Miranda Hart – a Dyspraxic Icon?

Bear With on this one…

When describing my experience of DCD to people, I often end up settling on ‘I am basically Miranda’. I do this partially because I’m lazy, partially because it is one of my favourite self deprecating jokes, and partially because it is pretty much true.

It is hard to deny that Miranda has captured the hearts of a nation, and the fact that she has done this through her endearing clumsiness and a tendency to struggle with everyday communication resonates with me on an almost spiritual level.

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A modern day Johnny English, Miranda stumbles rather chaotically through life. At the same time, she is resilient, she accepts herself for who she is, and the nation loves her for the tendencies that make her so lovably unique. As an awkward, clumsy person I initially felt uncomfortable at the fact that her own awkward clumsiness was the main source of humour in the show, but I soon came to realise that the way she has owned this and made a dazzling career out of it is in fact a wonderful feat, showing great humility, strength and confidence on her part. 

Although I’m not attempting to diagnose Miranda with anything, a lot of the traits she displays on the show and outside it do correlate with Dyspraxia, and therefore resonate strongly with me personally. Of course, there is the multitude of physics-defying feats of clumsiness, the video below serving as a stellar example:

But, perhaps more subtly, there is her regular misinterpretation of people’s speech, and her inability to formulate sentences and express what she truly means. She also shows flashes of disorganisation, lateness, forgetfulness and generally proves to have an unconventional way of thinking; “Whenever I think of Meals on Wheels, I always think of little Yorkshire puddings on roller skates.”

Her self deprecating television persona is one which I think a lot of people with dyspraxia will recognise. I, myself, gave up all hope of being renowned for my elegance or refinement at a very young age, yet delighted in making people laugh through my dyspraxic exploits and my hilarious tales of misadventure. A particular favourite is the now infamous club photo of me spilling a drink all over my face, which incidentally earned me ‘clubber of the week’ in the prestigious publication ‘The Tab’. If that isn’t a stand out Miranda moment, I don’t know what is.

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In the past, my so called ‘useless’ traits, such as my frequent falling over and my general lateness has made me an object of ridicule from ‘friends’ that I have long since got rid of. It has made me feel like no-one will ever take me seriously, and in my awkward gangly teenage years made me feel unattractive and generally pretty down on myself. I learnt soon enough, however, that you just have to own it, and surround yourself with people who love your quirks, and build you up for your strengths, which is exactly what Miranda does. When I begin to get bummed out about how my dyspraxia stops me being taken seriously, I think of how Miranda has made a name for herself and earned the respect and adoration she currently enjoys just by being her wonderful, clumsy, slightly disorientated self.  Inconceivably, Miranda has helped immensely with my self esteem by showing that people like me can be funny, successful and loved. This is something I have been trying to remember when my self confidence gets low, and this is why I’m not afraid to claim Miranda as my very own Dyspraxic Icon.

 

APP Fab – 5 of the best everyday apps for Dyspraxic adults

Make every download count

When it comes to apps, less is almost always more. I can’t count the number of times I have downloaded a ‘top-rated’ app, played with it for 2 minutes, got bored and then deleted it 3 days later when my phone began to run out of storage. Some apps, though, can be absolute life savers when it comes to making life as a Dyspraxic person easier. When it comes to apps, there are loads out there that cater to dyspraxic children, but few specifically targeted at adults. There are, however, a number of (virtually) free apps which can make a huge difference to your everyday life. So here it is: a break down of 5 of the best free or cheap apps which I think are great for dyspraxic people.

1. City Mapper

Oh. My. Gosh. If you struggle to navigate in big cities, this app is an absolute lifesaver. With an extensive range of intuitive features, this app holds the top spot for navigation apps in my opinion (and I have tried a fair few!). Here are its main bonus points:

  • Apple/Google maps style navigation feature which shows you the way you are facing (!), making it almost impossible to take a wrong turn.
  • Accurate time predictions for how long a journey will take, and a break down of the entire journey – including when the next bus/train will arrive, where to catch it and where on the train to go where it will be the least crowded.
  • Clear instructions, with reminders you can enable for when you need to get off a bus or train!

Negatives:

  • Drains battery life FAST.
  • Not available in all cities, only major ones such as London.
  • I find the ‘calories’ listing a little annoying, but could be useful for some.

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2. OneNote

Those who use windows computers will doubtlessly already be aware of the joys of One Note, the note making and word processing software with a number of great features. Here are some of my favourite elements of it:

  • Free-form pages that allow you to place text wherever you like, meaning you can organise the page in a way that works for you. For example, I like to have ‘general notes’ and ‘summary’ sections side by side when making notes on academic texts (See picture below).
  • Organisation – you can organise what you write into notebooks (again, see below), and sections within those notebooks, meaning everything is so much easier to find. You can also create shared notebooks; me and my boyfriend have one to organise travel plans, meaning we can both keep on track of whats going on.
  • Excellent design features allow you to highlight, make checklists, and put icons next to especially important things. This is great for making to-do lists, organising and prioritising your work and for visually making your work more easy to understand through using different highlighters for different themes.
  • THE CLOUD. OneNote can be downloaded on computer, phone and tablet for free, regardless of the brand of the device, a lifesaver when one device runs out of battery on the go!

Negatives:

  • Sometimes the notebooks have trouble syncing
  • You have to select which notebooks go on phone and tablet, not all will transfer automatically, which can be confusing.

Studying:Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 15.54.47

Planning:

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3. Adobe Reader

So this is for people who either read PDF’s for a living, or are at university. Adobe reader is a pretty simple app at first glance, but when you delve a little deeper you discover its great (free) accessibility perks.

  • Adjustable paper and text colour – you can change these to contrasting colours to help you read (you do this via the ‘accessibility’ tab).
  • Excellent compatibility with screen readers.
  • Great zoom and highlighting options.
  • Shared storage so that documents are available on all your devices, synchronised with a number of different cloud softwares.
  • Great tools that let you comment, fill in forms and organise pages.
  • Folders on the app to organise your PDF’s.

Negatives:

  • Accessibility tools don’t work on some document formats.
  • Accessibility tools a little confusing to set up.

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4. XMind

A small disclaimer: I got this app free from my university, but there are loads of similar options out there for people who find it easier to organise their ideas through mind maps, but also lack neat writing and drawing, or would lose a physical copy. 

  • Makes it easy to see ideas and link them
  • For planning, makes it easier to outline the necessary steps and what each of these steps will include
  • Presenting features, for those who find a mind map easier to plan for a presentation than a PowerPoint or Keynote
  • Lovely design features, including colours, pictures and shapes
  • FREE iOS app ❤️

Negatives:

  • Not free (although check out if your university or workplace can offer you anything, or hit up that DSA if you’re still a student, or the DLA if you receive it)

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 15.51.28< span style=”color: #ff0000″>5. 30/30< span style=”color: #000000″>Me and my mentor came up with the idea of having ‘admin time’: a specific time of day set aside to do all my admin tasks such as sending emails, booking train tickets etc. Although this has been really useful, I sometimes get overwhelmed by all my admin tasks, and end up doing nothing. Bring in 30/30, the micro time management app that lets you plan your tasks to the minute to help you achieve more. Shows you what you are supposed to be doing, and the time you have to do it.

  • Beautifully minimalist design and easy to use
  • Allows you to plan multiple tasks and actually get them done, rather than getting stuck on one task

Negatives:

  • Remembering to use this is a struggle for me, and my phone and iPad are often out of battery! This is the next thing for me to work on.

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ere you have it, 5 of my favourite helpful apps for dyspraxic people. Give the post a like if you liked it, and give me a follow if you really liked it. Comment below with apps that you love!

Clumsily yours,

Ellie x<<<<
gt;

Justifiably Clumsy: Late Diagnosis and Self Esteem

Clumsy, forgetful, useless… or Dyspraxic?

As a kid, it was sometimes joked that I should have an A&E Loyalty card. By the age of 11, I had totalled up around 4 broken bones, and had semi-permanent scraped knees. I only managed to learn left and right semi-properly, around the age of 10, because I had a scab on my right hand for about 2 months. I was, for all intents and purposes, ‘clumsy’ – as well as ‘shy’ and ‘fussy’.

As a quiet, and somewhat geeky, child, I did not have many of the key diagnostic features that may indicate a learning difficulty. I was never disruptive in class, I was in top sets, and I could read and write well. That said, while my sister could pore over books for hours, I found it far easier to read Harry Potter when listening to the tapes simultaneously, and was far more interested in Barbies than more practical tasks such as reading, writing or sport. Although I had a high vocabulary and reading age, my ability to actually read  books or chapters on my own was limited, and I increasingly noticed how hard I found it to read properly, and how long it took me.

There were more signs: my constantly-remarked-upon poor handwriting, inability to colour inside the lines and my frustration at maths which often resorted me to tears. The inability for permission slips to ever find their way home, let alone back to school; The host of forgotten homework and lost worksheets, and my inevitable lateness to pretty much everything. Most significant and distressing was my inability to read other people’s behaviour, and my tendency to repeat myself and to stumble my words. The general difficulty of social situations made me feel different and alone.

It wasn’t all bad. I was creative, and loved to make up weird and wacky stories. My clumsiness and disorganisation slowly became a part of my persona, my parents would jokily tell us not to ‘Ellie’ (hit on another car) the car door, and to do something clumsy or awkward was known affectionately in my group of friends in Sixth form as ‘doing a Williams’. That said, as a high achieving adult, the simultaneous inability to complete simple tasks such as turning up to meetings and remembering a name 5 seconds after it was said was disheartening and frustrating. I know that I am so lucky that my dyspraxia isn’t really severe, and that I’ve been supported and not held back by disability – but it has still caused me a lot of distress, most notably because for 20 years I thought I was just a bit useless.

My Dyspraxia only really became an issue in University, when life began to get busy and challenging. Amidst a backdrop of poor mental health and struggles making friends, my constant losing things, getting lost, missing appointments, and generally living a very chaotic life all fed into my internal monologue that insisted that I was clumsy, careless and useless. I am lucky that it was only at this point, in a highly pressurised university setting, that my difficulties reached breaking point, and I began to look for answers.

It sounds cheesy, but my diagnosis was really life changing. Not only was it a massive comfort that I was not, in fact, a crap human being, but also it gave me the kick up the arse I needed to start making changes in my life. Whenever I lost things or missed something, I didn’t resort back to old patterns of self-pity and hatred, but instead acknowledged that this is a legitimate difficulty that I face and that I can put strategies in place to overcome it. It is one of the worst things about Dyspraxia that it so often comes across as simple incompetence, yet once I learned why I struggled in the ways I did, I was not afraid to tell this to people giving me a hard time, and to demand the reasonable adjustments that would put me on a level playing field with other students.

This came with a constant sense of self doubt, and internalised shame. I sometimes felt that I really was a ‘special snowflake’, who had found this diagnosis to absolve me of responsibility, and that I didn’t struggle ‘enough’ to be ‘really’ dyspraxic. When speaking to an old friend about it, he told me that ‘you are without a doubt one of the most dyspraxic people I’ve ever met’ – it is amazing how much comfort that this gave me.

Characteristically, I have slightly lost the plot of where this post was headed. I suppose what I really want to stress is the importance of diagnosis, and the urgency of raised awareness. Dyspraxia is far less well-known than its close cousin dyslexia, despite the fact that around 1 in 10 people are said to experience it. The fact that it took me 20 years of feeling useless to be diagnosed, and that I was only able to get that diagnosis because my University paid for the test, is shocking – and I still experience discrimination in workplace and academic settings because of it, such as when my supervisors are ‘too busy’ to send me chapter recommendations. I can’t help but wonder whether they would take requests from students with other learning difficulties more seriously.

I hope this blog will be a useful compilation of coping mechanisms, validation and thoughts for all people who struggle with specific learning difficulties, or just want to find out a bit more about them. I love to write and I love helping people, and I want to create a space for Dyspraxic adults to find out how they can help themselves, and get help from others.

Clumsily yours,

Ellie x