Need help? Feel that you're the only one? Here is all the information you need to survive being a teenager with Dyspraxia!
Fri Oct 01, 2004 2:47 pm
I was diagnosed with dyspraxia in the November of 2002. I can remember the details of the assessment with perfect clarity: the room smelled of roasted coffee and chalk and the sky outside the windowpanes was clear and cold. This was a day that was to change my life completely.
I had always felt different from the rest but had never really been able to work out why. I didn't speak like other children, using a vocabulary that I never realised was formidable in an eight-year-old. I struggled in maths lessons and was always the last one chosen for the team in sports. Whenever I had a free moment, I vanished into a book. As soon as I started to read nothing was difficult or demanding any more. My sensory problems disappeared (I once read through the unbearable screech of a school fire alarm, as I was in another universe at the time) and I no longer felt lost or alone.
But my books, as well as being my best friends, could also turn against me. Teachers expected this bright and precocious child, who was reading Jane Austen by the time she turned ten, to produce excellent essays and to sail through her schooldays with style. I couldn't deliver. Clumsy, scattered, disorganised, and with a short-term memory like a sieve, my difficulties grew bleaker as I moved into secondary school. In addition to the staggeringly heavy back pack I carted around everywhere (I never used lockers or cupboards to store my belongings, terrified that I would lose them all) I had to carry a very heavy reputation on my shoulders. I was seen as lazy. I felt like screaming from the clock tower, "BUT I'M NOT! You idiots, can't you see I'm doing the best possible here?"
A bout of terrifying bullying led to a difficult decision: I would leave my school in Saudi Arabia and go off to boarding school in England. My social problems were highlighted by the confined environment and everywhere I went I was aware of being different, the one who didn't fit in. But one day that changed.
I made a friend. And when I met Emma, I also met dyslexia for the first time.
Even though Emma struggled with spelling and I could flawlessly spell my way through anything, the similarities between us could not be ignored. With her encouragement, I approached the special needs teacher to talk about my extreme difficulties with maths. I was expecting to be diagnosed with a type of numerical dyslexia, but when the psychologist finished her tests I discovered that I had a disability called dyspraxia. Every piece of the jumbled jigsaw slotted into place. Now I could finally understand.
A few months after my diagnosis, I began to write a book about my experiences as an undiagnosed dyspraxic in the hope that it would help teenagers like me. I filled it with useful tips for coping, questioned other dyspraxic people, and asked them to share their stories. That book, Caged in Chaos: A Dyspraxic Guide to Breaking Free has been accepted by a publisher and should come out in the spring of 2005. This is probably my most phenomenal achievement to date. I hope that Caged in Chaos will spread awareness, and, more importantly, show the little-publicised side of developmental disorders - the gift of dyspraxia. As my self-esteem used to be well below sea level, this is a gift that I have only recently discovered myself!
I am now in my final year of sixth form, with a set of excellent AS grades behind me (bring on the laptop and extra time, send out the rumours of laziness!) and I'm sending off my university applications even as I type. (Who says dyspraxic people can't multitask?!) I'm aiming to study English Literature at the University of Cambridge and, hopefully, will one day become a prolific author and a researcher in the field of linguistics. As a severely dyspraxic person, there are many things that I can't do (cross a road alone, dress myself without help, or cook a meal) but I don't see why the things I can't do should be allowed to impact on the things I can.
Good luck to you all in your plans for the future. Remember one thing - dyspraxic is fantastic!