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’