Posted by: barbaraneill | March 9, 2013

Delighted to have been an undiagnosed dyspraxic!

B and M outside Beatles shop

Matthew Munson and Barbara Neill aka The Two Dyspraxics

I am delighted to have spent most of my life undiagnosed as dyspraxic and, even better than that, in a time when virtually no-one had heard of dyspraxia, never mind know how to support it.

Yes, you did read it right. I am dyspraxic and have known about my dyspraxia since 1994, when I recognised myself and my own symptoms, in a questionnaire that was to determine that my son was dyspraxic. I was eventually diagnosed in 2010. However, I spent almost forty years of my life not knowing anything about dyspraxia and, because of that, I struggled through school which felt, at times, like a living hell because of the problems I encountered, relentlessly, on a daily basis. I have also encountered numerous difficulties as an adult, due to my dyspraxia.

Why, then, would I be extolling the virtues of not knowing about dyspraxia in my formative years (and beyond)? It’s not because I don’t feel that people who have dyspraxia should be ‘labelled’. On the contrary, if it is picked up and supported appropriately, the label of dyspraxia can offer a valid explanation for the many problems that can be encountered as a result of having the condition.

The reason I will be eternally grateful for not having even heard of dyspraxia until well into adulthood, is because for me, at least, no precedent had been set. I had no limitations placed on me by well-meaning people whose own understanding of dyspraxia may not fit my ability. Throughout my own undiagnosed years, I was able to discover, for myself, the extent of my own capabilities, as well as the difficulties I would encounter, rather than being told what to expect.

I was never told that I wouldn’t be able to learn to drive, for example, or that I would find it difficult to do so. In fact, I did find it difficult and it took me three attempts to pass my driving test. However, I have now been driving for well over thirty years and have never had any ‘points’ placed on my licence. I learned to drive in a car with a manual gear change and I did not see the need for any adaptations or ‘special’ treatment while I was learning. In my opinion, a good driving instructor will be patient, and adaptable to the needs of all of his or her learners.

Worryingly, there seems to be a serious lack of understanding of the fact that, as dyspraxic adults, in particular, we are more than capable of voicing our opinions and, indeed, enlightening others as to the real effects that dyspraxia has on our lives. In my courses on Dyspraxia Awareness I always advocate asking people, who have dyspraxia, how they can best be supported. It’s not rocket science and those who readily acknowledge that dyspraxics often have above average intelligence, would do well to put that knowledge into practice by respecting the fact!

I, for one, have a serious dislike of being patronised, and cringe at the thought of some of the experiences I have had, seen or heard of, in the name of ‘raising awareness’ by some who, clearly, could learn about dyspraxia from those of us who actually have it, rather than making up their own theories and treating them as ‘gospel’.

For example, in one workshop on Dyspraxia Awareness that I attended as an observer, there was an implication that ‘dyspraxics cannot see in 3D’! This was the explanation given for why we often bump ourselves on door posts as we walk through doorways. Of course it’s complete nonsense! A second example was of a neuro-typical person, (in the name of ‘education’), demonstrating how a dyspraxic person walks! Frankly, it would have been more at home in a Monty Python sketch than in an educational setting. Another example is of a document I have seen that quotes, “Neuro-diversity is an umbrella term, which encompasses Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, AD(H)D, ASD and neuro-trauma. These conditions are poorly understood by the general public including the clients themselves and their managers.” Believe me, I have a very good understanding of dyspraxia and how it affects my life. I should do, after having had fifty eight years’ experience of it! Incidentally, I don’t view myself as a ‘client’, (at least in this context), and I don’t have a ‘manager’!

I have considered, very seriously, whether or not I should include these particular references in this article but, on balance, I feel that I, as a person who has dyspraxia, have not just a right, but a duty, to put the record straight.

I have no doubt that the majority of these people mean well but, please, in order to raise awareness we need to present facts; not theories, and who could be in a better position to do so, than those of us who actually live with the condition all day, every day?

Perhaps most importantly, the fact that there is so much mis-information about dyspraxia, from those who are supposedly ‘experts’, will almost certainly limit the expectations of people who have dyspraxia, (or their families), and are being guided by these ‘experts’. The truth is, each of us is our own expert. No-one can know you better than you know yourself and, if you have dyspraxia, my advice to you is use your intuition and don’t allow yourself to be limited by someone else’s opinion of what you can and can’t do. We may not be able to accomplish everything we set out to do, but the possibilities are endless!

Barbara Neill and Matthew Munson are The Two Dyspraxics. We have a facebook page; (just search for The Two Dyspraxics and you’ll find us). We make videos that are designed to support, educate and entertain, and we also work on raising awareness in an informative and factual way. 

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Responses

  1. Agreed. Not diagnosed until 40! Until I knew about dyspraxia it never stopped me. Ignorance in some ways can be bliss.

  2. I have only read the first paragraph. I agree exactly – I was assessed at 52ish and since have done less because I refuse to struggle – whereas before I struggled to keep up, which I mostly managed.

    I am also a parent of a dyspraxic – I too found out by self assessing after she was assessed and I read Amanda Kirby’s book.

    I have a sense that some parents are very restrictive of their dyspraxic children and tend to ‘baby’ them almost – it is a very difficult balance to get right.

    • It is, indeed, a difficult balance to get right. I think the main obstacle is that parents, (in particular, though not exclusively), are looking to professionals as experts when, in fact, relatively little is known about dyspraxia and even the professionals have a very long way to go when it comes to understanding the condition.

  3. This is the article I have been referring to


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