‘When I got diagnosed, I was happy that I finally had a reason why I had been struggling’

Graphic by MissLunaRose12, Wikimedia Commons

Teenage author and student Elsie Starr gives a personal insight into dyspraxia

Imagine constantly worrying about tripping over, having to overlearn every Maths equation so it sticks in your long-term memory or dreading PE lessons, especially if throwing and catching are involved. Well, this is a reality for many young people, like me, who have dyspraxia.

I would describe dyspraxia as a neurological disorder that affects people mentally and physically. Some of the things that it affects for me are my working memory, Maths, coordination, motor skills and confidence. Dyspraxia affects up to six per cent of the population, with two per cent being severely affected. However, this percentage is likely to be a lot higher as dyspraxia is widely misunderstood and is often incorrectly diagnosed as dyslexia.

Despite showing signs of dyspraxia from a young age such as poor handwriting, posture, disorganisation and low self-esteem, I was only diagnosed in February 2021 when I had a dyslexia test and was told I actually had dyspraxia. When I got diagnosed, I was happy that I finally had a reason why I had been struggling. However, some people struggle with getting the diagnosis and the realisation that they have dyspraxia as it can make them feel different to other people.

Dyspraxia affects me constantly, especially at school in subjects such as PE and Maths. Maths is very difficult for me as it involves lots of things to remember and my working memory can get overloaded. PE is also very difficult for me as I struggle with coordination and spatial awareness affecting my motor skills.

But that doesn’t mean dyspraxia has to hold you back. I love History and Geography because I can learn about real world situation which are easier for me to understand.  In my free time I enjoy individual sports such as bouldering because you can go at your own pace if it is not competitive.  I find visual-based subjects easier as I don’t have to hold so much information in my working memory. In fact, I’m planning to take Photography for GCSE as I’m interested in cinematography.

Ways to help someone you know with Dyspraxia:

  • Don’t make fun of them or get annoyed if they are slower at some things or fall over often.
  • Help to explain things if they ask you to.
  • Don’t treat them any differently because they are dyspraxic.  
  • If you know someone who you think is showing signs of Dyspraxia you can direct them to the Dyspraxia Foundation website.
  • Slower teacher explanation and visuals can really help in lessons.

Ways to help yourself if you have dyspraxia:

  • Don’t let it stop you from doing things or achieving things. For example, Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe is dyspraxic and he has achieved many things.
  • Don’t get annoyed at yourself for finding things harder than others do.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others, even if they are also dyspraxic – your brains may work in completely different ways and at different paces.

For more information, visit the Dyspraxia Foundation. Ed