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Column: ‘I struggle with simple tasks like tying up my hair in a ponytail’

Erik G

MY NAME IS Ellen O’Brien and I am a teenager living with dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder. It can come with many comorbidities such as dyscalculia, ADHD and sensory processing difficulties.

I view dyspraxia as on obstacle course, every hurdle you overcome is an achievement. I have struggled with simple tasks like tying my shoelace or tying my hair in a ponytail. I never viewed not being able to do these things as setbacks, they were just obstacles I wanted to overcome. With persistence and determination I managed to finally accomplish both of these tasks. It was a big achievement for me.

You have to focus more

I find that having dyspraxia makes you more determined. You have to focus that bit more on achieving tasks that other teens may not have difficulty with. I view being determined as a good quality as if I have my mind set on a particular task that I want to achieve, no matter how hard it may be, I won’t give up until I achieve my goal.

This shows that my dyspraxia won’t stop me from trying to do all the things that other teens find easier to do.

I am a very shy and nervous person. I find it difficult in social situations. I am fine around my friends as I feel comfortable with them. It’s around new people or new situations that I really struggle with. It’s like I freeze and don’t know how to react, even though the person might just ask me a simple question like “How are you?” I have realised I need to push myself socially more. I am determined to overcome this hurdle in the near future.

Dyspraxia can make you more creative

I think having dyspraxia makes you be more creative as you think more about certain things. I have used this creativity to write stories and poems in the past. It is a favourite hobby of mine as I feel I can express myself through writing.

Having dyspraxia has made me quite clumsy. I often fall up and down the stairs as I tend to take two steps at a time. When I fall I get up and keep going. I can also be disorganised and struggle to keep order on certain things like keeping my room tidy or organising my locker in school.

I have dyscalculia so I struggle a lot with maths. I find word problems particularly difficult. I have found out that I am better at saying the maths out orally than writing it down on paper. It’s like I can’t write what’s in my head onto the paper. It can be very frustrating at times, especially as I do so well in my other subjects.

I over analyse certain situations

I like painting my nails, but due to my poor hand eye coordination the polish often ends up all over my fingers and hands. It even sometimes ends up in my hair.

Having dyspraxia has made me a very deep thinker. I often over analyse certain situations. I worry almost too much. I have learned some techniques over time on how to control this but I still struggle at times. I also have a very good memory, which helps me a lot with studying and school work.

I know dyspraxia can be frustrating at times when you feel you can’t achieve the task you want to no matter how close you get to it. Trust me, with determination you can do anything you set your mind to.

I hope that teens in the same position as me can relate to what I have written. I may have dyspraxia but I will never let it define me as a person as it is only a very small part of me. In every other way, I am just a normal teenager.

Ellen O’Brien is a teenager with dyspraxia. She lives in Mullingar with her mum, Tracy. Dyspraxia/ DCD Ireland was formed in 1995 by parents of children with dyspraxia. You can find more information here

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