Project Dyspraxia

An identification of dyspraxia on my 35th birthday shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as it was, in retrospect.

3 failed driving tests, next to no ability to hold 3 new bits of information in my head and a chronic inability to follow a sequence; it’s glaringly obvious now.

The assessing psychologist brought everything into sharp focus for me. Yes, those difficulties that she assessed for had underpinned so many academic, work and even life failures (like being sacked from a cafe when 3 weeks in I still couldn’t remember how to use the coffee machine, or my first go at university screeching to a halt shortly after Freshers’ week).

But I also learned that alongside the slips and trips (literally), dyspraxia has its distinct advantages: Strategic thinking, humour, creativity, artistic expression and appreciation of life’s simple things are part of the package, and these are the parts I want to delve through when I’m exploring this part of who I am.

So, donning my dyspraxia dress, ready to try it out for size, I browsed all the accessories and information that might help me to wear it well.

And I didn’t get far.
The books, literature, information on dyspraxia that inspire me to take ownership of, and really connect with my specific learning difference are few and far between.

I haven’t found an equivalent of the beautiful Aspien Woman crafted by Tania A Marshall for the autistic community, or the Power of Different by Gail Saltz that reframe the clinical, deficit model understanding of other neurodiverse profiles.

So maybe I need to write one. Write the book that I want to read about dyspraxia. And I’m looking for the world dyspraxic community to help me.

My vision is for an imaginative collection of metaphors for how we perceive ourselves and our dyspraxia. You see, to me, dyspraxia is like the love child of Athena and Dionysus (or Minerva and Bacchus, depending on your classical bent). Smart, wise and artistic, but frequently falling over.

For those of us who have a dyspraxic profile, we all have our own imaginative mental models of what it is, what it’s like. What’s yours?

Visit the project page to find out more and link to the submission form.

Dyspraxia is like…what?

1st Anniversary Celebration Sale

It has been a whole year since My Great-Grandfather, the Alien was published, and what a year it has been. Throughout August 2021, there’s a half price sale on the book in my shop to mark the occasion.

Here’s 5 things worth celebrating from the book’s first year in the wild:

  1. In Summer 2020, 63 Kickstarter backers pledged £1,587 to help bring the book to life in the first place, launching My Great Grandfather, the Alien on an electrifying journey.

2. Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, the UK’s leading family history publication featured a 4 page article about the story behind the book in their January 2021 edition.

3. When The Friends of Maple Grove, New York learned about my efforts to tell Thomas’s story, not only did they generously back the campaign but they also helped to arrange a beautiful gravemarker, immortalising his story. Please visit and pay your respects if you’re ever in the area.

But that still wasn’t the end of the Thomas story afterall. The Friends then called on a host of talented singers and musicians from New York and dedicated a special online concert to him. When you watch it, be sure to sing along proudly in your best Scottish accent.

4. The cherry on top came in the form of a prestigious Gold Award for book design in the 2021 Indigo Design Awards. The Indigo Awards jury seeks out “exceptional design of an uncommon artistry”. (Shucks!)

5. Praise for the book came from the worlds of graphic novels and family history. Here’s a few of my favourite comments:

“Fascinating and beautifully illustrated.” Mary Evans, contributing researcher for
Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

“A unique familial passion project beautifully realised.”
Trusty Henchman Comics

“This adventure through time is a perfect reminder of the niche comics that come out of crowdfunding.”
Comics Beat

“Beautifully illustrated and designed.”
Family Tree Magazine

“A Masterpiece.”
Carl Ballenas, author and President of the Friends of Maple Grove, New York

“The book…is lovely and engaging [with] large, thick pages suffused with colour. Each two-page spread is like holding a small work of art on your lap: combinations of words, graphics, and creativity – sharing space with 100-year old photographs, documents and letters. Every time I pick up the book, I think, “I wish I had something like this for my own family.”
Leah Hargrove, Clan Carmichael USA

What a year for My Great-Grandfather, the Alien! with so many unplanned, amazing things. It was important to me to share Thomas’s story and readers have been so kind and complimentary about the book. To celebrate its success and mark the one year anniversary since its release, there’s a special half price sale on the book throughout August 2021.

Artist or Autist? Both.

Dyspraxia Awareness Week

I’m celebrating my first Dyspraxia Awareness Week! If you’re new to Dyspraxia, then consider it a close cousin of Asperger’s and Dyslexia. Senior Editor of Bustle Jenny Hollander perfectly sums up the essence of what it’s about; when signals from your brain aren’t all making it through to your body.

Incidents and Accidents

This is me. Identified at 35 as being dyspraxic, everything good, bad and indifferent about me suddenly made sense. For me, some of the simple ways it presents include trying to walk through doors before I’ve opened them, routinely hitting my skull off over-head objects and frequently spilling ink because I’ve a) not threaded the lid on properly then b) knocked it over in an effort to pick it up.

Bringing My A-Game

Like their neurodiverse Aspie counterparts, dyspraxic folks like me can struggle massively with learning a sequence of information, turning thoughts into words, and functioning in any given social situation.

These aside, my own spikey cognitive profile fortunately lends itself to creative thinking and visual interpretation; must-haves for any designer. Like most people, I’m only at the start of understanding dyspraxia and its relationship with art and design, but it’s a significant link and one to be explored by anyone interested in design thinking.

Dyspraxia in the Wild

A couple of creative dyspraxic projects that caught my eye this week:

Art, Design and Neurodiversity by Luca M Damiani

Creative Mentors for Neurodiverse young people

Imagination Dyspraxia Creativity Cardboard Box
Happy accidents.


What have Poster Designers ever done for Sport?

If you asked my PE teachers at Selkirk High School in the ’90s the least likely thing I would ever be asked in the future, if ever interviewed about my professional career by a journalist, then, “How does it feel to have left your footprint on sporting history?” would have likely been top of their list.

But amidst the buzz of the 2014 Ryder Cup tournament taking our wee country by storm, standing in Gleneagles in my Lochcarron Ryder Cup tartan kilt, a putter’s length from golf legends Steven Gallacher and Rory McIlroy, I was asked that very question, and it was the moment I realised that the poster design I’d entered into the Quarriers’ competition a few months earlier would become a relic of a truly historic sporting event.

If only my PE teachers had collaborated with the art and design dept back in the day, I’d have found an appreciation of sport much earlier on in life. But what’s the role of a designer in a sports tournament anyway?

Design and Sport  – the perfect match

It’s a sports tournament poster designer’s job to create a visual to evoke the interest of even the non- sports fan in the event, and, should be a physical souvenir that entices the sports fanatic to recognise the value of clever design. Here are three, now cult, classic designs I think did that the best:

Yusaka Kamekura: 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Gaby De Abreu and Paul Dale: 2010 Football World Cup

Arroyo: 1981 Roland Garros Tennis Tournament

Katie artist designer of the 2014 Ryder Cup Official Poster