A Learning Difficulty Diagnosis: A Help Or A Hindrance?

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My family sometimes joke about how long it used to take me to get ready, in the morning, when I was little or how I often tripped and bumped into things. If the whole family was going out, then of course it was going to be Rebecca that was the last one out of the door. Now this is not an issue at all as I pride myself on being organised, keeping a diary and making sure I am never late for anything important. One thing that hasn’t changed is that I have never been very good at sport. I struggled at times with throwing and catching a ball, didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was about 8 and usually came last in most races on sports day. To be honest my lack of sporting ability never bothered me at primary school. It was more about the taking part and having fun with my friends. It wasn’t until secondary school that P.E classes became more competitive and I noticed just how uncoordinated I was. I was on the school netball team for a while but soon gave up when I felt I couldn’t keep up with my peers. It was around this time that I lost interest in anything to do with sports and P.E became my least favourite subject as I felt like I was always being picked last to be on a team.

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Whilst sport has never been my forte I have always felt that I am more of a creative person and this is where my talents lie. I have always loved performing on stage and going to see musicals. I played piano and clarinet well into my late teens. I also went to stage school every weekend from about the age of 4 until about 13 doing everything from ballet to tap, acting and singing. I loved all of it but singing has always been my favourite hobby. I would take any opportunity for a solo at primary school and was a member of the choir. Whilst I became very shy and quiet at secondary school I still had some confidence to perform in talent shows and have singing lessons in my spare time. It is the one thing I have carried on into adulthood. At college, I discovered other interests such as photography, film and later studied a media makeup course. Although I enjoyed the makeup course, received positive feedback and achieved my certificate, I did not have the steadiest of hands for the more intricate of applications. This made me have a serious think about what I wanted to do next and so I decided after working for a year that I would go to university.

I settled quite happily into my new surroundings and began to enjoy my studies. The only couple of aspects I thought I should try to overcome was to become less clumsy as I suffered several burns from spilling cups of tea or catching myself on the oven, however this was nothing new. I also liked my lectures but felt my note taking skills could be improved, because in attempting to keep up to speed, my hand-written notes were at times messy. When it came to sorting out our exam arrangements we were asked if we qualified for extra time and previously at college this had been the case but I had always been led to believe it was purely because they thought I had a “slow writing speed”. My university informed me that to qualify for extra time at university I was required to have an assessment for learning difficulties which I agreed to. I met with an educational psychologist one afternoon and after she administered several different tests and asked me some questions, she told me I had “Dyspraxia“. 

The diagnosis came as quite a shock to my family and I as apart from my Mum thinking I was a bit slow at reading during primary school, we never had any suspicions I had any sort of learning difficulty. On a positive note the diagnosis meant that I qualified for extra time in exams and I was informed I could receive some support with my studies. On the other hand the whole thing was quite overwhelming as I wasn’t quite sure what I had been diagnosed with. It is not something I had heard of before and the only condition I knew of was Dyslexia. In short I was told Dyspraxia affected my fine and gross motor control (holding a pen and writing, etc), multitasking, spatial awareness and co-ordination. Things which after some research made more sense and may explain my messy handwriting, clumsiness, poor spatial awareness and lack of co-ordination when doing sports. These things which my family, friends and I thought were just “Becca traits” may actually be more to do with me being dyspraxic. This is what has led me to write this blog post, as ever since being diagnosed , I have been thinking about how helpful my diagnosis is .

In some respects the diagnosis may have come a bit too late for me as I went the majority of my educational life without even knowing I had this condition. I was not diagnosed until the age of 20. Despite being dyspraxic I feel I have still achieved many things without any extra support. I successfully got the majority of my qualifications (GCSEs, music grades etc) without any help. Despite not being the most coordinated person in the world I still managed to play the clarinet and piano to a good standard, danced in several shows (looking back maybe slightly out of time!) and learnt to drive a manual car. For someone who is supposed to find these types of things difficult I think it shows they can still be done. I understand I didn’t know I was dyspraxic but sometimes I think this may have been a good thing as I just gave everything a go without considering that I may struggle. Now at times when I find something difficult I think the label pops into my head and I blame my struggle on it. 

Whilst at times the diagnosis of the condition may have at times put a seed of doubt in my mind about my ability, it has also helped me. As mentioned above I received some extra time in university exams which gave me those extra couple of minutes to check over my answers. I also got a tutor who was able to offer me some support and advice on skills to improve my university work. She was not able to proof read all my work for me, of course, but was there when I just wanted to talk through some of my ideas for an essay or presentation. This helped me greatly as I find talking through my ideas easier than putting them down on paper. I also feel that as an adult it has helped me to make more informed decisions for myself. For example, I did successfully learn to drive a manual car before university but struggled to manage reading the road and changing gear at the same time so when it came to purchasing a new car I decided to get an automatic. This was a great idea as I now find driving my car less stressful than before. I just want to highlight that I do not think being “labelled” as such should ever been portrayed as negative because of course many people need a diagnosis so that either themselves or their child can get the support they need. I am not writing this and trying to state whether it is a good or a bad thing. I simply want to share my own experience of being diagnosed with a learning difficulty and how I have found it. On reflection sometimes my diagnosis has frustrated me but it has also helped me to understand that although there are things I may struggle with, my strengths just lie in other areas and my condition may even help me with these. I am creative, organised, pay attention to the little details and love working with others. 

I know this was a very long post but I didn’t want to miss something important out! I would love to hear from other people who have been diagnosed with a learning difficulty or know someone who has. What are your thoughts on the matter? 

If you would like to know more about Dyspraxia please go to the Dyspraxia Foundation website.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, 

Becca x 

 

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