Since I received diagnosis my dyspraxia, I’ve felt various highs and lows. Mainly though, highs seem to be increasing. I spent a day at the dyspraxia conference and realized how lucky I was that I wasn’t told I was different. I felt different but isn’t that normal for some children, in the playground there are always different groups of children or those who find themselves alone for all sorts of reasons. For me that was the case, but for me it felt normal to be abnormal.
More importantly the things I couldn’t do felt like no big deal, it just took me longer to do it, no-one really noticed I couldn’t do it only me. Needing to learn without being taught directly is something that has happened to me and must be why I have such a high self awareness. I mean you do get the odd adult who looks puzzled why you can’t do something or in some cases shouts at you.
However these days everyone is so worried about their child if they aren’t developing in the same way – this means often they are wrapped with cotton wall, they are told they are different but we will try to make you normal, which in turn just creates distance from being able to live a fulfilling life. I feel this also creates withdrawal and depression also.
The other day I went to a shyness group, mainly it was attended by people of different ages with social anxiety issues. On moving around the group I found two people with proposed learning disabilities one with Aspergers and one with Autsim. When I first started chatting to them they seemed quite low and full of anxiety. However they instantly opened up more when I told them I had a disorder too. One person transformed before my eyes as they opened up about their own experience. Being young and their parents feeling as though something was different set about trying to get a diagnosis to explain why their child wasn’t like everyone else. At the age of over 30 the person having battled with depression had a revelation, there wasn’t anything wrong with him it was everyone else. Now the person was battling to get out into the real world find a job, make connections and friendships and start living.
In our discussion they told me that they had high levels of depression when younger and felt it was made worse by the diagnoses which they are not sure is correct even. Furthermore they thought of it as a disability and disbelieved me when I said I don’t believe in disability.
I felt it was important to ask what they can do not what they can’t and that the interesting fact of the brain that it compensates for any weakness areas which means that those with neuro-developmental disorders like we all had often have skills and abilities that are higher then the average population. This I felt was really important to push out there.
Afterwards, It made me think, that disability is such because it is the way we create the world, rather then us inside the world trying to create. We can create the world any how we want and if you speak to anyone with any difficulties in one areas you have to find ways to get to their strengths and when you do its like a whole new person sitting in front of you, open bright and happy.
That’s the thing I’ve always found that people who aren’t like the average person tend to have such interesting perspectives, different ways of thinking. If nothing else there is a pure kindness that comes from within which is so important in todays world. Yet sadly, people who are capable tend not to find environments that allow them to thrive and all that ability goes to waste.
I feel its a ridiculous concept that some test has not defined me as disabled. I can’t fathom it, it seems so hilarious. Furthermore what seems to get forgotten in the process having a learning disability or any disability it doesn’t mean you suddenly forgo a personality or that you don’t have emotions, which I feel is often assumed or forgotten. For instance my personality isn’t involved in my limbs or my senses or my emotions, it is linked but if I lose a limb or I can’t do a maths sum I still have a personality right – that’s how the brain works. Everyone has the ability to love, have friendships and purpose in life.
For me its so important to empower others. And specifically empowering those that have been made to feel different. These levels of low self esteem lead person to close in in on themselves and find it even difficult to form meaningful relationships and create what they want to create in the world. People want to feel like they are worth something to the society, to the group – its almost the purpose of life. We don’t do things alone, why would we?
Its also important to realize that engaging with anyone is fulfilling given enough patience and openness. Every time I meet someone who has something different I think about it for days afterwards. Yesterday I was working at an art centre in the membership lounge and was certain one person there had Aspergers just in the way they talked, and the questions they asked. And its so hard sometimes when you don’t have the answers because for instance he was asking why there was no classical music in August when this is a classical music venue. It made Tt must be hard to really understand a world in black and white when there are so many grey areas. For me I find it hard to believe that there is any need of rules and regulations and things that stay the same.
Needless to say he was in the area for a while and I always offered a smile. At the end of the night he went to go and said goodbye and he asked if this was the right way for the lift down. I confirmed, off he went. Five minutes he comes back breathless, I said was it not the right way? No, I want to show you something – He got out of his bumbag a huge selection of key rings, he says – no its not there.. Then he reaches for his necklace – again a huge selection of medals and key rings ( thereby further providing further evidence of my first impression in Aspergers in regards to having obsessions and collecting things) He says, tell me who you think this is. I looked at it for a while and said Queen Victoria, I was right and he was so happy. We got chatting about his collection, how he loved the British Royal family,his Ethiopian roots, because he says though I am British, I am clearly african also. I asked him if he family was nice and he paused for some time, smiled and said “well its not right to complain is it” with a huge smile. I said yes families can be at times difficult but after-all they are family. The last bit set me smiling, even still 24 hours later. He said, oh by the way I don’t believe in intersexual racial relationships so you are quite safe. Of course most would be shocked but to me, I just thought that was classic, you have to expect the unexpected and that one I have not heard before. The point is engage and you will be surprised because its not the same as talking to the average population of small talk, you’ll not even know where the conversation will take you and you’ll get to peek inside someone elses world whose brain works in such a different way that is pretty incredible.
The reason why I’m telling this story is sometimes you have to try your very best to see the person themselves rather then the label that is put upon them. A label is good in respect of knowing how to help, however often the label can lead to segregation. In creating a divide this you are missing out a whole new world of thought and imagination that really transforms your world and your ideas of it. In fact I feel this overall that we are continually separating people with regards to race, gender or sexual preference with the purpose of inclusion yet creating exclusion all the way. Overall the most important part to remember is no matter what, everyone is an individual no matter what and everyone needs to be treated as such, no matter how hard it is for people to accept. We are individuals who are similar and actually its like what I always heard in Thailand ‘same same but different’.