a hot drink out of a mug with no lid isn’t the best idea! So I used to use cups like this (yes, I still have one of them now!)
As I got older I started to use a mug to drink tea, but would spill it so much of the time that I would always drink it in the kitchen so I didn’t spill it on the sofa. A few years later I thought I’d be alright drinking it in the lounge again, only to then attempt drinking it in the lounge and spill it on the sofa! So it was back to drinking it in the kitchen.
One day I spilt it all over my clothes about 10 minutes before having to leave for school. The panic as I had to suddenly find completely different clothes to wear and get changed into them so soon before we had to leave. My dad then suggested for me to start using a straw, so I did and it was much easier!
Okay, I didn’t use straws quite like that…
Although straws stopped me from spilling it on my clothes, they didn’t stop me from knocking my drink and spilling it, so I still couldn’t drink tea in the lounge. I then saw something online, called safe-sips. They’re silicone lids that can go over the top of any cup, and even if the cup is knocked over the drink won’t spill. They’re perfect! So useful, as they mean I can now have tea in the lounge, upstairs (I can even carry it upstairs) without having to worrying about spilling it. Although the funny thing is, that the first time I tried to put the lid on I managed to spill my tea while putting the lid on that was meant to stop me from spilling it – the irony!
So I mentioned that when I was younger I used to like drinking tea. However, there was no way I would be able to manage using a kettle. So my dad bought one of these:
All you have to do is fill up the container with water, press the button for hot or cold water and the water would come out. Ideal for me! For those of you who struggle using a kettle, you might find one of these easier to use. There’s a similar one on amazon here.
I used it for quite a few years but eventually tried using an actual kettle. I find that the plastic kettles are easier to use as they’re much lighter, and I also only fill it up as much as I need to. I do sometimes still spill some of the water, but nothing major that can’t easily be cleaned up.
As for preparing food, I could do with a few tips on that myself! I still live at home, and my dad does the cooking. I can just about do the basic stuff, sandwiches, beans on toast etc. Even then it still takes me a while to make sandwiches, and when cutting cheese I once used the knife the wrong way round and ended up cutting my finger when I pressed down on it! I’ve made pasta bake…well, twice. That’s quite simple to make when you’ve got a jar with the sauce in and all you need to add is pasta and cheese. Even for that, my dad showed me first how you make it which helped (and I probably asked him the stages again after that!) So as you can probably tell, food tech at school was one of my least favourite subjects!
They did have, though, some special equipment which was helpful and I would consider getting now. There were non-slip mats to place under chopping boards. There was also a chopping board with spikes to place fruit on when chopping it. I know there was a knife with more grip too. I can’t remember what else there was though, but they were the main things I used. I’m sure there’s all sorts of other useful specialist kitchen equipment.
One time fairly recently my dad and brother were out during the evening and I had to make my own dinner. My dad and brother both thought I would have made beans on toast and were shocked when they found out I’d actually put something inside the oven (it was only chips and breaded chicken!)
With cooking, it’s not just the physical aspect that can be tricky for us dyspraxics. It’s the following instructions and organisation aspect too. Organisation can affect lots of aspects of daily life. Being dyspraxic we often have to work so much harder than others to keep ourselves organised, it just doesn’t come naturally to us. Over the years it’s something I’ve noticed more, as when you’re 8 years old there’s not really a lot you have to be organised about! I rely a lot on technology (and reminders from my dad too, I have to admit) to keep myself organised. The funny thing is, other people seem to think that I come across as organised, but honestly it does not come naturally to me!
A lot of people use technology to keep themselves organised, so it’s not dyspraxia-specific but certain apps can be particularly useful for people with dyspraxia. I use google calendar so much! The best thing about it is that it syncs with your google account, so you’ve got it everywhere on any device. Google have recently intergrated their reminders feature into their calendar app, so the reminders appear within the calendar so you don’t have to view them by going into a separate app. I make reminders for practically everything, if I don’t write it down I will definitely forget it! It could even be something like remembering to reply to an email the next day (because I forgot the day before).
Another app I use a lot is google keep, which allows you to make notes. Like google calendar, it syncs across all your devices. Despite the fact that I’ve been at uni for 5 months now, I still have a list with checkboxes for the things I need to take with me to uni each day. Google Keep is also perfect for making a list of things to take with you for when you go away. I use it all the time for that now, after there being a few times when I have forgotten things!
For those of you who maybe don’t like technology so much, there’s always the traditional post-its for reminders. Desk calendars can be useful to write reminders on too, as you’ve got it right there in front of you one day at a time. When I’m in bed I have a tendency to suddenly remember things that I need to do, so either having your phone next to you or a bit of paper and pen where you can make a note of those things can be useful.
Another time making notes can be useful is for phone calls. If you’ve got a few different points to say then making a bullet point list of them can be helpful (I still hate making phone calls, even after having to make so many for my DSA application!) As well as making notes, going through roughly what you’re going to say in your head can be helpful (I’m terrible at thinking of how to phrase something on-the-spot).
I looked at the paper next to me to see what the next topic was that I was going to write about, while fiddling with the string of my hoodie, to find that the topic was fidgeting! A tangle can be good to fidget with, it saves fidgeting with something like your phone case only to find that it doesn’t last long before breaking (yes, that happened to me). For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, this is what a tangle is:
They’re also said to be useful to help with concentration, something else we can find difficult, so that makes them even more useful!
I love going shopping with friends, but carrying everything can be awkward at times. Especially when Christmas shopping! Taking a rucksack rather than a handbag might be easier. Firstly, there’s more room to fit things inside. Secondly, it doesn’t slip around so much and it leaves both hands free. Also, having a bag with zips can be easier. I’ve got a rucksack type bag that I really like, but it has a drawstring but where I have to tie it up to stop it coming undone. It takes ages for me to undo it and get things out of my bag. On the plus side, at least I know it’s secure!
Some of you with dyspraxia may find relaxing difficult, like I do. It often feels like we’ve got multiple tabs open in our brain.
Something that is great for relaxing is colouring. There are so many adult colouring books available now, there’s so much choice. Lots of them are extremely detailed with the tiniest bits to colour in…I avoid those ones! Far too fiddly for someone who has trouble with fine motor skills (although I still quite often go over the lines in the ones I have). These are the ones I’ve got:
I’ve heard quite a few dyspraxics (and non-dyspraxics) say that they like colouring, but on the other hand I’ve heard some people with dyspraxia say that they find it frustrating, which is understandable – it’s not relaxing for everyone.
Having difficulty relaxing can also mean that getting to sleep at night can be really difficult. Something that I find helps a lot is reading in bed before I go to sleep, it makes such a big difference for me! I get to sleep so much quicker when I read compared to when I don’t! And if you’re not that keen on reading, there’s always audio books too.
There are also apps you can get for your phone and laptop which reduce the blue light emitted, to help to prevent it from keeping you awake at night. There are a few different apps, but the ones I use are f.lux (for my laptop) and Twilight (for my phone – it can interfere with other apps on your phone).
Here’s a list of the tips I’ve talked about in this post:
- Getting clothes out the night before
- Kitchen timer (a waterproof one if you need to use it in the bathroom)
- Shampoo/conditioner bottles with a pump or 2 in 1 shampoo & conditioner
- Electric shaver, rather than a razor
- Jeggings (no belts needed) or EasyBelts
- Coat with zipped pockets
- Converse style shoes for summer
- Laces – extra wrap at beginning, elastic laces, slip on shoes
- Getting changed into pyjamas/old clothes first
- Use cutlery your own way, or use a spoon where you can
- Safesips with a straw
- Hot cup system
- Lightweight kettle & only fill up as much as you need
- Get someone to show you first
- Specialist kitchen equipment – e.g. non-slip mats, chopping board with spikes
- Google calendar – events + reminders
- Google keep – lists
- Desk calendar
- Phone/paper next to your bed for when getting to sleep
- Make a note of what you’re going to say
- Go through roughly what you’re going to say in your head
- Bag with zips
- Colouring books
If any of you have any other useful tips then please feel free to share them in the comments below so that everyone else can see them.