he new series of Doctor Who is finally here and the people I socialise with are talking about two things - the Doctor being female and the new companion, Ryan, having dyspraxia.
Dyspraxia is a developmental coordination disorder often diagnosed in childhood and can affect motor skills. For instance, Ryan from Doctor Who struggles with riding a bike and other gross motor skills such as climbing a ladder in the first episode. In other episodes, he is seen to trip and fall. Chris Chibnall, the writer for this series, has a nephew with dyspraxia and has done a lot of research into it so hopefully, Ryan will be an accurate portrayal of someone with the condition.
Dyspraxia affects a person’s fine and gross motor skills. This may make everyday things like tying shoelaces and writing difficult. Getting dressed, catching and throwing a ball and brushing teeth can also be affected. Anything that involves hand-eye coordination, balance and motor skills can potentially be difficult.
Dyspraxia may affect other areas of a person’s life, such as organisational skills, dealing with emotions and social interaction. These are some of the lesser known symptoms. Ryan gets angry easily when he is unable to stay upright on his bike and at other times in later episodes. This may be due to him feeling like he should be able to do simple things other people can and getting frustrated with that.
Dyspraxia is usually diagnosed in childhood and can present itself very early, with walking milestones not being reached on time. It is a hard condition to diagnose and can take a long time so some people have the disorder without realising. I got diagnosed with Asperger's and traits of dyspraxia in 2016 when I was 20. Dyspraxia is common in those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, but the two aren’t necessarily connected. Other conditions dyspraxia is common alongside is dyslexia, dyscalculia and ADHD. A lot of the signs and symptoms overlap, so diagnosis can be a lengthy process.
I first heard of dyspraxia after watching an interview with Daniel Radcliffe where he mentioned struggling to learn choreography. I immediately related to this because I struggled with choreography in ballet and it seemed to take me twice as long to learn the steps. I personally have always struggled with any kind sports. I felt like my body was clumsy and I couldn’t control it properly. I thought I was doing one movement in my head but it looked different in real life. Watching videos of myself dancing is a strange and often frustrating experience because of this.
My other experiences of dyspraxia are in primary school when I used to take much longer to eat lunch and get changed before and after p.e or swimming than my classmates. I hated stairs as a child and even have nightmares about them to this day. If I’m tired I walk into my partner while walking down the street and sometimes lose my balance. I often find bruises on my legs particularly from where I've walked into things. Most of my problems are with my gross motor skills but I’m still unable to touch type accurately and make a lot of typos due to pressing adjacent keys, despite years of practice. My handwriting also gets fairly messy when writing quickly, which was a nightmare in essay-based exams, and I used to hate dictation in English lessons since I’d struggle to keep up with the teacher’s speaking. I also struggle with emotional control and organisational skills, as shown by how this blog is about 4 weeks late!
Dyspraxia may be confused with clumsiness. People with dyspraxia may trip, bump into things or overbalance. They also may drop and knock things. It’s worth looking into other symptoms of dyspraxia if you feel you are particularly clumsy.
There aren’t really any treatments for dyspraxia but some things can help, such as keeping a diary to help with organisational skills and therapy to talk about ways of overcoming difficulties.
If you relate to any of this, here are some resources.