Written By: Jonathan Andrews
Dyspraxia is a condition which affects everyone differently, both individuals and different societal groups – yet visibility of this issue in the media is scarce. I’ve written previously on how dyspraxia affects women; here I want to focus on the experiences of people with dyspraxia across other groups, including LGBT people, BME people and those from different cultures, to bring light to everyday realities which would otherwise be ignored.
- Dyspraxia and LGBT+ people
While it is sometimes hypothesisedand speculated uponthat people with dyspraxia may be LGBT+ in greater numbers than the general population, there is no concrete evidence for this. However, it cannot be denied that, whatever the number, LGBT+ people with dyspraxia face unique difficulties. For example, since dyspraxia and being LGBT+ both correlate with low self-esteem, people with both characteristics will be at a much increased risk, especially if they are trans* or intersex.
Additionally, the differing gait and posture common with dyspraxia can lead men and boys to be perceived as overly feminine and women and girls as overly masculine, leading people to assume they are LGBT+ even when not and leaving them more vulnerable to abuse. That said, others with dyspraxia have noted how LGBT+ and other non-traditional relationships can be easier, as the comparative lack of recognised gender roles (and other roles) means there is less emphasis on conformity.
- Dyspraxia and Ethnic Minorities/different age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, countries and cultures
Like other conditions, fewer dyspraxia diagnoses tend to be given to ethnic minorities. There is, however, no reason to believe this is due to some innate difference – rather, it is most likely because ethnic minorities in the UK tend to be part of lower socio-economic backgrounds. Dyspraxia (and other learning differences) tend to be associated with middle-class lifestyles because those with greater wealth, psychological awareness, and social capital can more easily afford and obtain diagnoses; those who do not fall into this background will find it harder, and will be less likely to be perceived as dyspraxic even when their difficulties are obvious.
The same issue affects people from different age groups; diagnosis is much higher among younger generations than older, when dyspraxia was written off as “clumsy child syndrome” and a sign of laziness or rudeness. As a result of this, older people with undiagnosed dyspraxia will tend to have developed more internalised guilt around their behaviours.
Different countries tend to refer to dyspraxia as ‘Developmental Coordination Disorder’ or ‘DCD’ more often – so while a person might know of the condition, they won’t necessarily recognise the name. Different countries also have different rates of diagnosed dyspraxia, ranging from 6% to 20% – so the chance of someone going undiagnosed varies massively across countries. Fortunately, however, both the DSM-V and ICD-10 (psychiatric manuals) diagnose dyspraxia identically, meaning there is less confusion than for other conditions, like autism, where their criteria is very different.
- Dyspraxia and other disabilities/conditions/differences – and others with dyspraxia
Dyspraxia has a high co-morbidity rate and shares traits with other conditions such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder); in particular, certain dyspraxia traits like being unable to regulate speed, pitch and volume of speech and difficulty following conversations are also observed in autism, while autism tends to also involve motor coordination difficulties.
Dyspraxia also tends to increase the chance of low self-esteem and related mental health conditions such as depression, though this is not universal and many will never experience mental health problems. Despite this, though, because of the societal tendency to view people through the lens of one disability, it is common for people to “forget”, or not recognise, that someone with another disability also has dyspraxia. This is particularly common with visible disabilities, but can also happen with other neurological conditions, particularly because dyspraxia is less well-known than many others.
And, of course, it cannot be forgotten that no two people with dyspraxia will be alike – the list of traits is incredibly varied and very few will be affected by all. It’snot uncommon for two people with dyspraxia not to share a single dyspraxic trait. Many will also develop coping strategies as they grow older, so will not visibly display as many traits, as they used to, or might display them differently. This does not mean the traits have disappeared, or that the person is “less dyspraxic” – simply that people change and adapt as they get older. There are also sub-groups of dyspraxia, like verbal dyspraxia, but these distinctions are rarely recognised in media.
This is not an exhaustive list – though the lack of research into dyspraxia compared to other conditions makes it difficult to uncover more differences at present, this doesn’t mean they do not exist, and will undoubtedly reveal themselves in time. But it is comprehensive, and I hope it will help readers to understand the diversity of dyspraxia more in future – and to bear it in mind when they meet someone with dyspraxia who perhaps doesn’t present in the way they’d expect.