You Don’t Look Sick: ‘I thought I was clumsy, forgetful, lazy and stupid until I was diagnosed with dyspraxia’

This is the kind of thing that a lot of dyspraxic people won’t talk about, but I think it’s important that people know that just because you see a person who is managing well, it doesn’t mean they’re not burning themselves out just to maintain a façade of normality.’

It takes Elly around one and a half to two hours to leave the house in the morning as it takes her much longer to organise tasks.

‘Once I’ve mentally psyched myself up for the day and dealt with making breakfast, I have to build in at least an extra half an hour for finding things I’ve lost like my bank card or shoes,’ she says.

You Don’t Look Sick: ‘I thought I was clumsy, forgetful, lazy and stupid until I was diagnosed with dyspraxia’

Studying with dyspraxia: ‘I never truly understood an academic text’

Years later I was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder. Suddenly, my life made sense. Growing up, it was like I was on a different page, reading sentences from angles nobody else understood. Dyspraxia is a specific learning difficulty which affects up to 10% of the population. We tend to fob off dyspraxia as dyslexia’s lesser-known “clumsy” cousin, with stereotypes of knocking over cups and getting bruises from missed balls. However, dyspraxia is about mental processing as much as physical coordination, and affects everything from the way I read to how I organise my thoughts.

“It took me four years to learn how to write an essay,” says Kaiya Stone, who was diagnosed with dyspraxia, dyslexia and ADHD in her second year at Oxford University. “I see words as pictures. I learned to read by memorising what each one looks like. I realised there are about five extra stages between me seeing what’s on the page and understanding it. I’d read two sentences of an academic text and have done six times as much work as someone else.”

“I definitely have an anxiety about job applications,” Stone says. “If it takes you three or four times longer than everyone else, you apply for less jobs. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Employers shouldn’t just be trying to look disability-friendly by trying to make themselves accessible. They need to realise that people with specific learning difficulties are often the most talented people for the jobs – they just present differently.”

Studying with dyspraxia: ‘I never truly understood an academic text’