In this week’s blog as opposed to trying and failing to be funny I am going to try and fail to be sincere.
My name is James, I’m 22 years old, and I am dyspraxic. Typing that into Microsoft Word brought up the little red squiggle, it’s a word my spell-check doesn’t even understand, by way of experiment does it recognise the word “dyslexic”? Yes, it appears it does.
To be fair to the good people at Silicon Valley most people don’t know what dyspraxia is, yet statistically speaking you will know a dyspraxic person, you will most likely think of them as simply scatter-brained or clumsy.
Logging onto the Guardian’s website today – as a good liberal I not only read the Guardian but read it online to save trees – I saw an article that caught my eye. “Dyspraxia can be serious – it deserves more recognition.” Reading the comments I came across a few people talking about their children having been diagnosed as dyspraxic so I thought I’d maybe pen this to detail my own experiences.
Ever since I can remember I’ve just not been able to do certain things as well as other people, I learnt to walk late, I wore Velcro shoes to avoid the ignominy of attempting to tie my shoelaces into the neat little bows that adorned my classmate’s shoes. Thankfully American skate trainers – Vans, Etnies etc – are best worn with the laces tucked into the sides, cheers Tony Hawks.
I was in the bottom sets for everything at school, I wrote letters and numbers backwards, didn’t know right from left, couldn’t tell the time, was abysmal at sports, as you can imagine I felt as useful as the Pope at an orgy.
Fortunately when I was nine years old I had my IQ tested and came out considerably above average – I’m not going to brag by telling you what it is, but it’s definitely higher than 146, though unfortunately I’m no 148 guy – and it was decided that the combination of me being Mensa material but unable to tell the time was a sign that there was perhaps something wrong. After a few tests and meetings with a child psychologist I was diagnosed dyspraxic.
It was probably one of the best things to happen to me, I could now understand why I just couldn’t do some things. Why no matter how many times my woodwork teacher – Mr. Boon, a man of incomprehensible patience – told me to “measure twice and cut once” my pencil case always looked like MC Escher had designed. Why I will always be unable to play anything more complex than the opening bars of “Oh When The Saints” on the harmonica. It’s probably the last thing that irks me the most, as someone who adores music and truly believes it to be it’s actually the closest we will have in this world to magic, I think all musicians, even Coldplay, are magic. I don’t get how some combining an E sharp and an F can make me feel equally as elated as someone combining methylenedioxy and methylamphetamine is capable of. I would give anything to be able to master music, but, alas, it is beyond me. It is perhaps for that reason I think the episode of Futurama where Fry is determined to learn to holophone to impress Leela is so achingly sad.
But we must learn not to get hung up on our many weaknesses and instead make the most of what we can do, I happen to have a knack for reading and writing. The latter of which is helped by the wonder that is computers and keyboards which, when I press the “D” button produces a “d”, not a “b” as can happen when I am lumbered with pen and paper like some sort of pre-Gutenberg monk.
If you do suffer with dyspraxia you must do so with humour, with all the best coping methods in the world you are occasionally going to write that you sleep in a “deb” (which was even worse for me as that’s my mother’s name, giving the whole error rather Freudian undertones) or you might find yourself like me asked to explain to children via a whiteboard the difference between the political left and right, only to be informed that you have written “left” and “right” on the wrong sides and are going to have to re-draw that Hammer and Sickle on the correct side of the board. At times like that you really do have to laugh.
I am now happily in my third year of a history and English literature course at University which I enjoy greatly. And I am a broadly content and happy person (so long as I am not expected to give someone directions or kick a football in a vaguely straight line) so my simple message would be to anyone younger than me, if you are diagnosed with dyspraxia; it gets better! Honestly.
If you want proof of that fact read this article (warning, that link is to The Daily Mail online, don’t read if you are prone to irrational right-wing opinions) which covers an interview with Daniel Radcliffe where he reveals his own fight with dyspraxia. I’m pleased to see such a high profile star come out and say he’s not embarrassed by that, and neither should he be, though the voting for the Liberal Democrats stuff has come back to haunt him.
So there you are, Harry Potter’s got dyspraxia for God’s sake, and he defeated the most powerful dark wizard to have ever lived. Though watching those films again with knowledge of his condition I suspect that maybe the staircases at Hogwarts don’t change so much as maybe he’s totally incapable of travelling in such a large building and not getting lost, with or without the Marauder’s Map. Perhaps to really help raise awareness of the issue he should star in “Harry Potter and the Shoes on the Wrong Feet” in which Professor Flitwick asks his class to grip their wands with their right hand whilst the boy wizard makes an “L” shape to remind him which one that is.