The word “dyspraxia” was first used to describe my accident-prone nature at age 15, a few weeks before the start of my GCSE exams. I remember being as upset then as I was several days ago from being officially diagnosed with dyspraxia at the age of 19.
At 15, my “possible” dyspraxia was picked up due to falling over an unusual amount of times during a year 11 trip to New York City. This led to me being tested, through various questions and puzzles that assessed my phonological, motor, auditory, perceptual and verbal processing, as well as my English and mathematical skills. As a result of these tests, it was also found that I have the dyspraxic trait of “slow motor processing.” In response, I was given additional time for my GCSE exams, which (despite protest on my behalf) was very helpful in the end.
As I’ve said, from the very first mention of my “possible” dyspraxia, it was a bitter pill for me to swallow. Dyspraxia is defined as motor learning difficulty affecting an individual’s fine and gross motor skills, ability to socially interact, planning and co-ordination. No two individuals with dyspraxia experience the same difficulties or the same severity of symptoms.
At 15 I had poor coordination and below average fine motor skills. Other people I knew who had dyspraxia displayed it in different ways; the struggles they had were not the same as mine and I was unwilling to see my difficulties as dyspraxia. I was uneducated on the spectrum of dyspraxia and a hater of comparison, so I saw it as a label I didn’t want. I was worried that even though I had studied for my GCSEs every day since September (my assessment was in March), my dyspraxia would suddenly cause me to flunk every exam I would take.
Fortunately, the opposite was true. I achieved even higher grades than my predicted grades (all Ds), with a mixture of As, Bs and Cs in my GCSEs. This meant I could go on to study at my first choice and dream sixth form. At sixth form, I was again tested and given my additional time and rest breaks. I started four A levels and eventually only took two (due to my excessive social life rather than any additional needs)! In spite of my dyspraxia and newfound love for rosé, I hustled hard and achieved C and D in my two very content-heavy A level subjects. During my time at sixth form, I also passed my driving test on the first attempt. It was my target “learning time” of a year to the day since my first driving lesson in a manual car. During my driving lessons, I found ways to overcome my struggles with coordination, sequencing and spacial awareness, which are all part of my dyspraxia.
This meant I could enroll at a new college for my “fake gap year/extra year of college” BTEC in Applied (Biomedical) Science. You can probably tell by the way I wrote that, but doing an additional year of studying before university was yet another difference from my peers that I did not appreciate. In fact, it was another obstacle I saw at the time as a limitation to my success. In spite of this, I was recognized as being “one of the most hardworking and capable students this course has ever had” by my teachers and I am predicted to achieve the highest possible grade.
Another highlight of this year is that I was invited to interview to begin a BSc in paramedic science (Hons) by all the universities I applied to, and each interview resulted in an offer for a place on their course. I see this as one of my greatest achievements, as approximately 900 people apply for each paramedic course, 200 are interviewed and 50 students are given places.
As part of my preparations to begin my paramedic science degree at my first-choice university, I have acquired an official diagnosis last week. Despite openly admitting for the last three and a bit years that I was “probably dyspraxic,” recognizing the symptoms and expecting the result, seeing my diagnosis in black and white was not a joyful experience.
The last few days, I have accepted several truths. I am dyspraxic — it is a fact. It’s a fact in the same way that although I have bleached my hair for more years than I care to remember, I am in fact brunette! Actually accepting I am brunette has been a relief! My hairdresser is poorer for it, but I am happier being true to myself. These things are neither good or bad, they are simply characteristics of myself that are unchangeable. None of these facts define me, but they are all part of me.
Sure, dyspraxia affects me more than my hair color, but I now only see it as an obstacle to my success if I let it be. I recognize that throughout my life, some activities may need practice and that is OK. There is no longer an “us” and “them” with my fellow dyspraxics and non-dyspraxics. I believe whether we are aware of it or not, we all struggle in some aspect of life. All I have to do is turn on the news or scroll through the internet to realize there are far greater troubles affecting individuals than dyspraxia.
From now on, I am accepting and growing myself. I am achieving this through owning my dyspraxia as much as any other aspect of myself and counting my blessings. Most importantly, I am reminding myself of a truth I have always known but not always appreciated in full. My identity is not in my capabilities and achievements, it is in Christ. I believe he has made me the way he wishes and my dyspraxia is playing some role in his divine plan — and that’s the best diagnosis I could ever have!