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I have dyspraxia, but people tell me I must be drunk – #EndTheAwkward

Guest post by Rosie, who has dyspraxia affecting her movement, balance and sensory processing. She’s supporting our End the Awkward campaign. Here she shares what a typical night out might be like for someone with dyspraxia.

It’s a Saturday evening and I’m off to meet some friends for some drinks. To get there I have to take a train and pass through a busy street.

It takes me a while to get on the train, as I struggle to judge the distance between the platform and the train. As I reach to grab hold of the rail, I can hear people behind me whispering. “Can she just hurry up, what’s she doing?”Portrait shot of Rosie, a young woman with dark hair

The train is packed and I can’t see any spare seats. I can feel myself losing my balance and I bump into people, accidently standing on their feet and hitting them with my bag. “Look where you’re going,” I hear muttered.

I sit down in one of the disabled accessible seats near the train door. The conductor approaches me: “But you don’t look like you’re disabled, why do you need a seat?” I feel so shocked that I spill coins everywhere as I get money out of my purse. “Pay when you get off,” he mutters, disgusted.

I glance at my phone. There are texts from my friends asking where I am. Oh no, I must be running late, and where is this bar again I can’t remember, I’m lost, I can feel my anxiety levels rising, my sensitivity to noise and crowds overwhelming me.

I eventually get to the bar, red faced, the contents of my bag all over the place, anxious and overwhelmed and exhausted. I get a drink, and am still so shaken I trip on a step and spill it down me. “She must be drunk already,” I hear people laugh.

But no, I’m not drunk – I have dyspraxia.

What is dyspraxia?

You can’t easily tell if someone has dyspraxia, and not that many people have heard of it.

It is thought to be caused by a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the body. This affects my ability to perform movements in a coordinated way, balance, motor skills and sensory sensitivity. Every person with dyspraxia is affected differently.

Rosie holding a medal, a stadium in the background
Rosie at the Olympic Stadium after finishing a 10k run

It can make it hard to carry out everyday activities, such as riding a bike, handwriting, tying shoelaces or using kitchen equipment. It’s difficult to walk up and down stairs, and I’m prone to falling over. We also can struggle with fatigue and low energy, as it takes our brains longer to process things.

Without proper understanding, people with dyspraxia can be seen as careless, clumsy, and rude – when in reality that’s far from the case.

Don’t judge by appearances

Ignorance, misunderstandings and awkwardness make already difficult situations a lot worse, and make someone with dyspraxia feel anxious and overwhelmed.

To end the awkwardness, people shouldn’t judge based on appearances. You never know if someone has an invisible condition, and you never know who might need that seat on the train. A little bit of patience and kindness can go a long way.

Portrait of Rosie with her boyfriend
Rosie with her boyfriend Matt, ‘who helps sort out the chaos’

And don’t make assumptions about what I can and can’t do. We aren’t stupid or careless; our brains are just wired in a different way, so the way we learn and process information is different.

Although day-to-day life with dyspraxia can be chaotic and frustrating, it also has meant I’m a very determined and resilient person. I am creative and able to see the bigger picture, and the experiences I’ve had have made me more understanding and empathetic of others.

With the right support and understanding, dyspraxia doesn’t have to be a barrier to success and living life to the full.

Rosie blogs on her site Thinking Out of the Box, writing about disability, diversity and creativity. Want to know more about how to End the Awkward? Watch our videos made in partnership with Channel 4.