Do you or your child... get called "clumsy," "lazy," "disorganized," "messy" or "fidgety"? Have a hard time tying shoes, staying on task, focussing or handwriting? Sometimes trip over nothing or inexplicably slur or stumble over your words? It may be nothing... or... it may be
I am a mother, documentary filmmaker and masters student combining all three of these roles in my latest film project One & 6%, the story of my son's dyspraxia/ developmental coordination disorder (DCD) echoed by the shared experiences among others in the 6% who have this neurological disorder affecting fine and gross motor skills... which in turn impacts one's ability to sequence, plan, and organize. Left undiagnosed, by the time a child reaches their teens, the effect on self-esteem can cause additional mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Early detection and therapies can make a world of difference for people with dyspraxia – helping the brain to work around the disability. Greater public awareness is also important for greater acceptance of neurodiversity. As my son says: "I am the way I am and that's that." And he's not alone. 6% is about 2 in every classroom. Think about it.
My son Zak faced numerous challenges as a child, student and teenager, all of which went unexplained and seemed unconnected until he reached a crisis point at age 15, when his international school strongly suggested he find an alternative institution. Educational psychologists had ruled out ADD/ADHD and rated his aptitude at above average, so they determined he simply 'lacked motivation.' The only clue something else was going on was an assessment that his poor, slow and 'stressed' handwriting – indicated a "motor skill challenge," but there was no reference to dyspraxia or DCD.
It took my frustration and voracious Googling to uncover what was wrong, despite testing being readily available as long as parents know what to ask for, who to ask and (for many in many places) can afford the private fees of an Occupational Therapist.
Diagnosed at 15, Zak was skeptical of the diagnosis and didn't want to see himself as different. After moving to a 100% exam-based Cambridge school and achieving nearly straight As in his A-levels, he left University because he couldn't manage the term work. Now 21, he's not working or at school and lives almost entirely online. This is where he's happiest, for now.
Zak's story is not unique, but it could be a lot more rare with early diagnosis and therapy. And those teens and young adults who share Zak's experiences need to know they're not alone, that they're not lazy or unmotivated but challenged.
Its a travesty most educators and health care providers still remain oblivious to the condition. Approximately 2% of the population are on the autism spectrum, a community two thirds smaller than those with dyspraxia. ASD has made tremendous waves in public awareness leading to targeted public policies and assistance to help those with the condition lead normal and productive lives. Dyspraxics need the same public awareness and policies.
Why us?Though indifferent to the project, Zak is happy for me to share his/our story.
We've lived in three countries on three continents – The UK, Canada and South Africa – giving us unique insight into what it means to be Dyspraxic in different places. In the UK, there's a dyspraxic assistant on Dr Who and the Dyspraxia Foundation website has about 40,000 followers whereas in Canada, the equivalent website has 200 followers, and 6,000 in the US where the population is five times larger than the British Isles. Word needs to spread.
I have experience directing and producing documentaries and TV series for broadcasters in several markets, and I'm determined to get this documentary into as wide a global audience as possible. I will also ensure all my research and interviews have an online life, providing access to all, anywhere in the world.
Where will the funding go?
Funding will go toward the UK leg of production happening this June/July (possibly August), to pay for crew, their meals and equipment.
Any funds raised on top of those costs will go toward the creation of a "trailer" to raise additional production and finishing funds for the full-length documentary and accompanying website.
Help my son and I raise awareness... everywhere.