Dyspraxia – Cure or no Cure?

If you had a condition that wasn’t well-understood, as well as mostly ignored and leaving you struggling to find your place in a world that was confusing and odd, would you want a cure for that condition? If scientists developed such a cure, would you take it?

My dyspraxia is often misunderstood, not least of all by me, so I can appreciate how misunderstandings from others easily happen. Sometimes, people don’t appreciate why I think or act in a particular way, or why I sometimes fail to respond to situations in the accepted way. Raising the profile of dyspraxia would help no end. Medication wouldn’t help, just as removing dyspraxia from the world wouldn’t do any good; we would lose creative, flexible thinkers, and gain more additions to the status quo of thought and behaviour.

Would it be easier if I didn’t have the condition, in a society that can’t accommodate me? Sometimes.

Would I swallow that pill to make it go away? No.

For years, I struggled with the concept of “normality.” I went through the same teenage angst as every other teenager; Why don’t I fit into the cool groups? How could I fit in? How could I just be normal? It didn’t help that I didn’t know what normal was, not realising that no-one else did either.

As a teenager, I often felt like a stranger in my own skin. I was looking in at everyone else following a set of mostly unspoken rules that I never quite understood. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learnt more about those rules – mostly through making a lot of mistakes along the way – and can now blend in.

That in itself can cause problems; people see dyspraxics nearly blending in, and forget that there’s a difference in the first place because we “look normal.” People don’t understand the effort it can take to project that image. The things that are natural to everyone else – body language, expressions, emotions – often feel forced to me, and I have to make sure I’m focused to interpret what people are saying and then work out how to respond. It’s a big deal, believe me.

There are occasions when I’m tempted to wear a badge declaring my dyspraxia to the world, but my rational brain quickly takes over.

The Two Dyspraxics, which my wonderful pal Barbara Neill and I founded a few years ago, want to bring dyspraxia out of the closet. The condition needs to be normalised and accepted as a normal part of life. To a lot of dyspraxics, that’s a huge part of what we seek; to be accepted and understood. I’m an averagely intelligent, rational adult; I want to be treated with acceptance and normality, not with pills. Rather than trying to “cure” me, why don’t we look at understanding, acceptance, and appreciating our differences?

Dyspraxia is part of my genetic makeup. It’s helped shape me into the person I am, and I’m comfortable in my own skin at last. I’m determined to make neuro-typical people more aware of the condition, and I also want to encourage people with dyspraxia to feel proud of who they are.

Never, ever feel pressured to change.

8 comments

  • Karen Morley  

    Matthew,
    You are not only clear and concise, but Eloquent in your discription…
    I have re posted this as I know several people with children facing several of the same challenges…
    Thank you for your insight and willingness to be so open…

    • MM  

      Karen – how lovely to hear from you, thank you, and what kind words.

  • Helen  

    I had a lump in my throat reading this. One of the characteristics of dyspraxia is that you often cannot articulate your thoughts clearly enough for neurotypical people to understand your meaning, so by default it makes it hard to explain you are dyspraxic! But you summed it up perfectly. Thankyou so much. 🙂

    • admin  

      Helen – lovely to hear from you, and what a lovely feeling to know that there are other people out there like me 🙂 Hope you are doing well, and come say hello on The Two Dyspraxics’ Facebook or Youtube channels when you get five minutes!

  • Ian Walshaw  

    About a year ago someone said to me “Oh my god, dyspraxia sounds like dementia or a stroke”.

    This got me thinking. What if prior to our birth we had experienced some kind of brain injury. Not through the fault of our parents, maybe we had a stroke or something in the womb. Then when we are born our lives become like occupational therapy. The more we engage in our occupational therapy the better we become.

    A few years ago I was somewhere called the DORE institute with my daughter who is also dyspraxic. She was doing a series of exercises and assessments which were geared towards disorientating and confusing her. Apparently they had amazing success with dyslexics and dyspraxics. She had to balance on wobble boards, spin round and focus on the same spot on the wall etc. There were literally hundred of exercises. We were told that one of us had clearly passed this on to our children. In my case it was me. I was talking to one of the other dads and he was saying he had also passed it on and although he knew he was dyspraxic he was not unduly bothered by it. I had also found the same, it does affect me but it is not all consuming. I did have the luxury I suppose of not being diagnosed until I was 40.

    He asked what I did for a living and at that time I was a police officer. He was an army helicopter pilot (Imagine that a dyspraxic coordinating both arms and legs at the same time to fly a helicopter). He asked me what I used to do as a child for hobbies etc. I told him I used to do martial arts. He told me he had been on the local gymnastics team. He had a theory that we had accidentally found our own brain injury occupational therapy.

    I swapped my daughter from DORE to judo. She came on in leaps and bounds. I would say she is more dyspraxic than me but she comes from a playstation age and has not had the same degree of self induced occupational therapy as me.

    I do fear for the children who are wrapped up in cotton wool or whose parents believe their kids have life sentence. I am a great believer in neuroplasticity which is a new study of how the brain can change and regenerate.

    I am greatly influenced by the story of Pedro Bach-y-Rita.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2003/jun/feattongue

    Also the work of Michael Merzenich

    http://www.brainhq.com/why-brainhq/world-class-science/dr-michael-merzenich

    It is my belief that the degree of our dyspraxia is determined by our accidental occupational therapy. To that end over the years I have engaged in structured occupational therapy. I have taken up African drumming, weight training, Thai Boxing, Judo at the moment I am trying to learn to juggle a 3 ball cascade and when i was a kid i used to do needlework!

    Barbara is also correct about hypnosis being a help. I also believe that some of our problems are dyspraxia based and some of our problems are problems that anyone would experience if they always anticipated something was sure to go wrong. To that end hypnosis and visualising positive outcomes is invaluable for dyspraxics. There is a saying in the hypno world that where attention goes energy flows. If you think you are going to fall over, make a fool of yourself, have a panic attack etc then you massively increase your chances of that occurring. Not for any mystical reason but just because of basic psychology. As such I believe that 50% of our problem is dyspraxia and the other 50% is badly managed thinking.

    Cure, no. I would never say never as we don’t know what is around the corner with stem cell research. Even if we were cured we would still be the sum of our experiences and our thinking so I am not sure it would change us. But it might change our very young children.

    So finally. It is my opinion that dyspraxia is what you make it. Wrap kids in cotton wool they will pay the price. Sit in your room sulking about how unfair life is then you will pay the price. Get out there, challenge yourself, do stuff that makes your head hurt through sheer concentration then there is a high likelihood through the natural process of neuroplasticity that you will reverse some of the physical and emotional effects dyspraxia has on your life.

    • admin  

      YES!! Yes to all of this, Ian; what a wonderfully insightful, well-considered reply. It’s like you’ve read my mind precisely. I couldn’t agree more with you.

  • Barbara Neill  

    It will probably come as no surprise to discover that I agree, totally, with every word you’ve said.

    I especially like the term “normalise dyspraxia” because, of course, it is absolutely normal. It’s normal for me, it’s normal for you and it’s normal for everyone else who has dyspraxia. We are not the ones with the problem. It is those people who refuse to be open enough to accept that we all have our differences, who have the problem. Rather than trying to make us fit into a mould that was not made for us, it makes far more sense for people to open their eyes to the fact that we are all different. Imagine how scary it would be to suddenly not be dyspraxic. I wouldn’t like it one bit.

  • Jo Jenner  

    So true. All of life’s experiences make us the people we are today. I personally wouldn’t change any of the mistake I made as a young adult as they made me stronger and more aware.
    I am fortunate not to suffer from any major types of medical conditions but people often say ‘oh it’s just Jo’ so I know how people can come to expect you to act in a certain way. Those who know and love me, know my nuances make me the person I am, other people think I’m odd.
    I’d rather be me than the person think I should be.
    Being different is great and is there really any such thing as Normal any more?

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