Last week (9th-15th Oct) was Dyspraxia Awareness Week. Staying true to my Dyspraxic qualities, my blog post is more than a week late. Sorry! On Sunday 9th I flew from Düsseldorf back home, to spend the autumn holiday with my family, friends, and boyfriend, who I missed very much. After many flights, re-visiting the SkyTrain experience, and analysing bus timetables, I’m relieved to say I made it there and back in one piece. Although the holiday was far too short and felt rushed in many ways, I feel stronger after the rest.
In light of the Awareness Week, I wanted to reflect upon, and remind myself of, some postive experiences of a dyspraxic language student managing abroad (two months down). Just what can be achieved?
Since I started my role as an English Language Assistant at the beginning of September, I believe my experience of struggling with dyspraxia has helped me to better understand and connect with my pupils. I can relate to Alex*, who struggles to keep up with the fast pace of the lesson, and always seems to be without a partner in pair work. I also accept quiet Sophie* who keeps herself to herself at break times. I can often see parts of myself in the pupils, which helps me to find ways of explaining things to meet their own needs.
I am more open-minded to differences – perhaps greater tolerance and sensitivity comes with that. Although I may get lost in a big group conversation, and struggle to commit all the details of a story to memory, I don’t lose the determination or the will to socialise. In this sense, not giving up is a positive attitude that dyspraxia helps to develop. When something goes wrong you end up fighting for it to go right.
On my far-from-smooth journey through the education system, I have been incredibly lucky to have the support of my family and friends. I also feel that I have become a much more independent thinker since moving from school to university. Throwing myself in often uncomfortable situations has actually been a blessing, hopefully for greater resilience in the long-term. We’ll see…
In the last few years, I have managed and passed two years of University, I have lived alone to complete an internship (twice), and the hugest leap I have ever made: living alone in Germany. It wasn’t that long ago that I used to feel panic and overwhelm when entering Tesco. I’ve made progress in this area – I can go shopping in foreign countries, and communicate without English.
I have gained confidence to join clubs/activities, actively go and meet people of all ages and backgrounds. Getting from A to B is a major source of stress for many dyspraxics, and for me this has involved falling over on buses, and taking trams in the wrong direction, but I honestly end up enjoying many of my travel experiences, and have not given up on public transport yet.
I regularly have many rich, interesting conversations with new people – from public transport encounters to regular chats with my landlady who doesn’t speak English. I have enjoyed playing board games with strangers, talking about language, literature, and society in German with young people from all over the world, singing foreign songs in a big choir with people I don’t know, and learning a new language (Dutch) through a foreign language (German)…
Five years ago I just wouldn’t have been doing all this.
I am still working through dyspraxia and its associated challenges, and I am definitely not perfect. But that isn’t my aim – I am out of my comfort zone, and learning more about myself, as well as the world. Things aren’t really so negative, are they?
I’d like to finish this post with the following thought: living with a learning difference or disability should be no barrier to a foreign language or country. Your experience can be as rich as you let it.
Please check out the Dyspraxia Foundation website – a charity doing excellent work to support inviduals and families affected by the condition.
In the chaos of the autumn holiday, I also missed Meares Irlen Awareness Week 17th-21st October. Also known as Visual Stress, this is a condition that can cause difficulty with reading. Coloured overlays, screens, and lenses can help increase reading speed. At some point, I would like to blog about this condition too. In the meantime, you can look at the website here to find out more.