Clumsy child syndrome?
Those who suffer from dyspraxia, such as myself, often encounter stereotypes that our condition merely causes clumsiness, or “not being able to catch a ball”. Whilst these are indeed symptoms, the condition is actually a complex one concerning the interaction of the mind and the body. Dyspraxia, then, also causes the following:
- Not being able to catch a ball, throw a ball, kick a ball, hit a ball, sit, stand, walk, run, jump, skip, dance, balance, cycle, drive, play a musical instrument, play games requiring co-ordination, use a pen, use cutlery, use keys, use domestic tools, do craft work, deal with buttons or shoelaces, articulate… all of these issues have affected me at some stage in my life. None of them are trivial. All of them can lead to bullying as a child, which itself leads to depression and self-loathing. All of them contribute to a much worse quality of life as an adult.
- Not being able to understand times, dates, instructions that must be followed in order (e.g. recipes or directions), direction itself, left and right, speed, distance, weight, spatial relationships (from clumsiness to invasion of personal space), terrible short-term memory. These things mean that the dyspraxic often loses their possessions, and frequently gets lost themselves. When combined with the physical co-ordination issues mentioned above, this can make some activities (such as driving a car) near-impossible.
- Sensory processing disorder, painful over-sensitivity to heat, light, sound, and taste. This means that the dyspraxic is plagued by headaches in many environments, and will find most strong-tasting food disgusting. This, combined with the inability to perform many physical activities, can lead to severe social difficulties, a much degraded quality of life, and regular mental pain.
- Hypotonia, inability to build muscle strength, weak joints, constant fatigue, insomnia. These physical difficulties, as one might expect, do not help the aforementioned co-ordination issues when physical activities are involved, and the natural state of fatigue combines with the frequent headaches and depression to take away all of the dyspraxic’s energy and motivation.
- Social difficulties. A fussy eater who hates noise and can’t play sports is already at a disadvantage when it comes to peer-bonding, but dyspraxics also face natural difficulties when it comes to behaving in company. They are both shy and confrontational. They struggle with tact and team work. They are almost always the victims of bullying in early life, and prefer to spend time with younger children. Many dyspraxics may exhibit symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome.
You know what? I wish it just meant being clumsy. I’ve just listed problems with the interaction from the brain to the body (co-ordination in group 1), from the body to the brain (group 2 concerning conscious comprehension, group 3 concerning general sensory input), as well as issues with the mind (group 5) and the body (group 4) in general. Every single item mentioned is something which can make somebody suffer throughout their lifetime. Something which can ruin their quality of life. I, like many dyspraxics, exhibit almost all of these symptoms. I used to run bent forwards, and still struggle to play sports. I had nobody I considered a friend until I was about 13, and my earliest memories are of other infants laughing at me. I can only eat plain food, and I can only cook plain food. I get headaches every day. I must constantly drink water, wear light clothing, and live with the lights and heating off, or become dehydrated. I lack the co-ordination to operate a car, along with the sense of space and direction to drive anywhere in it. I spend most of my life wanting to sleep, I struggle to sleep, I struggle to wake up, I struggle to get dressed, I struggle to know what day it is. I struggle to do a hundred other tasks, which other people would find intuitive. All because of one condition - which most people have never even heard of.
Trivialising that as “clumsy child syndrome”, or “not being able to catch a ball”, is something I find more than a bit patronising. Mine is a serious condition, and one which has sucked much of the enjoyment out of my life. The least you can do is remember its name.
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