Friday, 9 December 2011

Dyspraxia Assessment - and Confessions of a Dyspraxic

    Well, it's official - I have dyspraxia.

    For those of you that read this blog regularly, you'll probably be thinking "huh?", since I've already written about how I first learnt about dyspraxia at the age of 15 when a teacher at school told me (assuming I already knew) that he thought I had the condition.

    As a result, I've spent the last 15 years hearing that word, but not really understanding how that word / description / label actually affected me. Since I've opened up to learning about the subject - and meeting fellow dyspraxics - I have learnt so much about the condition and what it means to me.

    My assessment day was a couple of weeks ago and I came away buzzing from the experience. (You can find my blog about the day here - It was an intense - but incredibly worthwhile - day, especially because the final draft of the report landed in my postbox the other day. It was a strange mixture of emotions to hold the report in my hand, knowing that - for the first time in my life - someone had formally recognised my condition.

    I won't bore you with the entire report (it's over 20 pages long and a lot of it is personal to me in any case), but the paragraph that is the important bit is as follows: "Matthew has Development Coordination Disorder (Dypsraxia), which affects his balance, tactile discrimination, fine and gross motor skills and social interaction, as well as his sensory systems." Such an innocuous sentence, but one which boils down (extremely succinctly) the areas of my life that dyspraxia affects - and formalises my condition.

    I started this blog in August 2010 (although it doesn't seem that long ago), and wrote my first article about dyspraxia on October of the same year - it had taken me two months to work up the courage to "come out" as dyspraxic to the blogosphere, and that can be an anonymous enough place if a writer chooses (although my cover of Smithy has been pretty much blown out of the water with the publication of my first book, Fall From Grace!).

    Looking at it objectively, I'm not bothered about keeping my dyspraxia secret any more; it's a part of me and something to be accepted - unlike when I was a teenager and in my early twenties and embarrassed about the condition ... with a chip on both shoulders about it. Having an employer (in my late teens) who grossly over-reacted when I confided in them certainly didn't help my confidence - but my perspective has, thankfully, changed and relaxed in the last couple of years. I've learnt to accept that my dyspraxia is just part of me - and it's help make me the man I am today, which has helped to make me finally feel  comfortable in my own skin.

    Since I've accepted that this is who I am, and started acknowledging and facing the anxieties and physical issues I've got as part of the condition, my life has expanded and changed beyond measure - in a good way. 2011 has been an incredible year: I've changed jobs, turned 30 (okay, nothing I can do about that, to be fair - except "do a Joan Collins" and lie) and travelled more than I could have ever imagined a year ago. I've also had the good fortune to meet and make friends with fellow dyspraxics for the first time - and so many conversations where one or both of us say; "Wow, you do that as well? I thought it was just me!" Having dyspraxic friends really helps me feel I'm not alone in experiencing the effects of dyspraxia!

    All this - my blog, my friends (dyspraxic and non-dyspraxic alike) and family, my new experiences over the past year - have helped me to accept my condition and, whilst understanding that it's a part of me, that it doesn't control me. I control it.

    The report also has a number of appendices, talking about possible ways to tackle areas of your life that are affected by dyspraxia, and I'm carefully studying those. Why? Because getting that dyspraxia assessment isn't the end of my journey, not by a long shot. When I started this blog, it was partly to help me chronicle my acceptance of dyspraxia and to get an assessment, which I thought would bring my exploration to a close - well, you won't hear me say this often, but I was wrong. As I've developed and grown as a person, I've learnt that the assessment is just the beginning - I've got a lot of things to learn and develop, and the report will help me codify what to do first.

    Personally, I can't wait!

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