It is dyspraxia awareness week and the Dyspraxia Foundation have been concentrating on dyspraxia in the workplace. The foundation conducted a survey of dyspraxic adults. They have concluded that dyspraxic adults are still not getting the support they require in the workplace. I wanted to share some of my experiences in the work place, as an adult living with dyspraxia.
What is dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is a developmental co-ordination disorder and affects adults and children for life. In short, it doesn’t mean they can not do what a non-dyspraxic can do, it means they can, but have to go a different way about.
I have had quite a few jobs and quite a few bosses who, I could say, lacked understanding. Then one or two bosses that had plenty of it. The report by the Dyspraxia Foundation highlighted some worrying trends in the workplace that I can relate to personally.
68% did not disclose their dyspraxia to their employers. Of those that did disclose their dyspraxic symptoms (64% did so voluntary), only 33% received any specific advice or support. A lack of support from employers for employees with dyspraxia can make employees underperform, and feel insecure in their roles.
In light of the findings from the dyspraxia foundation, I thought would share some of my past experience with dyspraxia in the workplace.
Hard working but sometimes a bit slow:
I had had three jobs (not at the same time) before I had left school. At one point and for quite a while, I was employed to set up a market stall in my local town centre. The stall sold ladies handbags, suitcase, and rucksacks of various shapes and sizes. To display the bags, a metal frame would be constructed to hang the bags from. For someone with dyspraxia symptoms, putting together a 3-D jigsaw at 6.30am is a slow,slow,slow,slow,slow process.
I don’t think I ever told my boss that I had dyspraxia, but because I worked hard he didn’t mind me being slow. A symptom of dyspraxia in the workplace is struggling to switch tasks. I think that is the main reason for being slow. I also find that if I work under the work kind of light I become easily distracted.
He talks with his hands and it is rude:
On other occasions, employers have been less understanding. I had a short stint at a high street baker that ended in mutual termination because I had not declared that dyspraxic symptoms may affect certain aspects of my work. The main gripe the store manager had was that I articulated with my hands and she found that rude.
I was young at the time and was unaware of the legislation on disability and employment rights. I was not obliged to disclose my disability. It could be argued I was cornered into agreeing to leave. Which I wanted to do. But if I had simply said no and forced them to dismiss me, then on reflection, it could be argued that I was discriminated against.
I could fill several pages of bad experiences due to dyspraxia in the workplace but it is not worth wasting the paper.
On the upside:
Although it is near impossible not to carry the weight of experience, it is important to put things in perspective. The report proves that adults living with dyspraxia are out in the workplace adding determination, creativity, hard work and passion to their environments. As hard as it may be, they are doing it, making it all the more important to raise awareness about dyspraxia and its impact in the workplace. Because employers are missing out on getting the best out of some extremely talented people.