Physical co-ordination, like too many things, has never been my strong point. This may have been obvious on my grandad‘s video of three year old me at Kindergarten in Taiwan, just sitting on a tricycle, fiddling with the parts but not zooming around the room with my peers. Or maybe later on, when Mum signed me up for ballet classes to improve my physical skills, only to spend weeks teaching me how to skip. Step, and hop, and repeat…
Actually, I’ve pretty much alluded to my dyspraxic tendencies here. Sport at school was my own hell on earth. Picture it: being surrounded by a field of people who may or may not be on your side running everywhere, shouting all at once, and a ball that you are supposed to be running after and moving in a certain direction, while being scolded for being so slow. Yes, it seems I am dyspraxic.
In general, I’m not a fan of self diagnosis. But most people on the autistic spectrum have dyspraxia. And my gross motor co-ordination* skills have always been sub average.
Which is basically what dyspraxia is. And when you already have to stretch your brain extra hard just to be nearly as socially skilled as most people, it can be a bummer to put up with. I didn’t learn to swim until I was nine. I needed parental help with learning to catch a ball. And there are some skills I never mastered: cycling, skipping with a rope, and walking on slippery surfaces.
By adulthood, if not adolescence, it often becomes less obvious. But even then, you may be aware of little ways in which you struggle. Like balancing. Or multitasking – yes, even if you are a woman! One thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to be slower on stairs (except the ones at home), especially when walking down. I can often make myself go faster, but it requires concentration.
Plus physical work. I spent my sixth form years (age 16 – 18) at Brooksby College studying animal care. This was a very hands-on course, 40% of which comprised farm practicals. Checking up on the new kittens was my favourite part. Trying to herd stampeding pigs or sheep into a confined space without getting laughed at by certain other students wasn’t. Similar to the dogs at a kennel and cattery I volunteered at. I put up with my boss yelling at me for two years before I decided I’d had enough.
I realise I’ve given a rather negative overview of dyspraxia. Truth be told, I’m just trying to explain how frustrating it can be, and to give others on the spectrum something to relate to. Besides, when I’m not wallowing in self-doubt, I know what I’m good at. I’m studious, physically fit, a careful thinker, detailed writer, and – despite the dyspraxia – a moderately competent violinist. Just not a dancer, footballer, acrobat or farmer. We all have limitations, but don’t let them stop you from recognising your talents.
Oh and I can also skip. Almost forgot that one.