Dyspraxia – a Hidden Disability

In spite of numerous symptoms Dyspraxia is sometimes referred to as a hidden disability. This blog is my attempt to understand why we are not more aware of Dyspraxia and its effects.

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.

Adults and children with Dyspraxia struggle with everyday tasks that others manage easily. Physical movement, behaviour, social interactions and emotions can all be affected by the condition. Added to this some people feel anxious and depressed as a result of the difficulties that they experience. 

Dyspraxia is not very visible in the sense that you would not know a person has the condition by looking at them. Their intelligence would also be unaffected. Whilst Dyspraxia is becoming more widely known and better understood, adults who were not diagnosed as children may still be unaware of why they struggle in so many situations. 

People with Dyspraxia might try to hide their differences, adding to the lack of visibility. Rather than letting others see that ‘simple tasks’ such as doing up shoe laces, reading a map and following directions are beyond them, they might prefer to wear slip on shoes and avoid visiting places which they cannot find. 

Some people hide their condition by steering clear of compromising situations for example discussions, interviews and public speaking where they might suffer the embarrassment of struggling to express their thoughts coherently. 

The symptoms of Dyspraxia and their severity vary from person to person. Certain symptoms might become less challenging as individuals learn to adapt over time. A person with Dyspraxia is more likely than average to have other neuro-diverse conditions. Neuro-Diversity is an umbrella term which refers to conditions that affect literacy, numeracy, memory, organisation, concentration, behaviour, perception, listening, communication and social skills. Perhaps Dyspraxia is obscured by the variations and adaptations as well as overlaps with other conditions. 

At the same time it seems to me that many of the symptoms of Dyspraxia are noticeable and not very easy to hide. In the past Dyspraxia was called 'clumsy child syndrome'. It was evident that children with the condition are prone to tripping over and bumping into people and objects. This is due to poor spatial awareness, poor coordination and weak balance. Dyspraxia continues into adulthood although over time some people become better at managing their clumsiness. 

For some Dyspraxic people running and walking looks awkward due to poor integration of the right and left sides of the body. In my view it is probable that others do notice these traits because they are difficult to miss.

Social awkwardness can also be apparent. This can include misunderstanding what is being expressed due to literal thinking. With literal thinking it is also difficult to get jokes and therefore to react appropriately. People with Dyspraxia might mistakenly interrupt others in a conversation because it is hard to judge when someone has finished speaking, this is particularly challenging in groups.

In general, some of us are more accident prone than others, not everyone has a good sense of direction, or clear handwriting. Occasionally we might fumble with small motor movements such as inserting a key in the correct position and then manipulating it to unlock a door. In order for Dyspraxia to be recognised as a disability it is important to understand that it is distinguished by the level of difficulty and the number of areas affected.

It seems to me that whilst Dyspraxia is to some extent hidden, there are also many signs of its existence. I wonder whether it is sometimes missed because we might see an aspect of Dyspraxia, say a person finding it impossible to park their car between the two lines in a designated space, without realising that this is the symptom of a disability. Dyspraxia is within our sight but we do not always know what we are looking at.


Donna Gibson said...

An informative and awareness raising blog post Paula - thank you. I wonder outside of those affected by dyspraxia, how widely it is known? I was wracking my brain trying to think of when dyspraxia has come up in conversation with friends and family and I have to say I think only once. So my sense is of it being hidden both in terms of not being able to tell someone has it but also hidden (or at least less visible) from mainstream awareness. I'm going to re-post your blog on my FB page to try and circulate it further.

Paula Newman said...

Thanks very much for your comments Donna and for posting my blog on your FB page. I agree with you that Dyspraxia is hidden from mainstream awareness.

Anonymous said...

I have only just joined up the dots at age 45. Not clumsy and stupid. Dypraxic and Dyslexic. Keep raising awareness Paula.

Paula Newman said...

Dear Anonymous, thanks very much for sharing and for your encouragement. Paula

Anonymous said...

Hello, just wanted to mention, I loved this blog post.
It was practical. Keep on posting!

Paula Newman said...

Dear Anonymous, thank you very much for your response and for your encouragement. Paula