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From my daughter Olivia
Welcome to a real life story of perseverance, belief and love, from my (step) daughter Olivia…
Olivia works with BT, who asked people to share their stories to help them build a more inclusive organisation. Olivia shared her dyspraxia diagnosis:
“When I was 8 years old I was diagnosed with dyspraxia. For a long time my parents and teachers debated whether I was simply just not as intelligent as my older brother or if I was suffering with an undiagnosed condition. My Mum’s persistence that I was equally as intelligent but couldn’t always express it was key to obtaining my diagnosis.
“I’m telling you my story, not because I’m looking for sympathy or special treatment, but because by sharing how my mind works I can get the support and understanding I need to allow me to be successful, just like when I was 8.
“I remember sitting in the car outside my primary school, with my Mum, in tears and desperately trying to remember my 7 times tables for long enough so that I could go in and do the maths test I had. Even then I felt incredibly stressed and frustrated because it felt like I was the only one that was struggling and it didn’t seem fair. When I was finally diagnosed I was scared because I realised I was different to my friends and some kids can be really mean to when you’re not like them.
“I was pulled out of school once a week for 2 hours to get training, coordination exercises and support to help me learn some coping mechanisms. My step-dad, and biggest fan, could see how it was affecting me and told me how lucky I was and that my Dyspraxia meant I was destined for big things. He had done some research and found often the most successful people have learning difficulties just like mine, because they can “think outside the box” or, rather, they don’t know how to think inside the box!
“Dyspraxia, or Developmental Coordination Disorder, affects everyone differently, but for me it means I struggle to store information in my brain in a logical way, so I often find myself forgetting things, losing track of my thoughts or saying the wrong words entirely (once I was baking and asked if I could use the last of decapitated coconut!). I also have poor coordination, those of you who know me will know I’m often tripping up, spilling my coffee or gesticulating so vigorously I knock something over. Sometimes when these things happen it’s infuriating, other times are just pure comedy. My biggest coping mechanism is my ability to laugh at myself and, in doing so, it allows others to find humour in my mishaps. Let’s face it, everyone loves a bit of slapstick comedy!
“Now I’m older I do consider myself lucky because my Dyspraxia means I can see solutions to problems that others simply can’t. I also learnt pretty quickly that to get over difficulties you need the ability to be resilient, persistent and problem solve. But, perhaps most importantly, it has shown me that you don’t have to be the same as everyone else to be happy or successful.
“For the record, I still don’t know my 7 times tables but it hasn’t stopped me becoming an accountant!
“I hope you feel you can declare your differences so we can learn more about the people we work with and give each other the understanding we need to get the best from each other.“
Thank you Olivia
Not knowing one’s 7 times table is not a barrier to academic success either. On Tuesday 24 July 2012, at 3.32pm, Olivia graduated from Southampton University with a First Class Honours Degree – in maths.
As Olivia suggested – share your stories or experiences with others here.
With my love and my best wishes to you all