Having a hidden disability means that I’ve had quite a few comments, some of which are ignorant and annoying, others are fairly amusing.
So I’ve thought I’d make a list of some of the things people have said to me. You may find some of them relatable if you’re not dyspraxic but have a different disability/condition. So here’s my list of 10 things not to say to someone with dyspraxia:
1. But you don’t look like you have a disability!
When will people realise that hidden disabilities exist and that not all disabilities are visible?! It’s so tempting to answer them by saying “And you don’t look ignorant, but here we are…”
Other similar comments I’ve had to this after explaining dyspraxia are “But you look fine to me!” or “But you look normal!” – what is ‘normal’ anyway..?
2. Well you can do *insert task here* fine, so how can you have a disability?
Considering that person didn’t know what dyspraxia was a minute ago, why should they then start making judgements about whether they think I have a disability or not? If the task that I, according to them, ‘can do’ is something that requires coordination, balance etc. then it’s most likely that I’ve practiced that task a lot and have worked out my own way of doing it.
3. I do that too, so that means I must have dyspraxia then.
I’ve listed one aspect of dyspraxia, yes you may do that one thing too, but there is a whole lot more to dyspraxia than just that. Maybe if you listened you would realise that!
4. You walk weirdly/you don’t have very good balance do you? (Or some similar comment)
If you made a comment like that without knowing I have dyspraxia it’s not as bad, but it’s still judgemental. If, however, you know I have dyspraxia and still make a comment like that then that’s worse, why bother doing that?! I mean considering I’ve lived with dyspraxia for 17 years, there’s no need to point out what I’m already aware of.
5. You’re so quiet!
Okay, I admit, a lot of the time when this has been said to me I don’t think it was intended to be rude. But if someone was autistic you wouldn’t say that they’re quiet, would you? You’d understand that they have difficulties in social situations and that’s why they might not speak as much in large groups (well, at least I’d hope you’d think that!) With dyspraxia, we also can have difficulties in social situations, particularly with new people or when in large groups. So when someone points out that I’m quiet (90% of the time this is when I’m in a large group) it really doesn’t help and it can be difficult to explain why so I kind of end up not saying much in response and it’s awkward.
6. *Says something in a really patronising way*
Luckily, this hasn’t happened to me often. But when it did, it was ironically someone who worked in the disability department of a university and she specialised in dyslexia and dyspraxia. You’d think out of all people she’d be understanding? But no, she spoke to me slowly and with the most patronising tone of voice. I’m not stupid! Safe to say I didn’t apply for that university!
7. Oh, she’s got problems.
There’s no need to be like that, it’s not exactly going to increase my confidence. If you genuinely didn’t catch the name of my disability then just ask me again, it’s not that hard.
8. You won’t be able to do this, so I’ll do it for you.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s some lovely people who offer to help with things, which I appreciate. But those kind people have actually asked me if I would like help with something without just assuming that I won’t be able to do it and without blatantly pointing it out too. It was a teacher once who said this to me as well (saying that she’d do something because I wouldn’t be able to), pretty loudly too, how lovely of her to make the whole class aware.
9. You’ll grow out of it!
This is something that’s not so much been directly said to me, but my dad said that when I was younger people would often say that I would just ‘grow out of it’. No, I won’t. You don’t just ‘grow out of’ dyspraxia. Yes, you may become better at doing certain things due to working out your own way of doing them, but that’s just for a small number of things! When people say this it’s as if they believe dyspraxia is something that’s just been made up!
10. I wish I had dyspraxia so I could use a laptop in lessons!
Yes, someone genuinely said this to me. It’s not like I use a laptop to put me at an extra advantage, it’s to put me at the same level as everyone else. But seriously, the things people say…
Thankfully not everyone is like this and there are some very understanding people out there!