guest post! | kat’s story – neurodiversity: dyspraxia edition

Though I lacked a formal term in my lexicon, the concept of “neurodiversity” (though somewhat controversial) is one that I’ve appreciated since long before my own ADHD/LD diagnosis. Typically, neurodiversity is seen as a concept that seeks to portray a variety of neurologically based “disorders” simply as variations—these include ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and Tourette syndrome, as well as specific learning disabilitiesAnother condition under the umbrella is dyspraxia—one that is probably less generally understood than several others on the list. 

I connected with Katherine (whom I always refer to, in my head and out loud, as Kat) several years ago—we connected initially over asthma, but that’s a rarer discussion topic at this point! More often, we’re planning adventures, spending several hours on Skype telling stories, discussing school, or making mug cake (yes, we made mug cake together on Skype—the level of coaching I required was ridiculous, and Kat’s a good person who didn’t make fun of me—too much :).]

Today, Kat is sharing her perspective as an adult with dyspraxia—a developmental delay affecting motor coordination. Dyspraxia is seldom discussed in the context of adulthood, so I’m excited to have Kat here today!

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Hello, my name is Katherine and…

I am a computer programmer.

I am learning American Sign Language.

I am a knitter.

I am a book worm.

I am a condo owner.

I am a Cardinals baseball fan.

I am dyspraxic.

My story of life as a grown up is much the same as any other 25 year old female living in the midwestern United States. I do exciting things like go to work, cook dinner, hang out with friends, and explore diverse and varied interests. However, my brain and I occupy a different motor skills space than yours most likely does. In the early/mid 90’s when I was a preschooler/grade schooler I had motor skill developmental delays. At the time the doctors called it dysfunctional/disordered motor planning, at the time new politically correct version of “clumsy child syndrome” which is now commonly know as dyspraxia. Basically my neurons don’t always connect my muscles to my brain well. Sometimes the message gets through and my body works just fine, other times it gets lost along the way. My writing skills are slow, painful, and took exceedingly long to develop. PE was my least favorite class ever; they always passed me but noted a need for improvement of coordination in activities like running, skipping, and jump rope.

In some ways getting to high school, college, and now the “real world” is easier. I’m no longer graded on my penmanship, and no one expects me to write in cursive. Nor does socialization involve jumping double dutch, although walking in heels is equally perilous. The majority of my work and other written communication is keyed out on a qwerty keyboard of some sort. While learning to type was a challenge initially I’ve taken to keying by touch much better than I ever had to writing. You won’t hear many stories like mine because I’m from the US, seemingly few dyspraxics exist Stateside (UK seems to have cornered the market). Also much more common in males for whatever reason. I’m a grown adult who has found a successful contributory place in society.

The voice of adults with developmental delays is seemingly nonexistent. Not because we aren’t here, and no, we didn’t outgrow it. Turning 18, 21 or any other arbitrary age doesn’t magically catch you up to your peers. Some of it is that we’ve learned how to adapt our lifestyles to avoid skills we haven’t mastered. My cooking has never been dinner party elegant but it tastes just dandy. I’ve found cooking implements that don’t require lots of coordination to work (OXO make some real winners at least for me). I drive a stick shift car of the same brand as i first learned on (so it has the same sized gear box with a clutch that “grabs” similarly). If I’m tired or have a mentally stimulating day ahead of me I don’t drive. Quite simply, while I can drive it takes quite a bit of mental concentration to drive, follow the assigned route and otherwise be attentive to my surroundings. Somedays this is more than I should really take on. I know my limits and live close to a transit loop. My life looks like that of the neurotypical adult because pick surroundings and activities that suit my needs and abilities.

Life is learning and growing and changing the world around you to make it work. Taking it in stride when you trip over your own feet stone cold sober in trainers.

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Kat has a degree in computer science and works as a programmer—she is pursuing American Sign Language as a personal interest (but in the very ambitious form of evening university classes—and watching the videos for my Disability Studies class in the Fall). Kat’s “diverse and varied interests” include several different fitness pursuits (running, cycling, swimming . . . ahem, triathlon :] . . .), making me jealous as she goes to Chicago, and crafty stuff like knitting and—though, I think this has culminated—having all sorts of condo do-it-yourself shenanigans.  

Kat can be found on Twitter as @kat314159 […yes. That is pi there. No, not that kind of pie].