Life with dyspraxia isn’t that bad

Gemma Conlin

When I was originally diagnosed with dyspraxia, it made a lot of things make sense about my life but it also made me feel stupid. All my life I was taught that intelligence was the most important thing and by having a learning difference, it made me dumb. However, something that my assessor said made me rethink this;

What’s your gift?

This small phrase made me rethink my whole attitude towards dyspraxia. I started to look at the positive influences that dyspraxia has had on my life and how it has shaped who I am. So I thought about my gifts and realised that three of them are thanks to my dyspraxia:


1. The ability to think differently

Going back to sixth form, I remember having to draw a picture to represent the word ‘hegemony’. All the other people in my class drew something being controlled such as a puppet whereas I drew money being sucked in by a hedge. When everyone placed their picture on the table, I felt so different and someone asked “why would you draw that when it’s about control?” It wasn’t a mean comment, it was just an observation but it reinforced in my mind that I was different to everyone else. To me, it made sense as hegemony was about economic control, which is why the money was being sucked in as well as providing a play on words that I would easily remember. But to others, it didn’t make sense and it made me realise that people seemed to think differently to me. I’m not saying that everyone else thinks the same but I always seemed to think more outside the box than other people. This made me feel different when I was younger but now I see this ability for the brilliant gift that it is. Thinking differently has helped me in all parts of my life and I’m sure it will benefit me for years to come! So dyspraxia’s not too bad huh?!


2. My amazing memory 

On my third day at university, in a lecture on the role of memory in history, the lecturer asked us what we were doing on several days across our lives. Most people could answer what they were doing last Christmas morning, some could answer what they did on the day of the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012 but no one else could remember what they were doing at 9.42am on the 8th March 2009. For years I’ve always known that I’ve got an exceptional memory so if I’ve ever got a lift from you, I could probably tell you your car number plate. Most people know that I have an exceptional memory and have often said they are jealous of it but it always made me uncomfortable that I could remember stuff that others couldn’t. But this gift makes me who I am (and it certainly doesn’t harm my academics) so I will always be proud when I can bring up a random fact on the function of the HMS Ganges in the preparation for WW2 and no longer feel embarrassed that I know such things.


3. How hard I work in life 

One thing that I will never claim is that I find university socially or academically easy. I have always struggled with social skills and in the past 3 years, I have come to accept that socialising doesn’t come naturally and I shouldn’t force myself into situations that make me feel uncomfortable. So while I may not be out in Club I on a Thursday, I’m still trying my hardest to socialise but in a way that’s comfortable to me. I joined a new Church, I try to go to debates to meet new people and learn new things, and I try to talk to more people around university. By working hard on a type of socialisation that works for me, I have been able to connect better with people. If I didn’t have dyspraxia, it’s unlikely I’d have ever worked this hard to get to know people and I wouldn’t have my incredible friends in my life (you know who you are and I’m so thankful for you).

So these are my three gifts that I will be forever thankful to dyspraxia for, now I want to find out what your gift is! During Don’t Disability Week, there will be a section called raising awareness of dyspraxia, dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. We’re running an exhibition in conjunction with the Humans of Falmouth, talking about other people’s experiences with dyspraxia etc., which we’d love for you to check out. Additionally, during the week, we’d love if you came and had a chat with our team about your experiences and how we can help improve your university experience or how you can be better supported, we have a stall in the Compass on Monday at the Penryn Campus, on Thursday for a drop in session between 12 and 4 in Room 1 in the Compass and a stall at Woodlane from 10-3.