Dyspraxia Questions & Answers

I was diagnosed with dyspraxia while a student in the early noughts, having lived with increasingly unmanageable anxiety and depression from the age of sixteen. Later, after my brain and my first graduate job turned out to be somewhat incompatible, I wrote several articles about dyspraxia for the national press, became involved with the Dyspraxia Foundation, and began giving talks and workshops on dyspraxia across the country, everywhere from City boardrooms to community centres. I was additionally formally diagnosed with predominantly inattentive-type ADHD recently in my mid-thirties. I made dyspraxia and Neurodiversity part of my work because I wanted it to be something that would fit comfortably into everyday conversations, and, most importantly, because I wanted my experiences to help others. I’ve met people with dyspraxia from all sorts of backgrounds, through work related and unrelated to dyspraxia. I often receive moving and relatable emails from people wanting to know more about dyspraxia or share their experience of being dyspraxic. I read them all and try to respond to as many as I can. To try to help you, I’ve answered below some of the most common questions people ask about dyspraxia. Many answers to “Where can I get…?” questions will depend on your or your child’s age and where you live, but should give you some idea where to start.

– Maxine Roper, Genuine Copy.

 

Please note, while I can always empathise with people looking for advice, I can’t diagnose dyspraxia, give detailed individual support, or be responsible for information about dyspraxia on other websites. If you ask further questions or make comments, please be sensitive to the fact that this was written by a real person, with lived experience.

DYSPRAXIA FAQ
What is Dyspraxia/DCD?

Dyspraxia is a common, lifelong condition which affects motor coordination. It usually also affects visual-spatial skills, short-term memory and sensory processing. It can also affect speech, known as Verbal Dyspraxia. The preferred medical term is developmental coordination disorder, or DCD. It’s also sometimes described as a Specific Learning Difficulty/SpLD, or in connection with neurodiversity (see below). You can’t tell someone is dyspraxic just by looking at them, and if you don’t know they are, it might affect your impression of them at school, at home or at work. They might be very creative or clever in certain ways but find some normal daily physical tasks a lot harder than other people for no obvious reason. They might seem clumsy, awkward or forgetful, get lost easily, struggle to take things in sometimes, and seem to worry or get down a lot. Dyspraxia often occurs without being recognised alongside better-known conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism. About two-thirds of those diagnosed are men and boys, but women and girls are thought to be under-diagnosed. 

Why do you use the term Dyspraxia and not the medical term DCD?

Although the preferred medical term has been DCD for some time, dyspraxia is still much more widely understood. Some medical professionals believe that dyspraxia isn’t a helpful term. They argue that coordination and spatial difficulties should be diagnosed as DCD, while the associated non-motor difficulties should be diagnosed separately under conditions such as ADHD, autism, dyslexia or speech and language difficulties. Combined diagnoses are increasingly common. For the purposes of this FAQ, dyspraxia refers to someone with coordination and spatial difficulties, and common co-occurring difficulties around short-term memory, attention and communication.

What causes Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is thought to be influenced by the way neurotransmitters pass messages between the brain and the body. This is to do with how the brain develops and is not the same as “brain damage.” The exact cause is unknown, although it’s thought to be related to being born early or having a low birth weight. Dyspraxia and other neurological differences also appear to run in families, and some research supports this.

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity recognises that humans vary in the way they learn and process information, just as they do in characteristics like gender, sexuality and appearance. It is often used as a term for a family of conditions which affect thinking and learning in particular ways, creating an uneven or ‘spiky’ profile of profound strengths and challenges. Dyspraxia/DCD is an example. Others include autism, dyslexia, speech and language difficulties, ADHD and Tourettes Syndrome. These conditions are also sometimes called neurodivergent, neurocognitive or neurodevelopmental conditions, or Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs). They often co-occur and share secondary traits, particularly emotional and interpersonal effects. Devised by Australian social scientist Judy Singer in the 1990s, the term neurodiversity first became popular within the autism community, and has expanded with the rise of the internet and social media. Confusion and misinformation has led to a myth that the neurodiversity movement says there is no such thing as a disability and ignores or excludes people with high support needs. Neurodiversity is simply the idea that brain differences and biological differences are part of life, and should be understood. It is not a judgement on whether these differences are ‘good’/’bad’, ‘natural’/unnatural’. Like other minority groups, neurominorities have made vital contributions to society, which are often the result of the tenacity that comes from living with both profound challenges and profound strengths or interests. But neurodiversity doesn’t say that every neurominority person is a gifted genius; any more than celebrating the work of Alan Turing and acknowledging his sexuality means that all gay men are computer geniuses. The Neurodiversity model also doesn’t mean that all neurodevelopmental conditions are the same and we shouldn’t distinguish between them.

What's a Specific Learning Difficulty/SpLD?

A Specific Learning Difficulty or SpLD is a mainly UK term for a group of conditions which can affect specific aspects of thinking, learning and doing. This is different from a Global Learning Difficulty or a learning disability, which affects overall intellect. Dyspraxia is an example, of a Specific Learning Difficulty. Others include dyslexia, speech and language difficulties, and ADHD. Autism is not a learning difficulty or learning disability itself but often occurs alongside one or the other.

Does Dyspraxia 'count' as a disability?

Dyspraxia is a learning difficulty, as opposed to a learning disability. The two terms can be misleading and are often confused but they mean very different things. The learning disability charity Mencap have explained the difference. However, both learning difficulties and learning disabilities are protected characteristics under the Equality Act in the UK. This means someone with dyspraxia is entitled to refer to themselves as disabled, and it’s against the law to discriminate against someone because of their dyspraxia.

Is Dyspraxia on the autistic spectrum?

Dyspraxia is a separate condition which can occur with or without autism. It’s thought that about half of autistic people are also diagnosably dyspraxic, and about a quarter of people who are diagnosed with dyspraxia are also diagnosably autistic. Difficulties with coordination, processing speed, body awareness and spatial skills are common to both, especially in childhood. Because they’re likely to find many team sports and games more difficult, a dyspraxic person’s interests and relationships may be fewer and more intense than other people’s, similarly to autism. Dyspraxia combined with inattentive-type ADHD, in particular, can resemble autism closely. Which diagnoses or diagnoses you’re given will probably depend on to what extent your difficulties involve social situations and are specific to autism. The idea of the autistic spectrum itself is often misunderstood and the website The Art of Autism has a great webcomic to explain. In the past, labels such as Aspergers Syndrome, Kanner Autism, Atypical Autism, PDD-NOS and Non-Verbal Learning Disorder were used to describe different ways autism can present. These have now been replaced with a single diagnosis of autism. Someone on the autistic spectrum is autistic: There is no separate “mild autism” or “form of autism,” and no single trait means you are or aren’t autistic. If by asking this question you mean: “Will a dyspraxic person be like X?” or “Can a dyspraxic person do X?”  you’re probably asking the wrong question and you probably have more to understand about autism.

Is Dyspraxia the same as NVLD/DAMP?

Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) and DAMP (Disorder of Attention, Motor Skills and Perception) are terms dating back to the 1970s and 80s which are used in some countries to describe people who have a combination of dyspraxic, autistic and ADHD traits, leading to academic and social difficulties. NVLD is mainly used in the USA, and DAMP in Scandinavia, Japan and Australia. Both these labels are controversial and are not recognised as disabilities under the law. Supporters of NVLD, mainly in North America, argue it should be recognised as a condition in its own right, as children who struggle with motor skills and nonverbal reasoning are often under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed and given medication to manage anxiety or hyperactivity which doesn’t help their underlying problems. However, many NVLD and DAMP studies were carried out decades ago, when it was believed that neurodevelopmental conditions were due to brain damage. This is now widely disputed and seen as offensive. In the UK, someone with an NVLD or DAMP presentation is most likely to be given a combined diagnosis of either autism or ADHD with dyspraxia, depending on which two are present the most. In some rarer cases, all three are diagnosed.

Is Dyspraxia a mental health problem?

No, not in itself. However, a lack of understanding and support can lead to mental health problems. Many older dyspraxics, especially those with co-occurring conditions, have spent years on antidepressants or in and out of short-term counselling to treat symptoms of anxiety or depression, without addressing the underlying cause. Fears related to undiagnosed dyspraxic difficulties may be dismissed as hangups, or labelled as shyness, which can become self-fulfilling and make someone withdraw socially. Processing differences and a lack of spatial or body awareness can also lead to an unusual manner, such as standing too close or far away, or poor body and voice control. The more someone plays to their strengths, hides their weaknesses and so appears capable, the more unexplainable and frustrating their negative beliefs and low moods are to others. This then makes it more difficult to find the right help. Not all mental health problems are necessarily related to someone’s dyspraxia, and some people may feel their depression or anxiety is more severe than their dyspraxia can explain. But in many cases, they are clearly linked.

Are any physical health conditions linked to Dyspraxia?

There are believed to be links between dyspraxia and some physical health conditions. The evidence for this varies and it’s best to speak to a doctor or clinician.

What's the difference between 'mild' and 'severe' Dyspraxia?

There is no such thing as ‘mild’ or ‘high-functioning’ dyspraxia, any more than there is ‘mild’ diabetes. What people usually mean by it is that someone’s dyspraxia doesn’t seem noticeable, or that they can achieve things expected of most adults, such as doing well in exams, working, driving, having friends, owning a home and being in a long-term relationship. But whether someone with dyspraxia works or is married doesn’t necessarily tell you anything more about them than it does about anyone else. Functioning labels are problematic in a number of ways. The term ‘high functioning’ can be very dehumanising and make a person sound like a machine. The very nature of dyspraxia or neurodiversity means someone can appear very different depending on what they’re doing and who they’re with. Someone who seems very capable or ‘normal’ to you when you meet them may struggle a great deal in another situation. Someone well-qualified may still struggle to support themselves financially. Someone with a highly-paid job may still struggle with many daily tasks, or suffer from low self-esteem. The term ‘mild’ also says nothing about the effort someone may make or support they may need in order for their dyspraxia to appear ‘mild.’

How does Dyspraxia look different in adults to children?

A child’s diagnosis typically involves observing what the child can and can’t do. With age, many people learn to disguise or work around their difficulties. An adult diagnosis is more likely to highlight that many of someone’s difficulties are hidden, and many of their abilities are learned versus instinctive. A good way to measure dyspraxia in adults is to look for a pattern of tasks someone either avoids doing, has other people to do for them, or finds hard and tiring.

How is Dyspraxia different to Dyslexia, Autism or ADHD, and why does it matter?

They are all unique conditions which share some similarities but also important differences. To be diagnosed with dyspraxia/DCD, you need to have significant difficulties with, and linked to, physical coordination, beginning in childhood.  Motor, social and attentional problems go together often, but not always, and often not to the same extent. Someone with one of these conditions is more likely to be diagnosed with another, or have features of others. But you can also have one of them and be very good at something which someone with another of these conditions is more likely to find hard. Unlike someone with dyspraxia, some people with dyslexia, autism or ADHD have excellent coordination and visual-spatial skills. Dyspraxics typically excel at language skills, which is not necessarily true of other conditions. This is why the differences are also important. The most common difficulties linked to all the conditions are processing speed, short-term memory, sensory sensitivity (being sensitive to light, touch or noise) and emotional difficulties, like depression and anxiety. The diagnosis you get will depend on the pattern of your strengths and challenges, and how much they affect your life.

How do I know if Dyspraxia is the right diagnosis, and not something else?

Dyspraxia is the right diagnosis when poor motor skills and visual-spatial skills cause difficulties in education, at home or work, and in social situations. If there are other significant difficulties, a combined diagnosis might be appropriate. Neurological conditions can present similarly, overlap or occur together, and it’s normal to recognise traits of more than one in yourself or your child. Some physical disabilities or health conditions might also look similar to dyspraxia and a professional will want to rule these out first. If you’re not sure where you or your child need the most support, or think you might need support in more than one area, it’s a good idea to see a psychologist or neurologist with knowledge of a wide range of conditions if you can. You might want to think about:

  • What sorts of things are most difficult for you/your child at the moment?
  • Have you/your child always found these things difficult?
  • What sorts of things are you/is your child good at?
  • Has anything become easier or more difficult for you/your child over time?
  • Do all your/your child’s neurodiverse traits cause difficulties to the same extent, or do some need more/less support than others?
  • Do you think having multiple labels would help you/your child, or feel overwhelming?

The Do-It Neurodiversity App can identify traits of dyspraxia, dyslexia, language disorders, ADHD and autism in adults and young adults, using an interactive questionnaire. It costs £7.99 to download and is available from the App Store and Google Play. Support with the app is available through their website.

Why is Dyspraxia so ignored compared to other conditions?

There are several possible reasons for this:

  • Dyspraxia sounds like Dyslexia: Dyspraxia and dyslexia are often confused because they sound similar, even though the main strengths and challenges in both are typically the opposite. People with dyslexia sometimes use the term to mean both because it’s quicker and easier to write.
  • Co-occurrence: It’s now thought that many or most people with a neurodevelopmental condition have more than one. But until recently, professionals weren’t supposed to diagnose someone with more than one, and usually wouldn’t pick up on dyspraxia. This has sometimes led to dyspraxia being seen as part of other conditions rather than a condition in its own right. The diagnosis you get can sometimes depend more on the type of specialist you see than the difficulties you have. A good diagnostic assessment should always look at a wide range of co-occurring conditions, not just one or two.
  • Politics and funding: Funding structures have often encouraged support organisations to compete against each other based on how many symptoms and problems they can attribute to “their” condition. Again, this sometimes means dyspraxia is absorbed into other conditions rather than recognised as separate.
  • The need to belong: People naturally want to relate to others and recognise what they have in common, especially if they have a long history of feeling excluded and misunderstood. But the need to see ourselves in others can also result in not seeing important differences when we need to.
What does it help to know when meeting someone with dyspraxia or a neurological difference for the first time?

Some tips:

  • If possible, try to plan ahead and stick to the plan as far as you can Short-notice arrangements or last-minute changes can cause extra stress when meeting someone new. If your circumstances make planning and keeping to plans more difficult, let them know – and expect that they’ll do the same for you.
  • Try to meet at a sit-down venue, or have one in mind when you meet, rather than meeting on the street and trying to look for somewhere; especially if neither of you knows the area. It can be difficult to walk and talk, especially in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people.
  • Try to meet somewhere you can hear each other well and concentrate on the conversation preferably where there’s table service and it doesn’t take minutes to work out how to order.
  • Try not to rely too much on first impressions. Difficulties with spatial and body awareness might make someone seem a little physically awkward to you, especially at the beginning. They might feel uncomfortable being tactile with a stranger, so don’t force them to hug or kiss you hello if they don’t seem keen. Being dyspraxic or neurodiverse may also mean someone takes longer to take things in, especially in new or difficult situations. This might make someone seem withdrawn or tense, or they might listen and concentrate very carefully to overcompensate. They might also try and compensate by being highly animated and talking constantly. It’s most likely to happen when you first meet someone, or if you don’t see each other in person often.  Slow processing can also mean someone is tired or depressed, and if you notice other worrying signs, they may need help. But generally, the less you pick up on it, the quicker they’ll settle in.
  • If there’s a particular reason for the meeting, make sure it’s clear and be prepared to try to keep someone on the subject. They’re more likely to become distracted and go off on tangents, so if you have an important agenda, it’s important that they know and are reminded. They may also tend to communicate without knowing or being able to express what they want from an interaction, rather than the other way round. An open question like: “What do you want from this meeting?” might just be met with “I’m not sure…” Instead, try: “Would you like to discuss  [……]?” or:”I thought it would be helpful to talk about [….].”
  • Try not to talk to someone while they’re concentrating or doing something. Asking questions while they’re trying to do something else will affect the outcome of both; not in a good way.
  • Let someone use technology and gadgets to make their life (and yours) easier, without judgement. Yes, I do “rely on my phone” and “really need” Google Maps; just like someone with impaired hearing “relies on” their hearing aid or “really needs” subtitles. Assistive tech saves hours of time and stress; it’s not ‘cheating’. It’s not flawless, no tech is, but take my phone’s internal GPS over mine any day.
  • Be thoughtful over how you draw attention to someone whether it’s asking them to do something in front of an audience, putting them down, or making very direct observations about them. It’s fine to talk about dyspraxia, or ask questions, but there’s no need for you to comment on whether they “look it” or you’d “have guessed.” It’s not a dirty secret they’ve hidden from you, or a uniform they’ve put on for you. Much the same applies to anyone’s disability, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender presentation.
How do I tell people about my Dyspraxia?

How, when and whether you tell someone about your dyspraxia is up to you. Some people talk about it openly and often, some hardly ever.  Some people find alert cards or putting information in writing helpful, others prefer conversations. There is no right or wrong, as long as you respect that everyone is different. Many people get a diagnosis at important times in their lives, which can make it easier or harder. If you’ve recently been diagnosed, you may feel you have to keep it a secret from everyone when you shouldn’t have to. Or you may feel the need to talk about it with everyone you meet. Be aware not everyone will be sensitive or knowledgeable and this can be hard when you’re vulnerable. Online communities can be very helpful but it’s a good idea to give yourself time to get used to your diagnosis first before offering your experiences or opinions anywhere too public. Shortly after I was diagnosed in the early 2000s, I wrote an online review of a piece of work by a long-standing campaigner which caused great offence to some people and had to apologise: modern social media makes the potential for these situations even greater. If you’ve recently been diagnosed and are single, you might also find it helps to stay that way for a while, rather than finding yourself explaining it to every date. Be careful with taking or giving legal or employment advice,  as these are complex areas which can change quickly or vary in different situations.

How should I react when someone tells me they're Dyspraxic or have a neurological difference?

What to say 

The best way to react to someone is to focus on their feelings rather than your own, and to make them feel at ease, rather than overload them with questions:

“Thank you for telling me.” 

“That’s interesting to hear.” 

“I’m glad you felt you could tell me. I know it can be hard to share things.”

“If there’s ever anything I need to know to help you, let me know.” 

“Do you want to talk right now?” 

“You can always talk to me, or write to me.”

“I know we’re both very busy but I hope you know I care about you.”

“Do you need me to do anything, or just listen?” 

“I’d love to know more. Do send me any links or books that would be helpful to read/listen to?” 

“Have you spoken to anyone else about it? How did that go?” It’s useful to know whether or not they’ve told anyone you both know, or who you might get to know in future – especially if that includes people they know professionally. Even if you aren’t very close or have few people in common, it can be useful to have an idea of how open they are with other people in their life.

“Sorry, have I got this right…?” We all speak as we think sometimes. If you make someone uncomfortable, it’s not the end of the world. But they will appreciate you noticing and being thoughtful.

What not to say

The best ways not to react are focusing on your own feelings, or trying to come up with solutions if you’re not qualified to do so.

“Oh…”  *awkward pause* / “Oh God, I’m so sorry…!”  It’s not a tragedy. No-one has died or is going to. And never, ever say “If I were you, I’d kill myself” to any disabled person. (Yes, people do. A lot).

“So what?” / “Why are you telling me?” / “What’s that supposed to mean?”  You don’t need to pity someone, but being dismissive is rude and insulting.

“You don’t look it! / I’d never have guessed!” This isn’t a compliment.

“I’d never have guessed, I just thought you were a bit awkward…” This isn’t either.

“How long have you had it?” / How did you get it?” Neurodiversity is something you’re born with; not something you catch like a cold.

“Are you sure/sure it’s not [something else]…?” You can be sure anyone who is telling you this information has given this plenty of thought, and even if not, now is not the time.

“Is that like dyslexia?” See the questions above for more on the differences between different conditions.

“Is there a cure or treatment? / Have you tried…?”  It can’t be cured or treated. It can be supported. And you can bet that they’ve tried anything it’s taken you seconds to suggest.

“Is it caused by vaccines/medicines?” No, it isn’t. Dyspraxia isn’t a disease, and won’t kill you. Medicines and vaccinations prevent diseases, which can kill you.

“But you’re clever/good-looking/nice…!” None of these diminish anyone’s difficulties, and dyspraxia isn’t something you deserve for being unkind or unattractive.

“You’re so inspirational and brave!” This can sound very patronising. They’re not here to inspire you; they’re here to live, just like you are. If you want to be nice, give specific compliments, the way you would to any other person.

“Oh no! I was hoping we might get it on, but you’ve got some terrible disease…!” You may not say this, but people know when you’re thinking it. Not only is it insulting to the person you’re speaking to, but to disabled or ill people everywhere, who can and do find love like everyone else.

What to take care over 

“What do you want me to do/say?” They might not know this immediately. Rather than putting them on the spot, it’s best to encourage them to tell you more on a need-to-know basis.

“Is it caused by…?” It’s natural to ask this if you’re from a medical background. But we don’t really know what causes dyspraxia or neurodiversity, and there probably isn’t a single cause. Rather than the cause, it’s best to focus on someone’s strengths, and how you can help with their challenges.

“Oh, my ex had that…!” This might give the impression that the end of the relationship had something to do with dyspraxia. If it did, now is not a good time to say so.

“What do you get for that then?” Some children do get support (‘some’ being the operative word). Most adults have had very little, and the assumption they get support, or state benefits (let alone freebies and perks) is painfully annoying.

Questions about how and when someone was diagnosed. There’s nothing wrong with asking in itself, but depending on when and how you ask, it can come across as gatekeeping or not believing someone. Unlike autism and ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia in adults aren’t widely diagnosed on the NHS.

Making very direct or intimate observations about someone. People often pick up on something we do and want to know whether it’s “A dyspraxic thing” or not. Other neurodiverse people do this because they’re excited to recognise someone similar. I’ve probably done it myself. But bear in mind we may be particularly sensitive to people drawing attention to us, or pointing things out to us, and it can be uncomfortable, especially if you don’t really know someone. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should pretend not to notice while they step into oncoming traffic, or walk into a serious meeting with yoghurt on their face, but try to be gentle and tactful about it, and try not to interrupt someone.

I think someone I know might be Dyspraxic. What should I do?

It depends on your relationship with them, your qualifications and how well you think you can handle the reaction. They might feel confusion, anger, denial, gratitude or relief. They’re likely to feel many things all at once.

  • Decide whether you’re the best person to raise the subject. There might be others they’re likely to respond to better than you, or who would find the conversation easier than you.
  • Be honest with yourself about the outcome you want. Are you doing this because you want to help them, or mainly for yourself (to save your job, or to make you look powerful and important)?  If they are diagnosed, will you use that information to help them or harm them?
  • Name the condition, and be precise with your words. Be clear from the start that you’re talking about dyspraxia, and you think they’re dyspraxic. Throwing around vague insinuations about how it’s always been obvious there’s ‘something’ wrong with them is likely to be harmful.
  • Choose a quiet moment when you’re both alone and relaxed, and never mention it during an argument. It’s a lot to take in, so try not to bombard them or expect them to come up with answers quickly.
  • Try not to make them feel they’re being ganged up on or gossiped about. This is more likely to make them feel self-conscious, embarrassed or defensive. Don’t tell them you’ve spoken to your entire family, office or friendship group about your concerns, or go through a laundry list of dyspraxic traits everybody’s noticed about them.
  • If you’re a parent, try to focus your concerns around your child’s world, not yours. You might feel worried about them because of comments from other adults. But what your friends, strangers in shops, or future job interviewers, think of your child probably matters more to you than it does to your child. The attention they care about is not the attention you care about. A dyspraxic teenager who is told: “You’re so awkward! The hairdresser asked me if there was something wrong with you!” will probably answer: “Why should I care? She’s not my friend!”
  • Try not to dwell on a single, recent incident as being proof. Remember, everyone can have off-days or accidents. Many people perform less well under stress, and stress is normal at certain times of life. Dyspraxia is a lifelong pattern. If you mention one incident, they might say “So what?! I’ve had a lot on my plate!” Try to highlight that their difficulties are the same even when they aren’t stressed or unhappy. The more you keep coming back to the same incident, the more punitive it’ll feel.
  • Try to mention something you’ve seen online or in the media about dyspraxia and see if they relate to it. You could also print some written information and offer it to them, or offer to send them a link.
  • Send them an email or write them a letter if it’s easier. This will give you time and space to plan what you want to say, and them the time and space to respond. You could also ask them just to let you know briefly when they’ve read it and get back to you later in more detail if they want to.
  • Don’t just dwell on the negatives. You want them to feel you are helping them to understand themselves, not punishing them. Giving them some positive information about dyspraxia may help.
I think someone with Dyspraxia also has a co-occurring condition that's undiagnosed. What should I do?

As above, how or whether you should discuss it depends on your relationship with them. Don’t dismiss or ignore the diagnosis they already have, and don’t attach any other diagnosis to them without their consent. Dyspraxia is an under-recognised, under-supported condition, usually identified alongside better-known co-occurring conditions, or after they’ve been ruled out. It’s quite unlikely any adult would be given a primary diagnosis of dyspraxia unless it was solidly appropriate, or believe they were dyspraxic if they weren’t. Some people may decide that dyspraxia doesn’t fully explain their difficulties, and that a combined diagnosis will offer them more support. Others may recognise traits of co-occurring conditions but don’t feel these are their main difficulties or make as much difference to their lives as dyspraxia. Getting another diagnosis may be a big investment of time, money and energy which only the person involved can decide whether to make.

Is it really worth being diagnosed with Dyspraxia as an adult?

Knowing you’re dyspraxic as an adult can help to improve your relationships with others, and with yourself. It can help you understand why certain things might be more difficult for you than for other people, and to make sense of difficulties you may’ve had when you were younger. Adults often find their diagnosis useful for driving (and deciding when or whether to learn), managing their finances and workload, learning new skills (especially around the home), and becoming a parent. As demands on your time increase, being aware of your own strengths and challenges can help you decide which tasks to take on and which you may need support with, or are best left to others. 

What are the most common reasons for seeking an adult diagnosis?

People are diagnosed with dyspraxia at many different stages in their lives for different reasons.

Common and helpful reasons for getting a diagnosis can include:

  • Having always had the feeling you were ‘different,’ and dyspraxia most seems to explain why
  • Reaching a ‘ceiling’ in life where you feel your difficulties stop you living the life you want to
  • Wanting support at university or at work
  • Recognising dyspraxia in yourself after your child or someone you know is diagnosed. OR recognising that your child’s development is more typical than yours was and they don’t seem to struggle in ways you did
  • Helping you understand yourself better and be kinder to yourself
  • Wanting people close to you to understand you better
  • Being content with your life, but recognising you’ve had to overcome many difficulties to get there

Possible unhelpful reasons can include:

  • Being bullied or coerced into finding out ‘what’s wrong with you’
  • Thinking you’re not normal because of distorted beliefs about what the ‘norm’ is
  • Hoping it’ll bring someone closer to you, if that’s not what they want
  • Wanting to be known and understood by someone, more than they want to know and understand you
Why can it be difficult to get an adult Dyspraxia diagnosis on the NHS?

Many medical professionals who work with adults haven’t heard of dyspraxia, or wrongly believe children grow out of it. Secondly, and to put it bluntly, dyspraxia is not seen as a risk or an inconvenience to the public. People who make funding decisions care less about how it affects you and more about how it affects everyone else.

Where can I find more information about Dyspraxia in adulthood?

Although dyspraxia in adults has increasingly been recognised over the last decade, there is limited information and support, and even less available for free. The best place to find support and resources are online communities led by dyspraxic adults, including social media channels and the online magazine Dyspraxia and Life.

What helps someone with Dyspraxia? (And what doesn't help...?)

What helps varies from person to person. Whether something is a good or bad experience often depends on how it’s introduced and taught as much as the activity itself. It’s best to ask someone what they prefer (but don’t expect they’ll be able to tell you off their top of their head…) and assume you’ll never go wrong with a bit of empathy and patience. Some people swear by assistive technology, others love gadgets, many appreciate routines and prefer things to be explained to them in a certain way. Dyspraxia often becomes more apparent when a person is under stress. 

Could there ever be a cure for Dyspraxia? If there was, would you want one?

Dyspraxia isn’t an illness; it’s a part of who someone is which brings them certain advantages and certain problems, just like a person’s body type, or their hair colour. You can’t “cure” dyspraxia, any more than you can “cure” someone of their curly ginger hair.  People can change their size or hair colour just as they can manage the effects of their dyspraxia, but their genetic information will stay the same. In any case, it would be impossibly difficult to design a single cure, as it is a spectrum condition and a diagnosis is made up of many elements. For these reasons, many people with dyspraxia dislike being asked this question.

Is Dyspraxia a curse or a gift?

It’s best to avoid using this sort of language as it over-simplifies a very complicated and personal question. Dyspraxia should never be a curse, but for many it feels a long way from being a gift. For most it feels somewhere between the two.

Can people with Dyspraxia drive?

Usually, yes, if they want to (which not everybody does), and with plenty of time, money and patience (which not everybody has). If you’re not dyspraxic, and are confident enough to have learned to drive young and quickly, the most helpful thing you can do for everyone else is recognise that their experiences might be different. For many dyspraxics, driving is one of the greatest challenges of their lives and a huge emotional and financial commitment, rather than just something to have under their belt the moment they turn seventeen or get a job. Not being a driver doesn’t make someone sanctimonious, a freeloader, or less of an adult.

See also, “Where can I get…?” below.

Can you recommend a [.....] who's Dyspraxia-friendly?

Online forums or local groups are often the best places for service recommendations.

Should I send my Dyspraxic child to private school/pay for support?

As with everything in life, the more money you have, and the less your time is taken up with financial worries, the more advantages and choices you have. Expensive products, tutoring or schooling may help your child, or they may not. The cost of something may reflect the quality, or may reflect the belief that people are willing to pay for it. Price won’t guarantee results – knowledge of your child and their needs will go some way towards it.

What's the best [school/university/career] for someone with Dyspraxia?

There is no one place that will suit everyone, but any indication that the people in charge have an inclusive approach and understand hidden disability is a good start.

If most people with Dyspraxia are male, why do fewer men talk about it?

There is a wealth of evidence that men are less culturally conditioned to talk openly about anything to do with their health or their feelings, especially their mental health. Women also tend to put themselves forward out of frustration that dyspraxics are assumed to be men and boys. But men do talk about dyspraxia too.

Why would I want to employ someone who's Dyspraxic, when other people have the same skills and aren't?

Living with a pattern of particularly profound strengths and challenges can make people with dyspraxia particularly determined and loyal – great qualities for any employer. Knowing equally well how it feels to be good at something and how it feels to struggle can also give someone a unique and different perspective, which is important to society and helpful in many kinds of work. This can sometimes be what people are getting at when they describe dyspraxia or neurodiversity in terms of a positive, a gift or a “superpower.” 

Someone who winds people up for a living says Dyspraxia isn’t real. Will you argue with them?

People like this don’t deserve the satisfaction of an argument, about dyspraxia or about anything. Please ignore them and leave them to their equivalent of a pub rant in the equivalent of an empty pub.

I have a question or comment about the Dyspraxia Foundation. Can you help?

I can’t answer DF queries or speak for them as I’m no longer a Trustee, and not involved with the day-to-day running of the office.

Will you help me promote my helpful product to the Dyspraxia community?

I’m very happy to support businesses who want to help people with dyspraxia; whilst avoiding “miracle cures,” and products which are based on bad science.

How can I make my event more inclusive of Dyspraxia and other neurological differences?

Some suggestions:

  • Think carefully about what you hope to gain from having a particular speaker at your event, and what they might be doing, or not doing, in order to be there. Especially if they’re travelling a long way.
  • Don’t rely on speakers to find you other speakers, look for a venue, or promote your event on Twitter.
  • If you book a speaker a long time before an event, keep in contact with them at intervals beforehand. This helps build rapport and keep the event in mind.
  • However, try to avoid making speakers fill out a forest of forms.
  • If possible, give co-panelists the chance to meet each other and visit the venue informally beforehand.
  • Give speakers as much information as possible about the venue and the format of the event. A timetable or even a rough outline of what to expect helps.
  • Don’t assume all speakers or attendees will be driving to the event, or coming by car.
  • Try to let speakers know in advance if they’re expected to help with setting up the event (stewarding, fetching and carrying, admin, etc), rather than springing it on them. Not everyone’s great at giving directions, or likes having heavy expensive equipment put into their hands without warning…
  • Agree with speakers beforehand how you’re going to introduce them. If there are round-the-table introductions, ask for specifics to help people shape their responses, e.g: “Tell us your name and job title.” If you just ask people to “Tell us all a little bit about yourselves” you’ll get someone who just panics and blurts out that they have a cat called Snowy and a yeast infection.
  • Include some short breaks and give people time to mingle if they want to. But avoid too much waiting around and too many unstructured gatherings. No-one over 25 wants to feel like they’re at a stranger’s house party too early or late…
  • If there’s food at the event, make sure there’s enough room for people to sit down and eat it, or at least a table to set food and drink down. Standing and eating can be very uncomfortable for some.
  • Remember that audiences who are nervous and/or autistic may take questions or instructions literally. I once opened a workshop by asking a group what had brought them here today. As I should have realised they would, someone sincerely answered “The bus”.
  • Always let people leave or sit something out if they need to without drawing negative attention to them, and take care over role-play or “icebreaker” exercises. A game which seems like innocent fun, or a simple get-to-know-you question may set off something painful for someone. A break room or quiet room is a good idea.
  • Take people’s mics off as soon as they’ve finished speaking, and take their badges or lanyards from them before they leave.
  • Lots of events now use coloured sticker systems for attendees to convey information about themselves to other attendees. These are a great way to encourage conversation and reduce the stigma around potentially difficult subjects. However, it can be difficult for people to decide which category they fit into. Make sure you have colours for “None of the above” and “More than one of the above.”
  • Keep in touch after the event. It makes speakers feel valued and gives them the chance to offer feedback.
What are the emotional effects of Dyspraxia or other neurological differences?

The possible emotional effects of dyspraxia and other neurological differences are similar to any group which is in some way outside what society considers average or “the norm,” especially when someone has lived for a long time without recognition or support. They can have a strong need to be understood and to understand themselves, which might be hard to relate to if you’ve never felt like an outsider because of who you are. Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are common. Phobias, eating disorders, OCD and post-traumatic stress can co-exist too. People tend to present with vague negative feelings, rather than clear symptoms or reasons (mood swings, lacking in confidence, worrying too much, finding it hard to relate to others) which can make dyspraxia difficult to recognise. Because we also play to our strengths and are seen as bright and capable, our difficulties are more likely to be missed or dismissed. Common emotional reactions can include being highly self-critical and competitive, difficulty trusting our own version of events, withdrawing, acting out, overthinking or (particularly for women) over-pleasing. Over-pleasing can make someone a great friend, partner or colleague. It can also mean putting a lot of effort into one-sided relationships which offer little in return, and at worst are exploitative, or even abusive. We may feel drawn to people who seem to embody everything we aren’t, as reasons to hate who we are. Good emotional support for adults can mean working through these sorts of feelings and focusing on healthier relationships which are built around self-acceptance, rather than looking up to someone else. With life experience and the right support, self-awareness and emotional awareness can be among the most positive effects of dyspraxia.

Is there a link between Dyspraxia or neurological difference and sexual orientation?

There’s no recognised scientific evidence that you are more likely to be LGBT if you’re dyspraxic; or for what makes someone LGBT. It has been documented that autistic people are more likely to be transgender than the general population, but nobody knows why, it hasn’t been proven, and it’s not a reason to harm either group. Like any group of people who are used to being singled out, dyspraxic people are more likely to be aware of ways they are different, question who they are, and think of their identities as complex or fluid. Whether they’re dyspraxic or not, not everyone identifies with a sexual orientation from an early age, or in the same way all their lives. Some people may prefer never to label their sexuality at all, and can still be in a long-term relationship, or happily married – it doesn’t mean they’re confused or being dishonest. Sexual orientation labels have been used and discouraged in order to persecute people throughout history. Because of this, people have different opinions about them. Somone may identify strongly with a label someone else prefers not to use. Just like the words we use about disability, the way we talk about sexuality and gender changes over time. The best way to support someone with their sexuality or gender is to listen and give them space and time to understand themselves without judgement.

How do you know whether someone's behaviour is because of Dyspraxia or their personality?

Many people with dyspraxia and neurological differences want to know how much of their behaviour is because of dyspraxia and how much is their personality. You can’t separate dyspraxia from someone’s personality; it’s part of their personality. This doesn’t mean everything a person thinks or does is because of their dyspraxia. There are many other variations in our bodies and experiences in our lives which make us who we are.

I think someone with Dyspraxia might be depressed, what should I do?

The best support for depression or anxiety is professional help. But support from friends, family and others is important too. If you’re not a mental health professional, the best thing you can do for someone is to show you care rather than try to solve their problems: Listen to them, value them and what they’re good at, relate to them if you can, and learn about how dyspraxia and neurological differences can affect someone emotionally. The more you know about each others’ lives based on mutual openness, and the less you assume from limited interactions, the more helpful any advice you give is likely to be, and vice versa. If you don’t understand enough about the history or reasons behind someone’s lack of confidence or opportunities, it’s understandable to feel frustrated, but just telling them to be happier, or reminding them that there are bigger problems in the world, is unlikely to be helpful. Similarly, if they tend to be self-critical, making yourself into a role model may only encourage them to make unhealthy comparisons with you and make them more self-critical. It’s important to recognise that dyspraxia needs and deserves support just like any other condition. You wouldn’t tell a hearing-impaired person to count their blessings and look at some sunsets rather than using a hearing aid; don’t dismiss someone’s dyspraxia, or depression. If you’ve often found yourself in a carer or listener role in your relationships with others, you may want to reflect on why this is before getting involved, especially if they’re much younger than you. You shouldn’t be involved with anyone under 18 unless you teach them, work with them or know their family. If you work, volunteer with or teach young people, make sure you know the rules around safeguarding and appropriate boundaries, especially online.  If you have lived experience of mental health problems, always make sure you’re helping yourself as well as others.

My boyfriend hits me when he gets frustrated. He says it's his ADHD and Dyspraxia. What should I do?

Dyspraxia, or any other neurological difference, is NEVER a justification for violent or abusive behaviour. Someone with dyspraxia is no more likely to harm others than anyone else. This is domestic abuse, you don’t deserve it, and you don’t have to live with it. Please contact Refuge’s Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247 or visit refuge.org.uk. There is an “escape/hide website” button at the top of the page.

Someone I know has Dyspraxia and I find their problems frustrating. What should I do?

It’s understandable to have these feelings, but important to take care where and how you express them. If you’re frustrated because someone with dyspraxia finds something harder than you, are there ways to make it easier, or manage your expectations? What is it that you find frustrating? Growing up, we’re often taught to measure people’s worth by their ability to do certain things (or do them in a certain way, or by a certain age), and it can be worth thinking about how you might be influenced by these messages.

Someone who is dyspraxic or neurodiverse may have symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety, low mood, denial and rumination. This is normal, especially if someone is young and/or lacks support. The challenges of dyspraxia may make it harder to play to their strengths. They may tend to process thoughts and feelings more slowly, and need to put them into words to do this. If they seem self-absorbed, loaded with problems or they “overshare,” it’s often because they’d benefit from long-term therapy, coaching or mentoring they may not know exists, or be able to access. Rather than shaming them for their feelings, or for trying to understand themselves better, try to empathise with their difficulties and the lack of support. Reassurance-seeking can also be a sign of a mental health problem like OCD. If someone reaches a point where rumination becomes unhelpful, this may be the time to suggest they see a professional counsellor in order to move forward. If you can, in a non-judgemental way, try and point them towards someone who may be better able to help them. If you’re struggling with your own feelings, you may also find counselling or therapy helpful for yourself.

How you approach the situation also depends on your relationship with the person. If they’re part of your family, they’re unavoidably part of your life. In a romantic relationship, you don’t have to live with anything you don’t want to, whether it’s someone’s dyspraxia or their love of Bon Jovi. But you consider how ending the relationship will feel and do it as considerately as possible. If they’re a friend, or someone you only distantly know, you may have to make clear to someone what you want and don’t want from being involved with them. You should never be a substitute for a therapist, or put others’ health before your own. But by a certain age, most people – dyspraxic or not – will have been through problems in their lives and may talk about them. If you find this uncomfortable, a lot of relationships may seem uncomfortable to you. If you tend to fall into a carer role with others and are finding it challenging, it may be helpful to reflect on yourself and your own life as well as other people’s.

And no, violence or abuse is never acceptable either way round.

WHERE CAN I GET...?
A Dyspraxia diagnosis for my child

Children under sixteen are usually referred to a paediatrician, occupational therapist or physiotherapist.

A Dyspraxia diagnosis for myself or another adult

In the UK, students and adults are most likely to be diagnosed by a psychologist or neurologist at a specialist clinic, such as Dyspraxia UK. A private diagnosis typically costs between £500-£1,000, but the NHS may fund an assessment with Dyspraxia UK through your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). To apply for NHS funding, you’ll need a referral from a GP. Your GP is obliged to refer you; however, many aren’t aware of dyspraxia, particularly in adults. They may argue that a diagnosis isn’t necessary as you’ve achieved enough without one; or think you’re just struggling because of something else, like depression, so be prepared to emphasise how your difficulties are holding you back, and are related to dyspraxia. It’s a good idea to write down some examples of how dyspraxia has affected your life, and any treatments or assessments you’ve had for other conditions, such as anxiety or depression. If you’ve ever been diagnosed with a co-occurring condition, such as ADHD or dyslexia, or ever had any additional support at school, you should mention this too. If you’re working or self-employed, you may be able to cover the cost of an assessment through Access to Work, or, if you’re unemployed, through Turn2Us or JobCentre Plus. If you’re in higher education, your university or college may pay towards it.

Support for my Dyspraxic child

As so much depends on what’s available where you live, it is best to speak to other parents or professionals, such as teachers or Occupational Therapists, in your area. The Dyspraxia Foundation and the Dyscovery Centre run workshops, conferences and local groups which are useful for making contacts.

Parenting support as a Dyspraxic adult

There’s a supportive new Facebook group specifically for parents with dyspraxia. If you want to tell other people that it takes you seven thousand years to assemble a pushchair/build a toy aeroplane/get the children to sleep without being judged for it by the Cool Mums and Dads, this is the place to do it.

Help finding a job

People with dyspraxia often feel as if they are “caught between stools” when it comes to career advice or coaching. The most general advice doesn’t consider dyspraxia, whereas advice specifically aimed at dyspraxic or neurodiverse people might not be relevant to your industry. It can be most helpful to speak to people in your industry or with your interests who have dyspraxia. Genius Within offers specialist work coaching for people with dyspraxia and other neurological conditions; as do a number of independent work psychologists.

Support at work

To get support at work, you will usually have a workplace assessment or needs assessment. These are carried out under the government’s Access to Work scheme, by organisations which support people with disabilities in the workplace. The assessor will ask questions about what can be done to help you in your work, which can include physical adjustments or practical adjustments to your role. Adjust Services carries out assessments in London and the South East. They can also tell you what to expect from a workplace assessment.

Support at university or college

Your university or college should have a service for students with disabilities covering dyspraxia, as well as dyslexia, ADHD and autism. You should be entitled to Disabled Students Allowance, which can be used to claim for assistive technology and extra administrative support to help you on your course – they will be able to guide you through this.

Support learning to drive

The Dyspraxia Foundation, with the help of Genuine Copy, has produced a free factsheet about driving, available from their website. Some driving instructors specialise in pupils with neurological conditions. Try a Google search for your area, or visit Disability Driving Instructors, where you can search for specialist instructors by region. If you’re concerned about how dyspraxia or any condition, may affect your driving, you can arrange for an assessment through a Regional Driving Assessment Centre. There may be a waiting list of up to two years depending on where you live.

Legal advice

The Disability Law Service should be able to help.

Mental Health Support

Anxiety and depression can be long-term emotional consequences of dyspraxia, and can even create more barriers than dyspraxia itself; especially if dyspraxia isn’t recognised until later in life. Free or low-cost help for mental health is sadly quite scarce, and often designed to treat symptoms rather than causes. If a therapist lacks basic understanding of hidden disability or neurodiversity, too much therapy time may be spent trying to explain rather than feeling supported. The NHS in England offers free short-term therapy under a scheme known as Healthy Minds or IAPT, but waiting lists can be up to eighteen months for 6-12 sessions, and the quality of the service can vary greatly in different areas or at different times. You probably won’t qualify for long-term therapy on the NHS unless you have a severe mental health condition unrelated to dyspraxia, such as bipolar or schizophrenia; or a co-occurring condition such as OCD, post-traumatic stress or an eating disorder. However, finding the right support is possible. The best places to start are through your employer if you work for a large organisation, through your university or college if you’re a student, or through local services, such as Mind branches and small charities. Number 22 offers free, unlimited counselling in the Thames Valley and many regions will have something similar – it’s best to Google or, if you can, ask around, as they may limit their advertising to limit demand. Private therapists can cost anything from £40 to £400 an hour, and being more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean a therapist will be better for you. However, many private therapists offer some sessions for free or at reduced rates for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it; either directly or through charities or agencies they do pro bono work with. Some also offer online sessions via Skype or FaceTime. When choosing a therapist, always check they’re a member  of a professional body such as BACP, The British Psychological Society or the Royal College of Psychiatrists. You may also like to start by asking what experience they have in working with disabled or neurodiverse clients. Groops in North London is a paid face-to-face and online counselling service specialising in the emotional effects of dyslexia and other neurodivergent conditions, including dyspraxia. They offer some concessions for those on low incomes. If you can’t find a dyspraxia specialist near you, a dyslexia, autism or ADHD specialist may be the next best thing, as many of the emotional effects can be similar. You can search for a qualified therapist at The Counselling Directory or through the BACP website, and also search by region, or specialism. If you’re offered counselling through an organisation and don’t find it helpful, it’s always worth asking for another counsellor. If you’re thinking of harming yourself, please read this, see this list of crisis services, or click “I need urgent help” at the top of that page.

Mental Health Support other than therapy or medication

There’s no shame in either, and no substitute for either. But lots of other things can also help. Some simple suggestions can include finding a type of exercise or a hobby you enjoy, trying something new in a supportive environment, limiting your exposure to nastiness online, meeting people with similar experiences, and being aware of your reasons and expectations when interacting with others. Be careful around people who are interested in your problems but either haven’t experienced, or won’t acknowledge, any of their own, especially if they have a pattern of getting close to vulnerable people. They may encourage you to over-depend on them and resent you for it later. You can more easily end up on either side of this kind of relationship if you don’t have the right support from a professional.

DYSPRAXIA MYTHS & MISCONCEPTIONS
"Dyspraxia is made up. We didn't have things like that in my day."

All conditions are “made up.” Four hundred years ago nobody died from throat cancer or septicaemia – that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. Before there were words for illnesses, or medical records, a lot of people died or lived very uncomfortable lives without anybody knowing why. This is not something to be nostalgic about.

"Anyone will get a diagnosis if they pay for it."

Doctors and neurologists don’t work on commission. Paying for an assessment only raises the likelihood of being seen more quickly and by the most appropriate specialist; it doesn’t guarantee a result. No professional will make a diagnosis or even carry out an assessment without solid grounds. The reason most people who pay for a diagnosis get one is that most people don’t pay a lot of money for something unless they’re confident it’s the right thing to do. Being suspected, screened or referred for an assessment is also not the same thing as being diagnosed. While inappropriate referrals might be more likely among certain groups (such as ADHD for young boys), neurodiversity as a whole is often under-recognised.

"You don't need a label! We're all just people!"

“Why call yourself Italian? We’re all just people!” “Why say ‘tomato?’ It’s all just food!” Labels give us information and help us understand the world around us. Not every label is helpful or kind, but that doesn’t mean we should never label anything. ‘Italian’ is a label. ‘Tomato’ is a label. Calling someone Italian isn’t insulting to Italians, it just lets us know where they’re from. Calling a tomato a tomato doesn’t mean there’s anything bad about tomatoes, it just lets us know what we’re buying. Tomatoes taste great in a spaghetti bolognese and not so great in a trifle. Similarly, some people do brilliantly in some situations and less well in others. Self-awareness and support can help them to manage those more difficult situations. Labels can help us understand ourselves and others, just as they help us when we go shopping.

"It's not my job to understand these things!"

It’s not my job to put out fires, but if I saw a man on fire outside my office, this probably wouldn’t be my opening gambit.

If you’re a teacher, manager or leader of any kind, it is your job to understand, motivate and care about other people. If you don’t think it is, then please do not be one.

"Kids grow out of it."

You don’t “grow out” of being dyspraxic, and the way people are affected changes over time. Many skills can be improved with practice, but someone will always have the same underlying pattern of strengths and challenges. More than most, people with dyspraxia will have to balance the amount of effort needed to learn a new skill against how necessary it is to their lives, how much support is available, and how much time or money they can spare towards it. This can especially be true of learning to drive.

"It's just an excuse for doing badly at school"

Most people with dyspraxia are of average or above-average ability. Many do well academically in their stronger subjects, and go to good universities. Dyspraxia and other neurodiverse conditions are an explanation for uneven ability, which is very different from low ability.

"It's used as an excuse for bad behaviour"

Contrary to popular belief, most children and adults with neurological differences don’t see this as a licence to behave badly. In fact, most generally want to be liked and are deeply anxious not to upset people. Being eager to please can sometimes make someone vulnerable to exploitation, and they may misbehave to gain validation and approval. Being clumsy, or avoiding potentially difficult tasks, can also sometimes be misread as bad behaviour or carelessness and cause great distress. Sometimes when a person with dyspraxia lacks recognition and support, they behave badly due to frustration. With the right support, children with challenging behaviour can improve as adults. Conversely, an unsupported child who behaves well but struggles may turn to problematic behaviour as an adult, especially if they are in a work environment where aggression, dishonesty and excess are the norm. This can help to explain behaviour, without excusing unaddressed patterns of bad behaviour.

"Trivial/Trendy/Attention-seeking..."

The consequences of a lack of support are far from trendy or trivial. And there are many far better, more enjoyable ways to get attention than dyspraxia.

"A way of making money..."

Special Education as a whole is big business, and some companies involved undeniably exploit people – particularly parents of young children – for profit. However, the bulk of the community is made up of volunteers and people on modest-to-low incomes: often parents who have put aside careers to care for their disabled children. Most well-off people who put a lot of their money into it do so for good honest reasons, and no-one in the world is rolling in notes specifically because of doing work related to dyspraxia.

"One of those American things..."

Far from it. Dyspraxia is minimally recognised in America and usually diagnosed as ADHD and/or Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). For more information about dyspraxia in the US, see Dyspraxia USA and this excellent article for Bustle Magazine by a British journalist based in New York.

"Middle-class..."

Dyspraxia affects people from all backgrounds and in all societies; not just those who tend to lead the conversation. People from poorer backgrounds with dyspraxia often experience the worst effects, as they’re likely to struggle in menial jobs, but also most likely to lack the qualifications, networks and financial safety net required for types of work which would suit them better. People from more well-off backgrounds and/or who are better educated may be more likely to be diagnosed with dyspraxia, as with many conditions, because their difficulties are less likely to be blamed on their background, because they’re taught to expect more from life, and because of social perfectionism. Social perfectionism means your self-worth is strongly linked to certain achievements or roles in your life, such as your qualifications, career or relationships. Higher rates of social perfectionism, particularly among men, are also associated with an increased risk of mental health problems and suicide.

"We're all a bit like that!" / "You've either got 'it' or you haven't!"

These blanket statements are both misleading and dismiss many people’s experiences. Everyone can be ‘a bit like that’ sometimes but dyspraxia is a pattern of traits and difficulties which affect people throughout their lives. Dyspraxic traits exist on a scale, like height. In the same way as being tall or short, there is no red line which separates neurodivergent from neurotypical, or dyspraxic from not dyspraxic. But just as some people are widely considered tall or short, some people are widely considered to be well-coordinated and some aren’t, and those who aren’t might need support. You can have significant traits of dyspraxia, and/or other co-occurring conditions, without meeting the threshold for a full diagnosis.

“There’s nothing bad about Dyspraxia, it’s never held me back!” / “There’s nothing good about Dyspraxia, I hate my life!”

You’re entitled to describe your own experiences any way you want to, but be aware other people’s may be different, and many people don’t find these extreme positions helpful.

"If you know you're Dyspraxic, why do you need help?"

This is like saying: “But you know you’ve got breasts, why do you need a mammogram?”  or “You’ve been told you’ve got cancer, what more do you want?!” 

"You've got so much going for you in life, how can you think you have problems!?"

A person’s attributes or achievements don’t just cancel out the challenges of dyspraxia, and may even sometimes add to them. The more able and advantaged someone is or appears, the more may be expected of them and the more they may have to over-compensate for their difficulties. Being well-qualified, conventionally attractive or from a loving family are less helpful if something else creates a barrier. Many people with dyspraxia, as with other disabilities, are talented and well-qualified but lack the support to make the most of this. Being dyspraxic or neurodiverse can also make someone vulnerable socially because both their weaknesses and strengths can be seen by others as a threat.

"My niece is Dyspraxic, but different to you..."

My mum’s a woman, but different to your mum…