People with dyspraxia struggle with everyday tasks that others manage easily. The difficulties and their severity vary from person to person. Dyspraxia is becoming more widely known and better understood, however because it is not physically visible and some people try to hide their condition the challenges and emotional effects can be underestimated. Adults who were not diagnosed as children may still be unaware of the reason for their difficulties.
In my first blog I will talk about dyspraxia and its effects. These include practical problems, social difficulties and emotional impact. Part two will follow. Here I will discuss counselling issues associated with dyspraxia and why I consider my person-centred counselling approach to be especially helpful.
People with dyspraxia can have additional neuro-diverse conditions. Neuro-diversity is an umbrella term. It refers to conditions which can cause difficulties with literacy, numeracy, memory, organisation, concentration, perception, listening, communication and social skills. In part three, I will describe these conditions and provide information about supportive organisations.
Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder. Whilst the exact causes of dyspraxia are not yet fully understood, it is thought that parts of the motor cortex in the brain are immature and consequently messages to the body are not sent out in an efficient manner. Developmental dyspraxia is present from birth.
In the past Dyspraxia was called 'clumsy child syndrome'. Poor spatial awareness, poor coordination and weak balance all contribute to physical clumsiness.
With poor spatial awareness it is difficult to judge the location of objects in relation to one’s own body. Poor coordination affects the way a person moves their body, for example there might be a lack of harmony when walking and running. Weak balance reduces the ability to be physically steady and stable. For these reasons Dyspraxics are prone to tripping over and bumping into people and objects.
People who are not affected by dyspraxia can walk along a street beside another person. They can chat whilst also being aware of their surroundings. This tends to be too much for someone with dyspraxia. Whilst concentrating upon the conversation they may trip over or bump into someone.
Walking with a group of people is even more difficult. It is harder to see where one is going and to have a sense of trees and lamp-posts lying ahead. Added to all this is the challenge of concentrating upon and contributing to a conversation.
Clumsiness can have all sorts of unpleasant and dangerous consequences. These include physical injury and social awkwardness. It can affect confidence and self-esteem and there might be laughter at one’s expense.
Coordination and balance
Sports that require coordination, balance and judging distance are challenging. Riding a bicycle requires all three. At school and socially dyspraxic children often find that they are unable to participate with their peers.
Judging the speed and distance of traffic can also be an effect of poor coordinaton. This can be difficult both as a pedestrian and as a driver and might limit independence and opportunities.
Small motor skills
Writing clearly, manipulating tools, managing gadgets, tying shoe laces and, unlocking a door can all be problematic. Copying from a whiteboard or screen requires a combination of reading, memory and hand eye coordination. Education and independent living can be affected. Other people’s attitudes and one’s own feelings might also be issues.
Going anywhere, even locally without getting lost
For some people with Dyspraxia finding new locations is very challenging due to problems with map reading and following instructions. Furthermore, familiar routes can be forgotten if they have not been used for a few weeks. At night when it is dark everything looks different which can cause anxiety and confusion. This difficulty can limit life choices, for example when seeking work.
Expressing thoughts clearly
There can be difficulties both in forming ideas and in articulating them. During a conversation key words may be forgotten and this can be socially embarrassing. Situations such as public speaking and interviews are particularly challenging.
Organization helps us to keep our lives in order. People with dyspraxia can experience problems organizing a room, managing finances, arranging their material when studying and working and more. Some people find it hard to organize their thoughts.
Recognizing familiar faces and voices
This can be especially difficult when seeing someone in an unusual context. Dyspraxics can feel embarrassed socially and they might offend other people unintentionally. It is helpful to be told who is calling at the beginning of a telephone conversation.
“As a child I frequently bumped into things and tripped over. The other children laughed so I pretended that I was being clumsy on purpose. That way we laughed together”. A woman remembers
“I see other people accomplishing ‘simple’ tasks which I cannot manage and I realise that however hard I try, others will constantly surpass me in many areas of life”. An adult dyspraxic