Dyspraxia: Living as an Expat and Learning the Lingo!

Amsterdam houses - the dyspraxic chef - Living as an expat

It has been a while… and 2017 is nearing it’s inevitable demise. It has been a strange year living as an expat for the dyspraxic chef; and I have not been in the kitchen as much as I would have like to have been. I will return to the kitchen soon and hopefully the end product will be tastier than ever before.

For now…Living as an Expat

The topic I wanted to share was living as an expat and specifically learning a new language.  The lingo I am trying to get my tongue twisted around is Dutch. I have lived in the Netherlands a little over two years and baring the odd session on Duolingo or Lingohut, I have not really got on anywhere in terms of language building.

Living with dyspraxia and living as an expat throws up all manner of challenges. Coming from England most of the challenges you face living as an expat are made easy in the Netherlands. 99% of people speak English and are rightly proud of the fact they can. This is both positive and negative, it is easy to get by but it is almost too easy.

The best way to learn dutch Learning With DYSPRAXIA - the dyspraxic chef blog post Living as an Expat

A year ago or so, I applied for the free dutch classes that were available and waited for the course to start. Before the classes were to start, there was of course a process to go through. As is the case with most things when living as an expat.

Step 1.

Meeting to collect documents and take names: At this stage I mentioned Dyspraxia.

Step 2.

Learning test to decide which group I would go in (fast or slow).

I asked to go in the slow group but the test I completed misrepresented my learning ability and I was put in the faster learning group. This may sound stupid but this was the first test I wish I had done worse at; a short test is not representative of what would be a 3 hour lesson, twice a week.

I explained the dyspraxia situation and that a smaller group where the pace would be slower would be more suitable; but due to being University educated and a few good guesses on a test; it was the top group for me.

I was, however, determined to have a go so I took it in my stride and awaited the next step.

Step 3.

Sign a contract.

Step 4.

Start the classes: I tried my best to explain dyspraxia and the issues I, like many other dyspraxic’s, face when it comes to learning something new; even providing documentation provided by the Dyspraxia Foundation. There are two teachers and both were understanding about it, in fact, one of them spoke of how his brother had been considered as having  processing/sensory issues that sounded a lot like dyspraxia.

Back to school: Dutch Lessons Study- the dyspraxic chef blog post Living as an Expat

I try to attend each class with a positive outlook but that dissipates fairly quickly. The first few classes I managed to sort of keep up, but by the second half of the class, if not the second half of the first half; I was done.

Despite this, the classes are full of people who have varying levels of ability and they take place   twice a week for three hours a time. A part of me screams ‘what where you thinking?’ but a much larger part screams ‘it’s no reason not to give it a go’.

The matter has and is causing anxiety. I have missed a few classes due to working away which admittedly did not help the situation. Where I stand now is trying to catch up in my own time, which has its own challenges, and attempting to communicate with the school about the best way I can learn dutch moving forward.

The current set up is not productive at all. I fail to see how it can be for anybody else in the room either. The classrooms are outdated with bright lights and we spend most of the time nose deep into a text book. It is an understatement to say I have an issue with learning things, but there is a right and wrong way of learning. The teacher lamented that in his other classes, the students have access to computers. We are almost in the third decade of the 21st century and there is still so much we can learn about learning. I know that text books and bad lighting is not the way to go; I’d have just as much chance learning from slate.

More to say

I could go on about various aspects of the lessons. The stress, anxiety and general morale crushing process that it has at times felt like, but if you have any experience of learning with dyspraxia or of being around those that have, you will be able to fill in the blanks.

It is not all bad though, I occasionally understand what is happening in the class, and that makes all the difference, for that moment,.It makes me want to carry on. Like when golfers say they can spend hours swinging to hit barely anything but then they hit one sweet shot, that makes chase that thrill time again.

Don’t give in

I do not want to put fellow dyspraxic’s off learning a language. There are other neurological conditions at play for one; which is often the case with dyspraxia. I will not be giving up learning the lingo any time soon. If anything it has made me more determined to learn and to continue to ask questions about dyspraxia.


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A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia R is for

A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia R is for

A - Z of Living with Dyspraxia R is for

A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia R is for

R – R is for Rejection

As an adult living with dyspraxia you might find you have come away from certain situations and experiences with a sense of rejection. It could be an interview, a moment in the classroom, in the workplace at home with family or friends.

The world was not designed with dyspraxia in mind. Quite the opposite. The world is tailor-made for people with a certain standard of ability in a few particular areas. This is changing, surely but slowly. dyspraxic’s should always keep this mind when dealing with a sense of rejection or alienation. The world is designed for

Dyspraxics should always keep this mind when dealing with a sense of rejection or alienation. The world is designed for non-dyspraxic’s and people without neurological conditions.

Feeling rejected

A sense of rejection may come in the form of a job interview in which you were unsuccessful in getting the job. Or it could come in the form of participating in a social event such as a game of darts and be noticeably poorer at it than your peers. (requires hand eye coordination)

With the two examples, an adult living with dyspraxia may get the same sense of rejection but for very different reasons.

In my view, it is an almost like a case of there being direct and indirect causes of feeling rejection as an adult living with dyspraxia.

Direct causes

An example of a direct cause of rejection when living with dyspraxia is not being successful in a job interview and the reason provided being that they are unable to provide you with the support you need.

Indirect causes

A social setting in which time is spent with friends and even close family can present its self as an indirect cause of rejection when living with dyspraxia.

That is because of it easy for a person living with dyspraxia to feel rejected if they feel that their needs are not being taken into account. Of course, that is true of everyone but when living with dyspraxia a person may need support in areas that friends and family have simply not considered.


Everybody, no matter if they have dyspraxia or anything else, has to deal with rejection as various points throughout life; and all have to learn how to deal with it in their own way.

R is for rejection because when living with dyspraxia having a sense of rejection is a common occurrence.



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A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia N is for

A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia N is for   A - Z of Living with Dyspraxia N is for

N is for Neurological condition/disorder

Often know as a learning disability dyspraxia is better described as a lifelong neurological condition or disorder.

A neurological condition or disorder is any disorder of the nervous system, a neurological disorder can manifest many symptoms such as muscle weakness and poor coordination.

Not brain damage

Dyspraxia, which affects patterns or sequences of movements is not Brain damage but brain dysfunction.

A person living with dyspraxia is born with dyspraxia but it possible to develop dyspraxia through sustaining brain injuries or from suffering a stroke.

More than a learning disability or difficulty

Like other conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD, dyspraxia is often referred to as a learning disability but it is more than that.

Although the impact of these conditions in a learning environment, for example, can often be huge and highly evident, that is not the only place they manifest themselves.

The learning environment is one where there is focus on, well, learning and dyspraxic symptoms will magnify in a learning environment if support is not provided.

I write this from the perspective of an adult and am relating it mainly to my university education, but the principle applies throughout education and throughout life.

Why I prefer Neurological condition or neuro diverse

When talking about dyspraxia I try to maintain a habit of calling it or referring to it has an NC or by saying that I am ND. (We are all Neurodiverse though) Either way is better than calling dyspraxia a learning disability. I think this for two reasons.

First, because I think the word disability is negative and has a stigma attached to it that is hard to loosen. The second reason being, that to call it a ‘learning disability’ is to oversimplify it and imply that it affects only learning. Which is simply not the case.

A neurological condition or disorder affects a person all of the time not just some of it. Sure, in a relaxed environment under no pressure, a disorder may not present many issues, but it is still present,

N is for Neurological condition because, in my opinion, it is a better label to give dyspraxia than learning disability or difficulty.

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A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia M is For

A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia M is For          A - Z of Living with Dyspraxia M is For

M is for motor coordination

Did you see the dyspraxic catch the ball?

Probably not.

Well, I have to contradict myself there, I am quite good at catching, especially for a dyspraxic. I put that down to practice and anticipation because when it comes to throwing I am terrible.

What is motor coordination?

According to Wiki motor co-ordination is a combination of spatial movements and physical parameters, and motor coordination occurs when, for example, several body parts or limbs move simultaneously in an efficient and smooth manner towards an intended goal.

That is all good and well for the majority of the population but when living with dyspraxia, it is common for people to have poor motor coordination, resulting in ‘clumsiness’.

Walking in a straight line without tripping is an achievement some days and other days just a pipe dream. Please don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to stay upright and mobile as a person living with dyspraxia.

No complaints here, not many anyway.

I would like to make clear that this is not a complaint. I should put that as a disclaimer, because despite the challenges faced as an adult living with dyspraxia, with fine and gross motor skills; I am grateful to be healthy.

It is funny most of the time, there have been a few concussions that I would have preferred to avoid but on the whole, the bumps, trips and slips have been the source of a good laugh.

Playing darts is a laugh. Just ask my friends. I was accused of trying to break the board because I throwing the darts so hard.

Motor co-ordination can also cause issues in the kitchen, which I have documented. It is probably one of the hardest things about cooking with dyspraxia because the better your motor co-ordination is, the easier it will be for you to cut, peel and chop things in preparation.

M is for motor coordination because not everyone appreciates how much affect it has on our day to day Life, especially when it comes to people living with dyspraxia.

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A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia D is for

A – Z of Living with Dyspraxia D is for

D – is for diet   

Eating a well-balanced diet is half the battle when it comes to staying healthy. Living with dyspraxia is no different. Many of the things that an adult living with dyspraxia might have issues with can be improved or aided by a well balanced healthy diet.

As stated many times over, the dyspraxic chef has a keen interest in a healthy diet. It was not by choice however, it was driven by allergies and intolerances.

Living with dyspraxia

Living with dyspraxia presents at least one obvious obstacle and that is the way food tastes and feels. I have a great deal of issues with texture and that is common amount adults living with dyspraxia due to many dyspraxics being very tactile.

That can make it hard when you consider some of the foods that this affects. For example, I was informed that dyspraxics suffer from a potassium deficiency, a great weapon against that are bananas but I can’t eat them. I can’t stand the texture, “so blend it into a smoothie”, yes but the texture of that is just as bad.

D is for diet because living with dyspraxia can present difficulty when trying to eat a balanced diet.

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The dyspraxic chef’s Top Tips For Food Hygiene

The dyspraxic chef's Top Tips For Food HygieneIt is one of the most important if not the most important part of cooking. Food hygiene. So here are The dyspraxic chef’s top tips for food hygiene and they will hopefully, make you more knowledgeable in the kitchen.

The dyspraxic chef’s Top Tips For Food Hygiene

  1. Use bactericidal soap to wash your hands

By having bactericidal in the soap you use to wash your hands with, it will kill the bacteria on your hands and enable you to keep the two most important utensils (your hands) clean. Take a little bit of soap and lather it in the palm of one hand, one it is sufficiently soapy, make a claw shape with the other hand and begin to gently scrub your fingernails in the palm of the soapy hand. Repeat this for the other hand.

  2. Cover cuts

Cover any cuts you may have on your fingers or hands with a waterproof plaster. This will prevent disgruntled dinners from finding blood and having bacteria in their food.

  3. Stay away if you’ve been sick

It might sound obvious but it can be extremely dangerous to everyone involved if someone has been cooking when recently ill. It is advised to stay away from food prep for 48 hours after the illness has passed if you have either sickness or diarrhea. Stay out of the kitchen and by a bucket and drink plenty of water.

  4. Pay attention to the temperature

Temperature plays a big part in food hygiene if food is kept at the wrong temperature it can cause all sorts of health problems.  For example, frozen food will go bad if not stored at -18c or lower and if meat or poultry are kept at 37c they become a breeding ground for pathogens and bacteria.

   5. Make sure it is cooked

Undercooked food can cause serious illness. Always make sure you pre-heat your oven or pan to the desired cooking temperature before cooking.  Follow cooking instructions carefully.Enough said on one.

For more information on food hygiene, there are lots of useful sites.  And if you live in the UK you can take an online qualification. The dyspraxic chef's Top Tips For Food Hygiene

Yours and hungry, 

the dyspraxic chef. 

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Delicious Dyspraxic Chicken Jalfrazi

Dyspraxic chicken jalfrazi, doesn’t that sound delicious?  I may have mentioned this before. One thing I miss about England is the food.  In particular, I love curry and pretty much any curry, but when my Dutch friend Imran invited me to his place for a chicken jalfrezi, I offered my services as dyspraxic sous chef services and he duly accepted.

Dyspraxic menu | dyspraxic chicken jalfrezi

Dyspraxic chicken jalfrezi is on the menu tonight and here is what you will need.Dyspraxic Chicken jalfrezi ingredients | the dyspraxic chef

  • jalfrezi spices/powder
  • half a cup of oil
  • rice
  • peppers and onions
  • yogurt
  • tomato puree
  •  Chicken or cheese

What to do | dyspraxic chicken jalfrezi

To make it easier to read, I will bullet point all the dyspraxic action it will take to make this delicious dyspraxic chicken jalfrazi.

  • Slice chicken and remove all fat (be patient and take plenty of time) * top tip – use sharp clean scissors
  • add the chicken to a bowl of water to clean
  • marinate the chicken in spices and yoghurt
  • Cook the chicken in a pan with half a cup of sunflower oil on medium high heat
  • prepare the rice to boil
  • Take the chicken and add the puree and add more spice if needed
  • chop and add the veg (be patient and take plenty of time) 
  • Leave the pan on a low heat for around 20 minutes.

As always, there is no need to stick to the recipe for dyspraxic chicken jalfrezi add and remove as you see fit. Leave to cook on low heat with the key to knowing it is cooked it when the chunks of onion have separated and are soft.

Dyspraxic sous chef

I got off lightly today with the cooking, I did some slicing, which involved all its usual issues. But, I did learn how to make a dyspraxic chicken jalfrezi, which I am sure I will be eating again very soon.

Too hungry to take a picture

I got that excited about eating, I forgot to take a picture. I know it seems to be the trend to picture food and not one I love, but this is a cooking blog.  A true dyspraxic moment. Here is a picture of an empty pan. Dyspraxic Chicken jalfrezi empty pan | the dyspraxic chef

It was delicious, though, so a big thank you to Imran for accommodating the dyspraxic chef.

Yours and Hungry,

the dyspraxic chef.

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5 Top tips to get children with dyspraxia in the kitchen

For parents of children with dyspraxia deciding what to cook for them can be a challenge. And getting them to do the cooking, an even bigger one. Due to poor fine motor skills, children with dyspraxia might struggle in the kitchen. However, with practice, like most things, children with dyspraxia can getter better in the kitchen.

Here are the dyspraxic’s chefs top tips to get dyspraxic kid’s into the kitchen.

1.Get children with dyspraxia involved right from the off!

Let your dyspraxic child pick what they want to cook. Encourage them to start simple to build confidence and before long, they might be presenting you with a three-course menu. It might be easier for you to pick the menu at first. If your dyspraxic chef gets too excited you might end up with them picking something tricky. At first, try to keep it simple but exciting for your dyspraxic chef. Making a pizza is a fun and simple dish if you use a supermarket base.

2. Make a ‘special’ trip to the supermarket for children with dyspraxia

A trip to the supermarket can be a real challenge for adults and children living with dyspraxia.

If practical, make a list with only the ingredients for what you are trying to get your dyspraxic child to cook. Then make a special trip to the supermarket to get what you need from the list. This will take away the stress and boredom aspect normally associated with shopping by dyspraxics.

The Simpsons season 2 bart simpson lisa simpson episode 20 | Children with dyspraxia

As you shop, explain to them how you will cook the ingredients together and why you have chosen them. If they know why something is being bought, they are more likely to stay engaged.

3. Prepare the kitchen

Make a dedicated space for your dyspraxic chef. If the counter they use is clear and clean, they will engage when having to do the basic preparation. They might be some peeling and chopping to be done so make sure there is a clear space for that to be done in. Your dyspraxic chef will have to take their time with the preparation but it is good practice for the fine motor skills.

Children with dyspraxia might struggle with fine motor skills | the dyspraxic chef

4.Make it rewarding

If you dyspraxic chef in waiting is not excited by the prospect of cooking, offer a reward in exchange for some kitchen time. Before long cooking or baking will become the reward itself.

5.Encourage your children with dyspraxia

Use positive language throughout the cooking process. The slightest bit of negativity could have your dyspraxic chef back on the sofa demanding a frozen pizza. It can be frustrating for those around dyspraxics in the kitchen so please try to be patient with your dyspraxic chef and not take over the dish. Even if things are moving along slowly.

If you have managed to follow all these tips and you have your dyspraxic child in the kitchen then you have scored top points.

*And bonus points if you can get them to do the washing up afterwards.

The Simpsons bart simpson episode 17 season 20 kitchen

Yours and Hungry,

The dyspraxic chef


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Dyspraxic Jacket Spud with cheese and beans

Dyspraxic Jacket Spud

Dyspraxic cooking presents the dyspraxic chef with two big problems and they are 1. finding the motivation to cook (hunger is not enough) 2. finding practical things to cook. (My imagination can run wild.)

The motivation for this one was home sickness more than anything. Although living away from home, you miss friends and family but I think its the food I pine for the most.

On the menu | Dyspraxic cooking

Living with dyspraxia can make it difficult when it comes to dyspraxic cooking, so my advice is, where possible keep it simple. And this Lancashire staple does just that. Jacket potatoes with cheese and beans is a quick and simple way for an adult living with dyspraxia to cook a lovely warm meal on a cold winters afternoon.

What will you need

  • Beans in tomato sauce
  • Potatoes
  • Cheese
  • Salt and pepper

How to do it

When it comes to dyspraxic cooking, nothing is simple. The creation of this one is straightforward enough, it is just a case of boiling things. It is the quantity that I get wrong with the simple ones.  I was serving myself and the frog. I cooked enough spuds but not enough beans for two.

One pan is needed for the spuds. Wash the spuds to make sure they are clean, you will leave the skin on them for this one (No need for that pesky peeling). Fill your pan with water and spuds, put it on a low heat and leave to boil. In a second pan place a tin of beans but wait before cooking as they will only take a few minutes.

When you can cut through the spud like you can cut through butter with a warm knife then you know it is time to warm up those beans.

What’s on that plate?

Tasty, tasty food, that’s what. A fairly quick and simple dish that should stave off the snacking until tea time. There was no stress with this dyspraxic cooking, just food. Dyspraxic Jacket Spud | the dyspraxic chef | dyspraxic cooking

Yours and Hungry,

The dyspraxic chef 

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5 signs of a dyspraxic chef

5 signs of a dyspraxic chef
5 signs of a dyspraxic chef

5 signs of a dyspraxic chef

1. Dyspraxia symptoms | messy eating: the dyspraxic chef is spilling his food

Three words: dyspraxia, messy and eating. Nothing could go wrong, right? Wrong. Adults living with dyspraxia have issues with fine motor skills. A common dyspraxia symptom is messy eating.
A sure fire way of spotting a dyspraxic chef is to look for food. Food on the floor, food on the kitchen counter, food on the furniture, food on the wall.
Eating tacos | the dyspraxic chef | dyspraxia symptoms messy eating

A dyspraxic adult might have trouble eating some types of foods.

OK, so you get the point, but it is a serious point. I have on countless times dropped a knife or fork when seemingly in control of it. Sometimes it is not a disaster and I am at home. Other times in public, a fork will slip from my hand and in slow motion bounce and spring off every dish and plate on the table.
When I manage to keep hold of the cutlery, you can bet something will fall from my plate or fly from a fork and stain me or my surroundings. It is often the very last bit of a very messy meal that does the damage.

2.They are slicing and dicing their fingers, not the food

Adults living with dyspraxia can struggle with fine motor skills. Making preparing a food tricky task. A good tip to see if your plate is being filled by a dyspraxic adult is by checking their hands for cuts. A good chef will have them covered with plasters and a better yet, a dyspraxic chef would have taken extra care and time so they might not have any.
I have to say, I am on a good run and am still counting all my digits. Extra care and vigilance are needed though, or your next dish might have more meat in than intended.

3. They are probably stuck doing something stupid.

This one is a first-hand account of the dyspraxic chef spending 5 -10 minutes trying to put on a pair of women’s trousers, before realising they were not mine. This is a common occurrence for adults living with dyspraxia symptoms. Not that adults with dyspraxia like to dress up in the opposite sexes clothes (although some might).
This can have implications in the kitchen.  Adults with dyspraxia can struggle with switching tasks and managing time. So it could take a dyspraxic chef some time before realising they are doing something wrong and that they didn’t plan enough time to do it. So, I hope you are not too hungry because switching tasks and starting again is going to take some time.
Writting on a birthday cake | the dyspraxic chef | dyspraxia symptoms messy eating

An adult living with dyspraxia might run out of space to decorate a cake.

 4. They have likely set something alight in the kitchen

Cooking with dyspraxia has all sorts of obstacles. There are  nothing that can’t be overcome with some grit and determination, but none the less, things lay in wait; ready to trip up an adult with dyspraxia in the kitchen.
Oven on fire | the dyspraxic chef | dyspraxia symptoms messy eating

the dyspraxic chef strikes again

Recently, I decided to have a night off from chefing, the result was a frozen pizza. Now, I don’t know if it is fair to attribute this to dyspraxia, but I managed to set fire to the baking paper the pizza was on (the oven was on too high of a heat). A quick tip, don’t fan the flames, as they say. Flaming oven tray in one hand, blowing the flames, I was left with no choice but to put it in the sink. I put the fire out and more importantly, I saved the pizza, although it was a bit soggy.

5.They have just presented you with a tasty, tasty, tasty dish!

That’s right, a good sign that you are being catered for by a dyspraxic chef is that they have just placed a tasty plate of food before you. Adults with dyspraxia might have issues with the texture of foods, but I think that enables them to satisfy the most sensitive pallet. Without a doubt, a lot of hard work and passion will have gone into the tasty treat before you, so enjoy and ALWAYS send your compliments to the dyspraxic chef.
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