This interview with a university student provides some interesting insights into how dyspraxia may affect people throughout their lives. It also shows how, with determination, and some appropriate support, dyspraxia need not be an obstacle to success. Some details, including the student’s name, have been changed.
Louise: How does being dyspraxic affect you?
Paul: Dyspraxia affects motor skills and your physical responses to things. It affects depth perception and the ability to respond at the right time. I’m not as sporty as other people and my hand-eye coordination is weak. Also, I can’t organise myself as well as other people. I’m less aware of deadlines and I don’t always remember them. I also find that it’s a bit more difficult for me to learn my way around new places and that I need some extra time for this.
Louise: When were your difficulties with coordination first noticed?
Paul: I was quite young, aged about ten or eleven. My parents spotted them at first and took me to see the GP. I was then referred to an occupational therapist for an assessment and had some support for a year or two. This involved activities like balancing on a ball and practising throwing and catching.
Louise: When you started school, what, if anything, did you find tricky?
Paul: I was never very good at PE. I used to miss the football if I tried to kick it and I was not good at badminton or tennis. I also ran oddly and used to bend forwards. I could get changed without any problems, but I still can’t tie shoe-laces despite people trying to teach me.
Louise: Is there anything else that you found difficult?
Paul: I also found cutting out difficult and was not very accurate. I found it hard to keep within the lines when I did colouring, and found it difficult to write neatly. Later on, one teacher thought that I was writing messily on purpose, and my work was often compared with hieroglyphics. I began to use a lap-top during lessons at the age of around ten.
Louise: How did you find learning to ride a bike?
Paul: This took me a while and I was fourteen or fifteen by the time I could ride without stabilisers.
Louise: How does your dyspraxia affect you nowadays?
Paul: There are still some weaknesses in my motor skills. I can’t play tennis or badminton, but I can kick a football. My dyspraxia is less obvious now and my balance has improved, but I still sometimes trip over things or slip over. When I cook, I can chop and pour well, but I have the odd accident and cut my finger on a tin recently. I also cut myself shaving this week. I find it difficult to do up clasps on jewellery.
Louise: Does it lead to any difficulties with your studies?
Paul: My handwriting has improved but it still isn’t very good. I sometimes use a lap-top to take notes in lectures and I also have a digital recorder. I don’t get around to filing my notes and I find it difficult to put sheets of paper into plastic wallets.
Louise: Do you have any other special aids or other forms of support?
Paul: I have been given assistive software for my lap-top and a printer. I see a study skills tutor each week. She helps me to plan and edit my work. I also see a mentor each week and she helps me with time-management and organisation. I can talk to her about anything that’s bothering me. This is all funded through Disabled Students’ Allowances.
Louise: Will your dyspraxia affect your choice of career?
Paul: I don’t want it to get in the way of my career.
Louise: Do you tell people about your dyspraxia?
Paul: No, I don’t think that it’s relevant.
Louise: Are there any positive aspects of having dyspraxia?
Paul: Maybe it helps me to see things in a different and interesting way.
Louise: Do any other members of your family have dyspraxia?
Paul: I think that my mum and brother have it. They are both clumsy and often drop things.
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