I have what is referred to as an ‘invisible disability’ because Dyspraxia is part sensory, part co-ordination and part comprehension/attention/memory related, it’s not always an obvious physical thing. Invisible Disabilities have their own problems when it comes to mingling with the general pubic (yes, I know). I’m going to list them because I like lists!
Lazy But Frequent Assumptions People Make About You
- People loose patience with you because they think you are being lazy or just taking your own sweet time.
- People think you’re just a big weird goof and make tactless observations or find it easier to avoid what/who they don’t understand.
- People scowl at you for using things/spaces for disabled people because you aren’t in a wheel chair or you don’t have a big neon “DISABLED” sign hovering over your head.
- People think you are acting precious or being a bit of a diva because you’re asking for special attention or more frequent attention compared to everyone else, who’s just ‘getting on with it’.
- People think you are being an ignorant arsehole. Yes, I just love loosing the plot of our conversation about your baby who’s just started walking (and who’s name I can’t remember) or literally bumping into you on the street when we’re the only two people on the pavement or over compensating and giving you a ludicrously wide birth (hilarious to watch apparently!) or struggling to join in a group conversation and then blurting out what I want to say when it’s not even relevant anymore. It just makes my goddam day!
- That you are just plain stoopid.
Talk About Your Condition/Disability! Tell people!
Don’t stop strangers in the street and regale them with details of your latest Dr’s visit like, but do get a dialogue going with people you are going to be spending a lot of time with.
In hindsight I would have found it so much easier in every college, every job and every new circle of friends I’ve made, if I’d have just had ‘the talk’ with them. Alright, back then I had no understanding of why I struggled so much but I knew which things I struggled with.
Yeah, I know it shouldn’t be up to the disabled person to set the standard and to feel like they have to justify their actions but explaining them might possibly make it easier for said person in the long term. Your disability shouldn’t be something you are ashamed of either.
Why Covering For Your Disability Won’t Always Work
I did an Office Administrator apprenticeship in my 20’s where I wasn’t much older than most of my colleagues kids. They noticed straight away that I wasn’t coping very well but everyone was lovely and they all really helped me. After a year the apprenticeship was over and I had to find a new job.
I fell in with a group of people that had started a month earlier and had bonded with each other quickly. After 6 months I still felt a little like I was ‘the new girl settling in’ and had an uneasy feeling I hadn’t meshed quite right with them. I automatically assumed it was down to my wonky social skills. Other people in the office had previously dropped subtle hints to me about ‘knowing who your friends are’ etc. but subtlety isn’t my strong point and anyway, these people were doing just enough to con me into thinking they genuinely were my friends. I think that they knew I was (intentionally) hiding something from them and something wasn’t quite right, so they all thought it gave them the right to treat me like shit. I ended up leaving because of it, with no other prospect of employment on the horizon but that’s not the point. They were a bunch of knobs, obviously, but that’s not the point either….
Accept It And Own It!
The point is, I was trying to hide my condition in plane sight and failing miserably. One minute I was chatting a mile a minute and the next I was being evasive and not making eye contact. Fine not fine. Basically I was really embarrassed by my ‘weirdness’ and was bright enough to quickly be able to come up with a vaguely plausible excuse for every symptom, while t the same time feeling really rather stupid. We need to remember we aren’t wrong or broken, we just function differently. We shouldn’t be making excuses for being who we are or acting the way that we do regarding being different.Every single person on the planet has things they are good at and things they are crap at. The only difference with us is that we are more determined to give the things we know we’ll struggle with, a try in the first place.
If people notice you are acting or doing something that’s a little different don’t try to hide it, or make excuses for it. People will see through you and wonder what on earth is going on. If you continue to behave like that, it’s pretty obvious people are going to get tired or even annoyed. It’s not fair I know but there you go. Either find a quiet time to have a casual chat or wait until someone brings it up and then just be open and honest with them about it.
Even if you only make your lecturer/manager aware so that they can make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you cope. For instance, amassing angrier and angrier warnings from your boss for being late, when you struggle with time management and planning might actually be avoidable! Maybe you could start and finish slightly earlier/later to avoid rush hour?
What To Say About Your Disability or Condition
Maybe talk about specific things you struggle with, if you’ve been diagnosed with a certain thing or the reason why that condition effects you (if you are lucky enough to know) or how long you’ve had it. Go into as much or as little detail as you want but try to keep your sense of humour. At the very least it gives people a better understanding of you, and why shouldn’t they!
Admit If You Need Help WithA Task
I know with invisible disabilities it’s possible a person can keep on scraping by and covering up their mistakes or their needs but that knotted stomach feeling of dread can lead to anxiety and depression. It’s much better to ask for help or clearer guidance from your teacher/lecturer/manager/colleagues/friends from the start, even if that help is just a little more patience or understanding from them. Absolutely everyone needs help sometimes so if you are really really struggling with a task don’t feel embarrassed to ask for some!
Being more open about it might make you feel vulnerable at first but as I’ve learned, hiding it can make you just as vulnerable. They are some awesome people out there with more empathy and understanding than you might first realise.
The more people talk about disabilities, the more people get to hear about them and gain a greater understanding of them :o)