A couple of months ago, Mason popped up on Facebook and asked: “how does your disability affect you?” This made me think, as I had never really thought about it.
I have mild Dyspraxia, a disorder which affects hand-eye co-ordination. This means that my balance, handwriting, drawing and other such activities have been skewed. I was first diagnosed when I was about 7, when my teacher realised that I was as clumsy as a one-legged horse on Strictly Come Dancing on ice.
When I pondered Mason’s question, I realised that my Dyspraxia had a bigger effect on me when I was growing up. My failure at sport and dodgy handwriting often led to bullying and name-calling. And I had them all, including “retard” and “spastic”. This and me feeling like I wasn’t good at anything led to a huge decline in confidence and self-esteem. Another thing that happened was that I would give up a lot. I know people who have Dyspraxia who have become good at sport, defying the odds to prove themselves. I tried to do that. I started tennis and even became good at it. But for the most part, I just stopped. I’m still just as bad at most sports as I ever was. For a while, I used my disability as an excuse to not get involved. The only thing I kept doing was writing. The use of a computer helped with that, as I often felt that I couldn’t write things down as quickly as I wanted. The way I described it was that my hands couldn’t keep up with my mind. I also found that being friends with people like Mason has made me learn to not make my disability define who I am. I have never once known Mason to complain about his wheelchair, he just gets on with it.
As I grew older, I’ve put less emphasis on my Dyspraxia. People stop caring as much about how physical you can be, and with the help of a computer I can write as much as I want. The one thing that I have started doing as I’ve grown older, and Mason’s question helped me do this, was wonder how much my Dyspraxia impacts me. When I do something clumsy, I think “was that me just being clumsy, or was it part of my disorder?Or, are they one and the same?” The great thing about university is the fact that difference isn’t really a huge problem. When I got my laptop out in middle school and college, I felt like it immediately created a difference between myself and the rest of the class. Now I feel like it’s not even thought about.
So in answer to Mason’s question, I suppose it’s “it doesn’t anymore.” Every child with a disability feels like an outsider. I’m not trying to draw sympathy to myself in this, my Dyspraxia is very mild. I suppose I have two messages with this. To those that don’t have disabilities, I say this: be considerate with your words and actions toward those that do. And to those that do have disabilities, just know that it doesn’t have to be your defining feature. You don’t have to be known as “the kid with *Insert disability here*”. Choose your own label.
“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.” – Robert M. Hensel