I have been a klutz all of my life. To hear my parents tell it, it is a wonder that I didn’t trip on my way out of the womb. The family joke was that I could trip over a piece of lint. I spill things, knock things over, and walk, or bump into things constantly. On many days I feel as if the periphery of my body; arms, shoulders, hips and thighs, are like antenna and that I find my way from place to place by bumping into things, almost ricocheting around a room. I recently painted the cottage I was leaving, and as I washed walls, I had to give pause more then once to ask myself, “Is there no place that you did not spill coffee?”
Now, I have been living alone with my 5 year old son for the past year, and I was only reminded of my severe clumsiness whenever my older kids were home to make fun of me. Recently, I moved from Maine to Montana, driving across country with my son and my 20 year old daughter. She was almost driven insane by my clumsiness, and I was left in tears, trying to explain that this was nohingt new. I have been clumsy all of my life.
Upon my arrival in Montana, I was greeted by my two sisters, both who are well aware of my less than coordinated body. Of course, the jokes began as one of my sisters pointed out the large coffee stain on her carpet left by me during my last visit. They concurred with me. I had been a klutz all of my life. One sister suggested that I might have a problem with depth perception, and this got me started on the search to find a reason for my clumsiness and accident prone life. Certainly, there had to be an answer out there somewhere, I reasoned. I tripped over myself on the way to my computer to find out what that answer might be.
I found many articles, most geared towards elderly people, explaining why they might be more clumsy than before. While I am no spring chicken, I am not near elderly, and I have been clumsy my whole life. I found out that some people are really just born clumsy, like they might be born shy. I read articles on depth perception problems and while some of it fit, not all of it did. I googled and googled, plugging in different key words until I came across articles on dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder. While it is not a perfect match for me, it is pretty darn close. Let’s take a look at some of the key features of dyspraxia in adults, and I will let you know how they apply to me. If you are a klutz, maybe they will apply to you, too.
People with dyspraxia have poor balance. They may have difficulty riding a bike, going up and down hills, and walking a straight line. For me, balance has always been a problem, and while I road a bike as a kid, I was always terrified of hills. I do not mind walking up hills, but going down is a whole different story. As a result, I am not a big fan of outdoor activities, which may require any and all of the above skills. I took a yoga class once, which I did fine with, until it came time for the pose where you stand on one foot and twist yourself up like a pretzel. I was hopeless, and remain so, when it comes to balancing on one foot. As a child, the thought of walking across a balance beam was a scary one.
Poor Posture and Fatigue
Those with dyspraxia may have poor posture and be a bit wobbly in their joints. Standing for long periods of time exhausts them because of weak muscle tone. Now, I do not think that my posture is particularly poor, and I do not have floppy joints, though I am very flexible. But, I have always known that I could never do a job that required me to stand for long periods of time. As a nurse, I was on my feet for 8 hours a day, but I was generally moving, which made all of the difference.
Difficulty Integrating Both Side of the Body. Poor Hand Eye Coordination
What this means is that people with dyspraxia may not be so good at sports, especially those that involve jumping and cycling. When you see that last kid picked for any team in gym class, you are seeing me. Because I could not catch a ball, or hit a ball, or jump and catch a ball, I have never made any attempt to engage in team sports. That is probably for the best for everyone.
Clumsy Gait and Movement and Accessory Movements
I do not think that I walk in with a clumsy look about me, but I may be wrong since I am too busy righting myself after stumbling over something. When walking unimpeded by furniture and people, I am just fine. Exaggerated accessory movements may include hand flapping while running. I do not do that. Never did.
Tendency to Fall, Trip, Bump into Things
I believe that we have already covered this, but I do all of these things, usually many times a day. Okay, I do not often fall, but I bump into things and trip over things constantly. All day long. If there are stairs, I will trip up them. If there is furniture, I will trip over it, or a door jamb, I will bounce off of it. I know it sounds pretty comical, and it is–to those watching. Of course, I often laugh at myself, but sometimes, it all just plain hurts. “Now that’s going to leave a mark,” is something I say a lot.
Lack of Manual Dexterity, Poor Manipulative Skills
Two handed tasks, such as using silverware, doing crafts, typing, and cooking may be difficult. I may not be entirely graceful when cutting my meat, but I can cook and do crafts just fine. I am very good at both. Others would probably tell you that I am lucky to still have my fingers, and I have had my share of burns, but I love to cook and am quite good at it. When it comes to typing, I use two fingers and one thumb to type. How this form came to be, I have no idea, but it is what works, funny though it may appear to others. I am not terribly fast, and it is rather ironic that I have made my living using a keyboard for the last 15 years.
People with dyspraxia may have poor hand writing and may have problems gripping a pencil. Writing in a straight line may be very difficult. My mother never got over my poor penmanship, and as bad as my cursive may be, my printing is far worse. As a result, I have an almost pathological fear of filling out forms. Thank goodness for computers. That is all that I can say. Women with dyspraxia may have issues with makeup application. I do just fine, but the eye liner application is always a bit tense, and I have nearly put my eye out with a mascara wand more than once.
The Other Stuff–And There is A lot
Dyspraxia can affect short term memory and doing tasks that require several steps may be hard. People with dyspraxia may also be sensitive to loud sounds, bright lights, and rough fabrics. I am sensitive to sound and light, fabrics, not so much. My short term memory is hit and miss, but as is true for most with dyspraxia, my long term memory is nearly frightening. Knowing the left from the right may be impossible for a person with dyspraxia. If it hasn’t been bad enough being teased all of my life for being a klutz, my inability to know my left from my right hand has also been fodder for many jokes. I wear a ring on my right hand that helps me tell the difference,and as subtle as I try to be, I can often be seen holding my hands up in front of my face and thinking for a minute before I give a definitive left versus right answer.
I drop things, and I spill things, like my coffee, quite often which is another dyspraxia thing. You think that I would learn to put less coffee in my cup but that is not much help, especially if refilling the cup requires me to walk from point A to point B, with so much to stumble over on the way. People with dyspraxia may not be great drivers. While I have never had a real accident, I have also never considered myself an really good driver, either. I have been without a car of late and am about to get a new one. One of my kids sweetly said to me, “You’ll be back to driving over curbs at McDonald’s before you know it.”
As you might imagine, all of these assorted coordination deficiencies can lead to a person with dyspraxia to have less that stellar self esteem and good feelings about their body. Since few adults with dyspraxia know that they have an actual reason for being so physically inept, they often avoid certain situations. People with dyspraxia may develop phobias, anxiety, depression, and be prone to emotional outbursts. Being the constant butt of jokes can do that to a person.
We have good days and bad days, and stress makes everything worse. We may not like new, or unpredictable situation, because who knows what dangers, or embarrassments, lie ahead of us. There are many other traits that I will leave up to you to research, but I have hit some of the high points.
On the up side, people with dyspraxia and usually bright and very creative. While my description of my day to day life may make me seem like a buffoon, I get along pretty well. My shins are always bruised, but I have a good sense of humor and since I do not take myself too seriously, it allows others to openly accept me, bumps and all. If people who love me chuckle every time I trip just standing still, at least I have brightened their day, and who wouldn’t laugh when you tell them that you fell out of bed last night reaching for a book on the floor?
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and oftentimes we never know where either come from. I have only broken a bone once, and I never once dropped any of my seven kids. I am a nurse who never killed anyone, was an IV nurse therapist, so some of my fine motor skills are, well, fine. I have many other talents that make me feel valuable beyond my gracelessness. If you feel that you may have dyspraxia there is much information available, and some tricks that you might use to make life a little easier. Let me know if you stumble upon something that works for you.