My Dyspraxic Superpowers!
I’ll start with a disclaimer: don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that dyspraxia has some serious downsides to it! However I am also aware that dyspraxia is so much a part of me, that I can’t remove it or live life without it, any more than I can remove the experiences of living my life so far as a female. So with that in mind, I think it’s important to look at whether something that makes me frustrated on a daily basis does anything for me which is good. Thinking about that gives me some comfort and self esteem during the tricky times, and helps me to embrace my uniqueness rather than seeing it always as a difficulty that I have to overcome.
Some of the things I’ve noticed which are good about having dyspraxia seem to be linked to the way I think (so these may be a part of the condition itself), and some of them are a product of having lived my life with dyspraxia so far – the vast majority of which I was undiagnosed (so these may be common to other people who have experienced adversities of other kinds), or a mixture of both.
When you spend most of your life experiencing difficulty doing things other people take for granted, you quickly realise that you either get on or give up. I still find it tricky to use a knife and fork, but I don’t let that stop me from eating!! Before I was diagnosed I used to shy away from doing practical things in front of people, which isn’t easy when you are training to be a doctor. Now, I just explain to myself and other people that it may take me longer to learn because of my dyspraxia, but I will get there. Every small success means so much more to me because of my difficulties and motivates me to carry on trying.
A few years ago I fell over on the pavement walking from work to my car, and I fractured my ankle. Both my ankles are now so damaged from repeatedly falling over that I have to wear ankle boots most of the time. So even whilst doing ‘safe’ things there is always a risk for me of having an accident, that just comes with my dyspraxia. It’s not possible for me to totally avoid accidents, so I have given up trying, I try to have fun and experience new things. You only live once and when you have difficulties that are frustrating and stressful, it seems even more important to enjoy the rest of the time!
A sense of humour
Years of falling over, bumping into things, being chaotic and untidy, have made me develop a wicked sense of humour (if I do say so myself!) Being able to laugh at myself is the best coping mechanism I have, and it also puts other people at ease about my difficulties. I also notice some of the small things that neurotypical people do (because those things aren’t natural to me) which are actually quite odd and funny.
I’ve always known I was different from most people, I think differently and I find different things difficult. As a child, I spent most of my effort trying to hide my difficulties and differences, something neurodiverse people are known to do (particularly females) which is called ‘masking’. It takes A LOT of effort, it’s tiring and stressful. You constantly feel out of sync, because you aren’t able to be yourself. It’s natural to do when fitting in and being social are highly valued in society, particularly if you don’t have a diagnosis or explanation for why you are different. Since being diagnosed, I have gradually done away with a lot of that behaviour. I try to surround myself with people who appreciate and love me for who I am, which is quirky, eccentric, off the wall. I find actually people are more able to be themselves around me too when I’m honestly being me. I’ve come to value this quirkiness mainly through meeting other neurodiverse people and recognising that their quirkiness is really likeable.
Compassion and patience for others
When people are compassionate and patient with me it makes a huge difference to my day. They don’t have to know anything about dyspraxia to do that. Likewise, I always try to be compassionate and patient with other people. I may not know anything about the specific things that they struggle with, but I do know what it is like to struggle.
Understanding of what it feels like to be ‘different’
Neurodiverse people have a common understanding of what it feels like to be different from the norm. Most things in life, school and work aren’t set up in a way that makes them easiest for us.
Enjoyment of simple pleasures
I have some sensory differences as part of my dyspraxia. Some of these are negative, I have very little sense of where my body is in a space, and my sensory systems get overwhelmed more easily than a neurotypical person. But some of these sensory differences are actually positive. Some sensory experiences are really really enjoyable for me, much more than a neurotypical person. I love weighted things and deep pressure. I absolutely love the sound of certain words. So much so that I am known to frequently repeat them to myself, much to the bemusement of my husband. It’s probably not that dissimilar to those on the autistic spectrum who have an enjoyable stim. These heightened sensory experiences make me feel totally blissed out. That’s definitely a positive.
I think differently from others, my whole brain just seems to be wired differently and ideas and thoughts go along totally different pathways. I’m also used to trying to think up ways to work around my difficulties. This all means that I’m more likely to suggest things or do things in a way that wouldn’t occur to other people.
A great long-term memory
I can often remember things from a long time ago really clearly. That’s really useful as it does mean that once I’ve ‘got it’ fully it stays there. It can just take me longer to ‘get it’ - I usually can’t hold very much at all in my working (shorter term) memory. I’ll talk about how I work around this in another post.
Being a role model
Looking back at my childhood, I wish I’d known about my dyspraxia and known some adults with dyspraxia who I could look up to. Adults that were (most of the time!) able to be comfortable in their differences. It would’ve saved me a lot of stress and upset over the years, so I’m really keen to be that person for other people. I’m by no means perfect, but I try to be honest about myself and my difficulties, so that other people feel less alone and more understood. Being neurodiverse myself gives me so much motivation to understand more about neurodiversity, and develop ways of supporting others to reach their potential too. For that reason, I set up my own business using all my education and therapy skills, as well as my own experiences of dyspraxia, to support neurodiverse children. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to be as good at my job if I didn’t have dyspraxia and the understanding that comes with it. When it’s appropriate, I’m open with the neurodiverse children I see about having dyspraxia myself, because I know that would have made a big difference to me as a child.
And whilst I’ve been writing this, I’ve managed to forget about THREE cups of tea at various points whilst making them. I'm off to rehydrate myself now!
Thank you for reading, let me know if you (or your dyspraxic little one) have any dyspraxic superpowers too!
Dr Emma Tremaine trained as a medical doctor and psychiatrist before starting up a social enterprise specialising in comprehensively supporting adults and young people with Dyspraxia (The Dyspraxic Doctor). She also provides regular emotional and social skills therapy for children and young people who have a neurodevelopmental diagnosis (including Autism/Aspergers and ADHD). Dr Emma has Dyspraxia herself and is a passionate writer and speaker about neurodiversity, mental health and her own experience becoming a doctor with a hidden disability. She also enjoys horse riding, yoga, amateur sewing and making people laugh.