In many of my blog posts I have talked about having a ‘hidden disability’, while in other blog posts related to education I have talked about having a ‘Specific Learning Difficulty’. So I thought I would write a blog post which specifically looks at how dyspraxia is defined, for those of you wondering how.
Defining dyspraxia isn’t straightforward. Not only does it vary depending on circumstances, people also have their own preferences on how they define their dyspraxia. Some see it as a disability, while others don’t.
From a medical point of view, in most cases dyspraxia is defined as a developmental disorder because it usually originates in childhood. More specifically, it is defined as a motor disorder. This is in a way frustrating as it suggests that dyspraxia only affects motor skills. It seems that this is how dyspraxia is defined in medical terms, as a motor disorder.
However, in education dyspraxia is defined as a Specific Learning Difficulty. Specific Learning Difficulties include: dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADD/ADHD. As the name suggests, if someone has a specific learning difficulty it means that they have difficulty in a specific area of learning. Unlike a learning disability (the two can often be confused) a specific learning difficulty does not affect a person’s general intellectual ability.
Specific Learning Difficulties are classed as a type of Special Educational Needs. I’ve noticed that some people seem to have a negative view about the term Special Educational Needs. The term ‘special’ is often used as an insult. It’s silly really, as all it really means if someone has Special Educational Needs is that they have more difficulty in education than other people of the same age. This could be due to a variety of reasons: a specific learning difficulty, a physical disability, an autistic spectrum disorder etc. A person with special educational needs might only be affected in a certain area of their education, for example they might find concentration difficult or they might have difficulty with handwriting due to a physical reason. On the other hand, all areas of someone’s education may be affected by their special educational needs.
In terms of disability law, dyspraxia is included. This means that dyspraxia is technically defined as a disability. It is often defined as a ‘hidden disability’ by various people and organisations, as it is not an obvious disability.
However, people also have their own personal preferences. There is often a difference between what dyspraxia is technically defined as and people’s own perspective on how they define dyspraxia. While some people with dyspraxia consider themselves to be disabled, others don’t. Some view themselves as having a hidden condition rather than a hidden disability. Others consider themselves to have a difference.
In addition to this, there is also the view that dyspraxia is part of neurodiversity. While neurodiversity isn’t a technical term, it is used to describe people who have a neurological condition such as: dyspraxia, dyslexia, autism, Tourette’s Syndrome etc . While people with a neurological condition are considered to be neurodiverse, people without a neurological condition are considered to be neurotypical. In contrast to this, some people believe that everyone is neurodiverse because everyone’s brain is different anyway, regardless of whether they have a neurological condition. For this reason, they use the term neurodivergent rather than neurodiverse.
How do I define dyspraxia myself? I define it as a hidden disability and also consider myself to be neurodiverse. I haven’t always thought this, though. When I was younger I didn’t view dyspraxia as being a certain ‘thing’, it was just dyspraxia to me. Whether this was because I was much younger (I was in primary school then) and hadn’t thought about it much yet, I don’t know. I didn’t view my dyspraxia as a disability until I started taking part in disability athletics. In fact, I was surprised to hear at first that I could take part in disability athletics as I had never considered myself to have a disability.
It then wasn’t until year 9 that I realised that in education dyspraxia is classed as a specific learning difficulty. I was confused at this at first as I hadn’t realised that dyspraxia affected my learning in ways other than my handwriting. That’s not to say it didn’t, I just thought the way I learned was normal. For example I thought it was normal to forget an instruction five seconds after being told it!
It’s only recently through the internet that I found out about the term neurodiversity. If someone had said to me five years ago that I was neurodiverse I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what they where talking about!
I think part of the reason why dyspraxia is so complicated to define is because it affects such a wide range of areas, and these areas vary from person to person. It’s safe to say that those of us with dyspraxia have very unique brains!