Dyspraxia and other forms of neurodiversity tend to be defined by what you can’t do. You are characterised by how you don’t fit in with so-called ‘normal’ people, and this is often seen as a bad thing. I know its cheesy, and perhaps a little insensitive of me, to say that neurodiversity can be a gift as well as a struggle. I know I am very lucky to have comparatively mild symptoms, to have been able to go to university and have a full time job. Nevertheless, I still think its important to reframe the narrative of ‘specific learning difficulties’ to show how we are important and valid. Sure, not remembering what happened two minutes ago is a struggle – especially in the hectic teaching profession – but I also wouldn’t be myself without that part of my personality. I don’t ‘Have’ dyspraxia, my brain is a dyspraxic one, it is unique and different and that can be a really good thing. We are different to ‘neurotypical’ people, but that doesn’t make us worse than them. In fact, we can also be blessed with a number of ‘superpowers’ that others don’t have the benefit of having.
Superpower 1: The ability to ‘Own it’
First off, we are generally brilliant at making light of the occasionally ridiculous situations we may find ourselves in. Dunk your elbow in your coffee? Classic dyspraxident. Forget who told you something a minute after they’ve told you? That’s just vintage Williams behaviour. I have previously mentioned how doing something awkward or clumsy was known in my friendship group as ‘doing a Williams’ – it became part of who I was and people loved me for it. I’m not going to lie, people laughing at my misdemeanours used to upset me, especially before I knew why I was the way I was. Nowadays, with some far better friends and a strong sense of self-worth, I laugh with people and they love me for my clumsy, awkward, forgetful self (unless, occasionally, I have to drive them somewhere and I forget that traffic lights are a thing). Because, let’s be honest, dunking your elbow in coffee IS hilarious. A lot of the situations I get myself in because of my dyspraxia are quite frankly ridiculous, and with the blessing of hindsight, make excellent stories. Getting locked out of my flat with two armfuls of shopping because I forgot my keys AND a shopping bag when I went out is objectively a very funny thing to have happenned – you have to laugh, especially in the faces of people giving you odd looks as they walk by. You have to own it, and over time, we get brilliant at doing so. We’re clumsy, we’re forgetful, we sometimes go into work with our clothes on backwards – and that’s brilliant, it makes life exciting – so as long as you own it, people will love you for it. Incidentally, you also tend to become embarrass-proof. As a socially anxious person, what others think of me is generally terribly important – but if I fall flat on my face in front of them? Well that’s just me, I get right back up and laugh the loudest, and people tend to smile along.
Superpower 2: Ultimate craftiness and calmness in a crisis
As a result of often being caught in unusual predicaments, I can jimmy my way out of pretty much any unfortunate situation. I have devised back up plans for so many organisational faux pas, that by now it is quite difficult to catch me off guard. It all started when I was 12 and my phone ran out of battery in town. I needed it to contact my mum to get picked up, without it I was lost. Fear not, I thought, I will simply go to a phone shop and sneakily charge it on one of the demo phones’ chargers. Apple stores have similarly saved my ass on a number of occasions when I’m sans phone and need to contact someone quickly. In addition, as we have grown up we have developed a number of strategies to overcome our difficulties – whether you notice it or not, its part of how a dyspraxic learns to navigate the world. For example, I have always held a pen/pencil strangely, as I must have naturally figured out that it gave me more control over the pen to the usual grip. Thus, we become experts at adapting to tricky situations. Another benefit to regularly finding yourself in less-than-ideal situations is that you learn to be remarkably cool-headed and calm in chaos. It will take a lot more than a last minute plan change to phase me, which means that the ever-changing chaos of the classroom suits me rather well. I’m not saying this to advocate being disorganised or chaotic – it’s a very good thing to acknowledge and tackle the organisation problems you experience – but I am saying that when excrement hits the fan, as someone who is accustomed to this occurrence, I tend to fare pretty well. I can’t help but feel that with today’s volatile political climate, being accustomed to upheaval and change can’t be a bad thing.
Superpower 3: We never forget (in the long term)
Whilst being forgetful in the short term, with fairly small working memories, it has been shown that dyspraxic people tend to have excellent long-term memories. I was once able to remember the exact appearance of a brilliant tour guide in Prague, meaning that I could take my friend to the exact same one the year after. I also remember where and when I bought pretty much every item of clothing that I own. You can use this to your advantage: having a routine helps you to commit useful information – like remembering your keys – to your long term memory, and once embedded that routine is more likely to stick. We are awesome at remembering small details about long term memories, which is both lovely and sometimes incredibly useful.
Superpower 4: Spidey senses
It has been commonly recorded that many dyspraxic people have heightened senses – whether that be through hearing, touch, taste or smell. This can, in fact, come incredibly handy in a number of situations, despite it being annoying in others. For example, it can mean that nice food tastes even better to you, or that you can detect when something has gone off far more easily. You might benefit from being able to hear conversations from across the room, and delight in the feeling of especially soft fabrics. This is a very cool thing, in my opinion, and despite its drawbacks makes me feel lucky to be neurodiverse.
So, there you have it. If you have any particular dyspraxic superpowers please share them in the comments below! I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts and opinions on this.