Dyspraxia is like…what?

A call for dyspraxic people

This is a call for dyspraxic people of all ages and stages to contribute to an innovative awareness-raising publication about this lesser known neurodiversity type.

The problem

A neurodiversity book dealer once told me that dyspraxia is the poor cousin of the neurodiversity family. Unseen, unheard, largely unknown, tucked away in the shadow of her neurodiverse family members, somewhere behind Autism and Dyslexia. There are a few books about dyspraxia in adults but not nearly as many as there are about the sibling neuro-types.

Much of the literature that does exist is produced to explain us to other people in mechanical and often clinical ways. Terms like disorder, challenge, treatment and survival are the norm.
Yet, we are marvellous creatures, colourful, different thinkers with our own experiences of the world and our place in it, not to be reduced to such diminishing terms.

We are a community of unique individuals. Isn’t it time that dyspraxia as we know it is potrayed in its own expressive language?

The task

I’m curating metaphors for dyspraxia. These will be illustrated for a publication about dyspraxia as perceived by dyspraxic people. I want to hear from other dyspraxic people (of all ages) about your perception of your dyspraxia.

The proposal: your dyspraxia is like…. what?

This project is about metaphors for dyspraxia, and any particular features of it. You might not have paid attention to it, but you will have a mental model of your dyspraxia; symbols and stories in your mind that you subconciously foster to make sense of what dyspraxia is to you, and ways it impacts you. Read on to learn more.

You know the loo roll advert where kids compare their clean bottoms to other things? “My bottom is as clean as….”. This is like that, except this project is mining for metaphors for dyspraxia, what it’s like to be dyspraxic and all the ways that dyspraxia features in our day-to-day life, learning or work.

Maybe in some moments, in some situations, your dyspraxia is a voice of genius whispering solutions directly in to your brain? Or maybe dyspraxia is like a current of electricity through your mind and body, supercharging you with creativity. Or is dyspraxia a gremlin, moving obstacles in your path, tying your hands and catching your tongue?

If you’re dyspraxic, you’ll have some mental model of your dyspraxia. Take a moment to reflect on that, it will no doubt emerge in your mind. Your dyspraxia is like what? Being dyspraxic is like what? Whether it’s wildly surreal, or beautifully simple, share your mental picture for this unique project that will raise awareness of this particular thinking difference, in an altogether different way.

I’m in, how do I take part?

There are two ways you can impart your dyspraxic metaphors for this special project:
1. You can go straight to this form and wax lyrical straight away. Feel free to answer as many or few of the questions as you like. Fill it out more than once, if you want!
2. You can have a real human to human conversation with Katie about dyspraxia and she will ask you clean language questions to tease out your mental model of your dyspraxia. Get in touch to arrange a time to chat in person: katie@katiecarmichaeldesign.com

What happens to the weird and wonderful thoughts I share?

All going well, I will develop an illustrated publication such as an art book and/or postcard and poster set and promote it as a dyspraxia awareness tool within the next two years.
The more voices added, the richer and more powerful an artefact this book becomes. What’s our struggle? What’s our gift? If we release our weird and wonderful insights to the world, we’ll not be the poor cousin of the neuodiversity clan for much longer. Check out the estimated timeline for the project below.

Dyspraxia is like what? A few metaphors already shared:

“My dyspraxia is like … the love child of Athena and Dionysus. Smart, strategic, a mentor, and an aficionado of the arts…. Yet looks perpetually drunk, a bit boorish and haphazard in their non-linear approach to everything.”

“Inside my head is a silent movie. Fast moving, vivid, big pictures but no sound comes out to describe them. From the outside, people mistake my silence for ignorance but there’s just so much in my head that I can’t describe.”

“Getting words out in conversation…it’s like there’s a conveyor belt from my brain to my mouth. A little version of me inside my head is frantically trying to arrange them in the right order before they reach the mouth so a coherent sentence comes out. A race against time at the best of times, but sometimes words are jammed up or worse, completely missing and I need to run across the factory floor to retrieve them from a locked box. Can I find the key in time? Are the words in there? Will I choose the right ones? It’s too late. There’s a loooong gap between the words on the conveyor now. The people waiting for the words have left.”

What’s your mental picture of your dyspraxia?

Proposed timeline for this project:

Research and investigation – surveys and interviews: autumn 2021

Design phase: winter 2021

Crowdfunding to raise printing and publishing costs: spring 2022

Print, Publish and release summer/autumn: 2022

What’s in it for me?

If the crowdfunding is successful, all published contributors will receive a free copy of the publication, hopefully a hard copy but at the very least, you’ll receive a digital edition. Please provide an email address in your form so I can keep you updated on the project with occasional emails.

What is dyspraxia?

There is an NHS definition of dyspraxia though Jenny Hollander from Bustle nails it best with this explainer: “Difficult to explain and complex to diagnose, [dyspraxia] boils down to this: Not all of the messages your brain is sending to your body are getting through.”

Other need-to-know stuff

I might not be able to use every response in a publication but I’ll do my level best. This is more of a design project than a research one, so I’ll only use the responses that I feel confident I can represent well.

This is a self-directed passion project, not commissioned, endorsed by or affiliated with any organisation.

The outcome of the project remains unclear, that’s the beauty of the artistic process. Be assured though, your responses will be handled with the utmost care and respect.

I reserve the right to delay or abandon the project at any point. This may happen if life gets in the way, if I becomes distracted by some other shiny project or if it just all becomes a bit much. I’m pretty set in this though and I have a decent track record for completing and finishing. This is a ‘just in case’ disclaimer.

You can contact me for more information on katie@katiecarmichaeldesign.com

Author credentials

Katie Carmichael is a multi award-winning graphic designer, an educator and an author with a flare for crafting vivid visual stories with sensitivity and creativity. She has personal interest in dyspraxia, adhd and neurodiversity generally.

Katie is an experienced participatory action researcher and artist. Her undergraduate dissertation Art for Literacy’s Sake explored the benefits of arts activity for literacy development in young people and her postgraduate thesis researched coaching with clean language to draw out metaphors for dyslexia.

Her most recent publication was a graphic novel biography of her great-grandfather, an alien in Depression-era Manhattan.

This ambitious new design project sets out to represent the visions and voices of the dyspraxic community in our own individual, automatic, visual language.

Taking part:

Fill in a form or get in touch with Katie to arrange a human conversation.