Outtakes from the Dyspraxia Foundation Youth event Part 2: Communication, socialising and feeling comfortable within ourselves

So it’s been a few weeks since the Dyspraxia Foundation Youth event I went to and there was still a topic I wanted to somewhat have time to reflect on before I talked about it in one of my blogs.

I have mentioned this topic before perhaps without thinking as deeply about it as I have been doing recently. This is the art of communication, socialising and feeling comfortable or in other words “in the zone” around other people. This can feel non-existent at times, but there are many reasons for this. Today, I aim to help others to understand some of the complexities surrounding communication for us Dyspraxic folk.

Friendships

This might seem very vague at first, but I assure you it’s not as simple as this. One of the main ideas to me for being friends with somebody is that you both have something in common. Bear in mind, I’m saying the word “both” here. The implication is that this is referring to 2 people.

Sometimes it can be incredibly difficult for a Dyspraxic person like myself to communicate with a person who doesn’t have the condition because I often feel misunderstood and under pressure to speak. Now, what if you add another person to the situation, or maybe there could be more than 3.

It becomes increasingly harder to latch onto a conversation amongst a group or feel comfortable in group full stop. If I had something in common with one person for example and I was sitting with 2 people, the other person may well feel left out if they don’t have that common interest. I don’t want them to feel left out because that’s something I’ve felt many times and can’t bear it for others to feel the same.

But when there are multiple people and I try to listen to all the words being thrown around in conversations, it becomes just a huge tsunami of noise and I feel quite overwhelmed and unable to join in. This is the exact reason why speaking to one person at a time is more beneficial to me because I’m able to listen more carefully and have a better conversation without the chance (or less of a chance) of being interrupted.

Below you will see one of the information sheets from the day which outlines some of the key points which stand out in the whole infrastructure of communication for us people with Dyspraxia.

One thing I’ve been told I do a lot of, is TALK TOO MUCH. It might seem quite unlikely considering my lack of confidence in social situations, but if I am feeling confident, I probably end up saying too much or talking too much about myself rather than allowing the other person or people to get a word in edgeways.

This in turn brings my confidence levels down due to what I pick up from somebody else and their lack of confidence to say much. It all boils down to communication. If another person does not feel inclined to say much, the message that sends to me is I have to be very sensitive to said person which I sometimes fail to understand because I feel perhaps the same emotion or feeling but in a different way.

Another point that is mentioned below, is processing time. At this point, I feel like I need to focus in on this somewhat and think more about my fellow peers with Dyspraxia. As people with this condition, my guess is most if not all of us have the challenge of processing information.

We often process information slower than neuro-typical people. Therefore, if I was in a situation with a person who has Dyspraxia, I would almost need to train my brain to talk less and listen more. But at the same time, on the opposite end of the scale, the other person will need to understand that listening is also difficult because listening means processing information and actually remembering what the person said.

Something else that was discussed amongst the group at the event, was disclosure. This is something that we should be able to feel comfortable about, but it seems at times, and I can definitely relate to this, it makes us feel even more in the wilderness.

I guess it depends on again how other people see us and the picture they have of us in their head. All that can really be said is if people like us having Dyspraxia means neuro-typicals don’t want to be friends with us for that one reason, that’s quite sad, but so be it in all honesty. It comes down to understanding.

Now, that isn’t to say I disrespect neuro-typical people, far from it. Dyspraxia is a complex condition for people to get their head around, but the fact is the condition doesn’t define me or anyone else with it. It’s a part of me and the rest with it. But there are incredible characteristics that come with the condition. It’s not all doom and gloom you know.

The Flight-Fight-Freeze Response

In addition, we also talked about the F3 or Flight-Fight-Freeze Response, which is can be a critical factor in our perception of social situations. You can see this further mentioned on one of the information sheets from the day.

The main analogy of this sort of situation, is that you fly away from a snow storm, you fight one of your enemies or you freeze to hide and protect yourself from an attack.

Where does this relate to the whole social situation you may be thinking? Well, in essence, if social anxiety presents itself like it often can do, 3 outcomes could occur.

Outcome 1: We fly away from what we could see as a difficult conversation and not choose to get involved.

Outcome 2: We fight in a social situation to make ourselves stand out and be the center of attention

Outcome 3: We freeze and don’t do anything but merely protect ourselves from a difficult situation but don’t want to fight to defend ourselves in a situation

Where this comes into play for me is the flight mechanism. Often, when I feel overly emotional and don’t feel understood I exercise the flight mechanism because I don’t want to “fight” and end up upsetting anyone else and I don’t feel like I’m in “freeze” mode because I don’t think I’m essentially under threat or at least not a considerable amount of this.

The F3 model may sound more to do with a button you press on a computer keyboard, but it’s so much more than that, and is essential that people understand this as it’s something else that gets missed when anxiety comes into play.

Sweaty palms, hyperventilation and the “butterflies in the stomach” are just 3 characteristics of anxiety which I have had before. These different things all occur when we feel under more pressure. What can be increasingly difficult as people with Dyspraxia, is because of our low muscle tone or less develop muscles, we don’t at times feel that pain on the level of other people so we think nothing of it and it becomes almost a more natural response to environmental features.

You can also find some more things we talked about above.

One of the most important things here is highlighted and that’s feeling good about ourselves or the matter of surrounding ourselves with people who make us look on the bright side so to speak.

This I feel is my number one wish. But that comes with getting out there and meeting new people along the journey of life. And again being “in the zone” and like I feel I belong in a setting with other people. With time, this will come but the pressure shouldn’t come with that at all. What we as Dyspraxic folk want is to not have the pressure to integrate into a social setting if it only points to pressure and/or disappointment.

Again, if I were to find some way of integrating myself more amongst social environments and joining in with different activities, this could be an incredibly uplifting thing and could create a variety of opportunities for me as well as my peers with the condition.

I hope you have found this information useful and this helps to generate more understanding amongst the wider community. My main goal via writing about Dyspraxia is to delve into topics relating to the condition more deeply in order to raise awareness and create a better understanding between the neuro-diverse and neuro-typical communities.

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