What is it like to have dyspraxia?

What is dyspraxia? This is a question which I have been asked so many times, and during Dyspraxia Awareness Week last year I wrote a blog post which gave an insight into dyspraxia from my point of view. However, I wanted to do something a little different to increase understanding. That’s why I have decided to write this, not just describing dyspraxia to you but trying to get you to imagine what it is like to be dyspraxic. I would just like to point out that everyone with dyspraxia is, of course, unique so please don’t assume that every single person will experience every single difficulty!

Firstly, I will start off with the basics. For all of us to perform any task, our brain will send our body signals telling it what to do. For most people, these signals are transmitted succesfully. However, for someone who is dyspraxic these signals get muddled along the way – you could even picture them as tangled wires. This can affect us in a variety of ways, from physical difficulties to social difficulties.

Physical difficulties are, in my opinion, the most understood aspect of dyspraxia (and even then the understanding isn’t great!) Imagine you’re on a walk and you start walking down a hill. For the majority of people, their brains will send their body the signal so that their body can balance out and compensate for this. But when you’re dyspraxic, due to the ‘tangled wires’ your body does not successfully receive this message and you are more likely to lose balance – we’re known for being prone to tripping over!

Coordination is another aspect affected by dyspraxia. Whether it’s attempting to rub your belly and pat your head at the same time, or coordinating your legs and arms while walking, coordination comes into a wide range of things. Although we know the action we want to pe‎rform, actually getting our body to do it is a different matter! This is due to the signal getting muddled, therefore getting our bodies to coordinate themselves is difficult.

When someone throws you something, you would usually be able to catch it without too much difficulty. But imagine what this is like for someone whose signals from their brain to their body get muddled…even when we do manage to catch an object, it will often slip out of our hands – an example of our difficulty with gross motor skills. Trying to catch an object can be made even more difficult due to the fact that it requires good spatial awareness, whereas our spatial awareness is not so good! This means that we have difficulty judging where the object is in relation to ourselves, so we may attempt to catch the object too early or too late.

Similarly to gross motor skills, fine motor skills, are also something that can be a challenge for dyspraxics. This can involve using cutlery and handwriting. You know when you hold a pen in your non-dominant hand and just can’t seem to get the grip on it right? That’s what those of us with dyspraxia experience when handwriting, and also getting the right strength of grip is difficult. Imagine gripping onto a pen really tightly while writing, your hand would soon tire wouldn’t it? We also have difficulty in writing quickly too, those muddled signals mean that we physically can’t perform the action quickly. You can probably imagine that due to these difficulties our handwriting isn’t usually very neat! Typing is a much better option, it still presents the difficulties with fine motor skills but at least we don’t have to worry about the grip!

I think that’s most of the physical difficulties covered for now. ‎So next I’ll talk about sensory issues. Personally, I find that I strongly dislike certain textures of food, and I’m very sensitive to certain temperatures. This is not just disliking foods, it is absolutely hating the feel of them. With temperature, I find that I get cold easily. Again this isn’t just “Oh, I feel cold”, it’s having your teeth chattering while other people aren’t even wearing their coats. ‎Other sensory issues people with dyspraxia might have are being over sensitive to loud noises, touch, etc.

As you may have noticed, sensory issues are something that overlap with autism. There are a quite a lot of aspects where there is this overlap, which I’m not sure many people who aren’t particularly familiar with dyspraxia are aware of. One of these aspects is routine. Now, you may be thinking “But most people like to be organised and have things planned.” Yes, that may be true, but there is a lot more to it than that when it comes to dyspraxia‎. Imagine yourself when you are extremely stressed out about something, or you are overthinking with a million “What if?”‘s whizzing around your brain. That’s the situation created when our routine changes. There are all sorts of examples of what I’m talking about by changes in routines. It can range from the smallest things such as having to suddenly change what you’re wearing in the morning because ‎you’ve spilt something on your clothes or to bigger things such as living away from home at university (one of the reasons why I’m choosing to live at home when going to university!)

Other ways in which dyspraxia relates to autism are social difficulties. Imagine you are talking to someone, and despite trying to make eye contact, you find it very difficult to keep it and don’t really make eye contact very much. It may look like we’re not interested or not really listening, but honestly we are. Another thing is taking things literally. People use sarcasm quite a lot and for those of us who are very literal thinkers this can be confusing. A lot of the time I find it amusing really, “I’m confused” is one of my most-used phrases. Then there’s being in large groups of people. Lots of people can engage in conversations in quite big groups fairly easily, but imagine there being a delay in processing what is being said and then thinking of what to say in response to it. Often by the time I’ve thought of something to say they’ve moved onto the next topic! I find smaller groups easier as there’s much less going on, it can be difficult for a dyspraxic brain to process everything that’s going on in a large group. There’s been so many times when I’ve been told I’m quiet, and 99% of those times are when I’ve been in a large group! In addition to this, it is made even more difficult when there is lots of background noise. This is not to do with our actual hearing, but with dyspraxia it can be difficult to distinguish noises from each other – our brain sort of merges them all into one. This means that we have to really focus to work out what someone is saying when there is background noise, and it may come across as though we can’t actually hear them! Meeting new people and making new friends is also something that can be difficult and we may come across as quiet and shy.

Relating back to what I said about concentration and background noise in large groups, concentration in other situations can be affected by dyspraxia. People often daydream, but for people with dyspraxia it is even easier to accidentally start daydreaming, despite how hard you try to concentrate. This can be annoying when concentrating in lessons. As strange as it sounds, I often take absolutely ages in the bath mainly due to the fact that I lose concentration and keep daydreaming! I just completely lose track of time (even with a clock in there!)
Another aspect of concentration is background noise. I genuinely can’t understand how people are able to concentrate on work while listening to music – that genuinely seems impossible to me! I literally have to work in complete silence, the slightest noise and I just cannot concentrate!

When you overthink something, it’s like you have a never-ending stream of thoughts. This experience is normal for those of us with dyspraxia, it’s like we’re constantly thinking of something‎ a million things at once. The other day I saw something that I thought was a good way of describing it “My brain has too many tabs open”. This has an affect when we’re trying to sleep. I know lots of people have difficulty sleeping due to thinking, but it’s even more so for dyspraxics and is described as “the inability to ‘shut down’ the brain”.

All these jumbled thoughts can make organisation difficult, I rely so much on writing things down. Memory also plays a part in this. Many people will walk into a room and forget what they walked in there for, and this is very common for dyspraxics! Short term memory can be a struggle for us. An example of this is the other day when I was making my lunch and managed to completely forget to put butter in my roll. It didn’t even occur to me until I was putting the knife in the sink and realised that it looked exactly the same as when I got it out of the drawer, I found that quite funny! On the other hand, for some reason those of us with dyspraxia often have a very good long term memory. We can remember conversations from years ago clearly, so often I’ll say to my friends “Do you remember *insert conversation here*?” and they’re just like “No…” We can often remember not only the conversation itself, but the situation it was in etc.

Do you ever experience when you know what you want to say but you just can’t word it right when you say it? That’s something else that’s quite common for us dyspraxics. Often we’ll pause, stutter, and get our words muddled up when speaking. You could imagine it as the words you want to say travelling down the wires from the brain to the body, and because these wires are tangled for those of us with dyspraxia, the sentences we say are often muddled. Another aspect to speech is controlling the tone and volume of speech, which for most people is something that comes naturally. But for me it’s as though there’s a fault in the ‘volume control button’ and I often speak really loudly without even realising until someone points it out. This can be embarrassing when it’s somewhere really quiet, but again it can be rather funny!

Our sense of direction can also be affected. My sense of direction is awful! If I’m with someone else I rely on them so much for directions, basically just going whatever way they’re going. I notice this when I’m going to the same place on my own when I end up making a wrong turning!

Telling left and right apart is something else that links into directions, and is something else that we can have difficulty with. I find that I know which side is left and which side is right, but it just takes me longer to think of it, due to the ‘tangled wires’. Also, if someone says something like “Look at that to your left!” I’ll often look to my right due to the fact that I know I need to look quickly to see what it is, but my brain can’t process quickly enough which way to look.

Another aspect of dyspraxia is getting stressed and frustrated easily. To other people, some of the things I get stressed/frustrated over might seem so little, but to my brain it’s a big thing! People have said I’m a perfectionist. Although the things I do certainly don’t end up looking ‘perfect’ I do think my brain tends to notice more when little things are different, therefore if it’s different to my normal ‘routine’ this can cause a lot of stress and frustration. Another thing I find is that due to the difficulties in social situations, I’ll often spend a lot of time worrying how I’m going to say something to someone, how I’ll word it, whether it might sound rude, what their response might be, how I’ll react to that, etc. So often if I know I need to ask something about someone, I’ll plan exactly how I’m going to say it beforehand. Even after a conversation I’ll often overthink it, especially if my sentences came out a bit jumbled. I’ll be thinking “Did they know what I meant?” “I hope they didn’t think that…” etc. So as you can probably guess, this is something else that can cause us to become stressed or frustrated.

As I have already mentioned, processing is slower for us dyspraxics. This comes into the things I have talked about, but also relates to other situations as well. For example, with school work it will take me longer to read a question, understand what it is asking me, form an answer, and then put that answer into words. The end result may be the same as everyone else, that I get the answer down. It’s just like the process is put into slow motion added with a few differences along the way.

Due to all of these aspects that are affected by dyspraxia, you can imagine it takes our brain much more effort to perform everyday tasks. This can result in getting very tired despite getting extremely early nights, something I’ve experienced a lot when in sixth form!

It’s not all bad though! There’s certainly lots of amusing moments to laugh about when you’re dyspraxic, such as the fact that you’ve just walked into a door. Plus thinking differently can be a good thing, it would be boring if everyone thought from the same perspective!

I am aware this is a very long post, so I would just like to say a huge thank you if you’re still reading this! I really hope it has helped you to gain a better understanding of dyspraxia if you didn’t know already. And if you have dyspraxia, I hope that you’ve found it relatable!

Raising awareness of dyspraxia is something that I feel is important to me, dyspraxia doesn’t have nearly the amount of recognition as some other conditions do and I really hope that one day it will have more recognition and understanding!
So thank you once again for reading this!

Natalie 🙂

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40 Comments

  1. This is a great. Very imformational about something i knew nothing about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww thank you so much! Knowing I have made at least one more person aware makes me happy 🙂

      Like

  2. Rosie

    I have dyspraxia. I was well aware about the physical aspect, bumping into things, handwriting, not being able to catch or pick up the item I want if there are other things near it but I had no idea about some of the others. I always talk too quietly but think I’m shouting, hate the cold, have no sense of direction. And much prefer small groups to big ones but I had no idea these were symptoms of dyspraxia. Not being able to sleep because I can’t turn my brain off is true for me too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for having a read of my blog! That sounds similar to me, as it’s only over the recent years that I’ve realised that a lot of the things I do are related to dyspraxia, and it’s mainly through the internet that I’ve found that out. When I was first diagnosed at about 4 we only really knew about the physical aspect. I’m glad you found my blog relatable, thanks again! 🙂

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  3. Lynsey Ward

    I cannot thank you enough for writing this. It is by far the most informative piece of information I have read on dyspraxia. I often say I wish I could spend a day in my step sons shoes so I could try and understand his condition and him more and you have helped me do that. I am sure he will find in helpful too and make him realise he is not on his own. Congratulations on writing such a fantastic article!

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    • No problem at all, I’m glad that it has helped. Thank you so much for your lovely comment! 🙂

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  4. Oh my goodness…all the things you have said are more or less the same as my son who is nearly 21 years old. My son was diagnosed with Dyspraxia at the age of 4 years old. Its so interesting to read your blog and all through it I was agreeing with everything and saying “Yes thats my son” its good to read that my son isn’t alone in this world with this invisible disability because sometimes it feels that way. Thank you 🙂

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    • No problem, I’m glad that you found it relatable. I was also diagnosed with Dyspraxia at around the same age as your son (I was about 3/4). Thank you so much for your comment! 🙂

      Like

  5. Tom

    Can definitely relate to this. Thank you

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  6. This describes me completely. I only got diagnosed last year at the age of 18, now 19 and getting to grips with dyspraxia better 🙂

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    • Thanks for having a read of it! 🙂 Glad to hear you’re finding out more information about dyspraxia, I was diagnosed at around the age of 4 so learnt a lot about it over the years so I can imagine it would be much more difficult not being diagnosed until the age of 18. If you have any questions, feel free to ask ☺

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  7. Reblogged this on #KnowDyspraxia.

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    • Thank you!!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome. Great post, and great blog. I have dyspraxia, so I have decided to set up my own blog to campaign to raise awareness 🙂

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      • Thanks! That’s a great idea!! It looks really good so far! There’s definitely a lack of awareness for dyspraxia, so love the idea of setting up a campaign 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Jack

    Thank you so much for this! I just turned 31 and despite getting diagnosed with dyspraxia at around the age of 2 or something — slow/lack of learning to crawl/walk/speak prompted an early diagnosis — I have only ever known about the coordination side of things. Do you know when the social side of dyspraxia became (widely) known?

    In the past year or so, I have seen a few posts on my fb timeline from friends reposting “the girl with curly hair” regarding ASD and recognising so much of the social side in myself, wondered if I actually had both. I had no idea of this overlap. Still wondering though on the differences between ASD and dyspraxia, whether I should describe myself as “having” both or not.

    I say “having” in quotes, as I dislike the verb “to be” and the verb “to have”, my desire for expressing everything as logically and truthfully as possible, we never know anything with 100% accuracy, and they also hide opinions as facts).

    Like

  9. Kelly

    This is so much like my son who has been diagnosed but not in writing from consultant so no record of it. As we deal with his uniqueness everyday and it’s not generally a major issue for us nor him as lots of things seem to just go over his head. It’s such a relief to see in your blog similar things that happen as I feel I’m overreacting. The more I read, the more of him I can relate to the symptoms. He has an obsession with his getting up in morning routine which if I try to change and I sometimes do he will go into what I call a hissy fit. His attention span is mostly zero unless he is drawing or on games console, he has walked on tiptoe because of his balance but now has inserts in his shoes to help but still incredibly clumsy. It is such a relief to see how others think and deal with. Thankyou for taking time to do so!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Kelly, glad to hear that you found it helpful! I sometimes walk on my toes too. I was just wondering, if you don’t mind me asking did you get the inserts for your son’s shoes from the NHS? I’m flat footed, which affects my balance even more and means my shoes wear down quickly but wasn’t allowed inserts from the NHS because it doesn’t cause me any pain. And no problem at all, if you have any questions then feel free to ask 🙂

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  10. Maria

    Thanks very much for this. My thirteen year old son has dyspraxia and a lot of this relates to his experience. It was thoughtful of you to take the time to describe things with such detail and clarity.

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    • No problem, thank you for your comment! Glad you found it helpful 🙂

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  11. Hi there , I LOVE your blog, great job !!!
    I would love to share but I need to translate first as the main language on my blog is french…do you agree ?? I have already share pictures…
    Emlondon
    http://www.enfance-et-handicap.com/

    Like

    • Hi, sorry for the late reply! Thank you so much! Yes I’m happy for you to do that, if you could put a link to my original post at the end please

      Like

  12. Vanessa smiley

    My daughter has mild cerebral palsy and dyspraxia. I read these articles alot. She is 7 years old and the hardest thing I deal with is her eating disorder. She will only eat about 4 things. I tell her doctor’s and I still haven’t received any helpful solution. They say she will eat other foods if I take her food out. Of the house. We’ll no she won’t she just shuts down and just will eat nothing. I’m worried about her health because she is not getting the nutrients that her body needs. If anyone knows of anything to help I would appreciate any information.

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    • I’d definitely recommend going back to your GP and seeing if your daughter can be referred to a dietician.

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  13. This really is the most compressive post on Dyspraxia I’ve ever read! Couldn’t have done better myself – I know, I’ve tried lol

    Like

  14. nimraynn

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up.

    My girlfriend has dyspraxia and it’s something I’ve never truly understood. She showed me this post after she stumbled across it and described it as the best way she’s seen it put into words as she’s struggled herself. It is a real eye-opener and I can relate so many of her mannerisms to what you describe here. The frustration with what most people would refer to as “little things” is the biggest.

    We’ve both found some of them funny and I think they’re part of what I love about her, as hard as some are to deal with, but after reading this, I can appreciate more what is going on inside her head and if anything, it makes me love her more 🙂

    Like

    • No problem. Thank you so much for your comment! Lovely to hear, I’m so glad it helped 🙂

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  15. Thank you for writing this! I haven’t been diagnosed with dyspraxia but, after looking at all of the symptoms online, I can relate to pretty much all of them. I’d never even considered that I might have it before (I’ve always thought I’m just clumsy, socially awkward, and generally forgetful), until I started driving lessons – no matter how many times I tried, I could not for the life of me get to grips with the fact that the car takes up a certain amount of space around me. I couldn’t line the car up with the kerb or see where it was on the road, and I always felt like I was in the centre of the car (also don’t get me started on reversing – that was never going to happen). Shortly after that I also discovered that I lacked the ability to move shapes around in my mind – if a shape is in front of me then I can imagine it, but I can’t imagine it, say, flipped over, or reversed, or anything like that.

    I think I’m going to go to the doctors about it as I get many of the other symptoms such as no short-term memory, social anxiety, stress when change happens, and poor co-ordination (although, weirdly, I am very good at writing and painting, so fine motor skills don’t seem to be so bad). I’m incredibly sensitive to temperature and touch, and can feel when people or objects are near me without having had any contact with them – I’m also always the one with my teeth chattering! I always thought these were just quirks about me, so it’s nice to know that there are other people that experience all these things as well.

    Like

    • I’m taking driving lessons at the moment, I don’t know if you were the same but I find it hard at junctions and roundabouts with spatial awareness judging when the gap is big enough to go. I struggle to imagine moving shapes in my mind too – I hated those maths questions on those sorts of things! Glad you found it helpful, if you have any questions at all then feel free to ask 🙂

      Like

      • Yes I do! My whole spatial awareness and judgement is terrible in general! Thank you 🙂

        Like

  16. Toren Hynes

    I’ve read through a bunch of the articles you’ve written, and I can relate to many of them. Although I am not sure whether or not I’m dyspraxic, as I was originally diagnosed with aspergers when I was younger, I tried the AQ test yesterday and only got a 23 (pretty low), and I think that I can relate more closely to what you experience than what many typical people with aspergers experience.

    It’s only rather recently that I’ve become aware of the possibility that I had dyspraxia — I used to think I had great spatial awareness! That changed when I started driving and found that everyone was saying “Toren, you’re slow. You could’ve easily made that turn.” I didn’t think of that much at the time, but I was more convinced of my poor spatial awareness when I started doing organic chemistry (which is amazing — it’s my career path) and had a lot of trouble with enantiomers and cyclohexane chairs. I realised that I couldn’t flip molecules in my head, and still can’t. Making imaginative impromptu molecular models with labelled NMR tubes (or pencils, paper clips, anything I can get my hands on) helps a lot though.

    The other things on this page I can almost all relate to; poor coordination, walking into things frequently, losing balance, overthinking, not knowing what to say, slow processing (and more) — except for the sense of direction. I didn’t know left from right until 13 or so (and still get those confused sometimes), however, I almost always know which way to go when walking or driving — as long as I have a map that is.

    The funniest thing though is that I know where the bumpers and wheels of a car are relative to everything else, but I don’t know where my own shoulders are!

    Like

    • With what you say about spatial awareness and not realising it till recently, I guess it could be because it’s all we know. For example, I never used to realise I struggled with sense of direction until certain situations came up as I got older. That’s great that you’ve found ways that work for you though in terms of organic chemistry 🙂

      Like

      • Toren Hynes

        Here’s a good quote from a YouTube video that is true for anybody. But especially for those that are neurodiverse.

        “To take the great leap forward, you must first take two steps back.
        But sometimes… you just need the will to jump.”

        Getting back to our regularly scheduled programming, do you have difficulty with +/- in math problems too? I’ve never been able to keep them straight, despite a through understanding of the concepts.

        One of the things that I think made the biggest differences in coordination was doing karate. Back when I first started, I couldn’t copy moves for the life of me and hardly knew left from right. Fast forward ten years, and I am one rank shy of black belt, and occasionally take part in local tournaments, though I don’t typically get especially high placements. Am I good enough for international competition? No. Am I good enough to have fun with it? Yes. That’s what I care about.

        Like

      • I haven’t had a problem with +/- in maths personally. That’s great that you’ve found something you really enjoy and are good at! Exactly, as long as you enjoy doing it that’s all that matters 🙂

        Like

  17. My name is Adithi and I have dyspraxia too. I can relate to the things you wrote in your blog:)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Deanne Evans

    I’m an eighty year old “Nana” and the first time I heard of “Dyspraxia” was when my four year old granddaughter was diagnosed with the condition. She’s now almost 16. I read every word of your blog Natalie and am so grateful that you took the time to explain the different symptoms. It has helped me greatly to better understand her and to try and interact with her.
    Deanne 19 May 2017+

    Like

    • Thank you! So lovely to hear that it helped you understand your granddaughter better 🙂

      Like

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