(The above could probably be the title of my autobiography…)
Yesterday I went to a rehearsed reading of a friend’s play. Like me, she is dyspraxic. She is c. 12 years older than me, a wife and mother, and was diagnosed at the age I am now. She’s had a couple of plays produced professionally but this is the first time she has written a play explicitly featuring a dyspraxic character, which she hopes to take to major venues next year. Whilst I was there watching the (fascinating) rehearsal process and taking notes I got to thinking about how I can make my experiences and knowledge pay, bearing in mind that writing by itself is no life at the moment, and I’m not qualified or skilled to do anything else (although I’m frequently asked for advice on dys’s, and spend a lot of unpaid time giving it). I thought about all the dyspraxic/dyslexic people I’ve met in the 4/5 years I’ve been writing and speaking on it: The most professionally successful ones I know (and there are a fair number, including people outside dyspraxia circles who I’ve met purely coincidentally) have gone into business with people who have the skills they lack, whilst using the skills they have. It makes sense: often the best skill we have is delegating.
Then I thought back over my own personal experiences, not just in terms of the practical side of dys’s but communication and self-image. In thirteen years, I have gone from someone who was such a wreck at interviews I couldn’t even get a weekend job stamping books in a smalltown library, to someone people pay to speak. This has largely been due to long and arduous self-therapy, and I still see myself as a work in progress. My journey could’ve been a lot shorter, less painful (and frankly a bit less boring for everyone around me to listen to) if I’d received qualified support earlier on. My view was backed up by one of the actors in yesterday’s play, who is dyspraxic (not the one playing the character, interestingly enough) and says it isn’t an issue for him at all because of the amount of intervention he had as a child.
There is indeed a decent-ish amount of SpLD provision for school-age children if you know where to look, but virtually none for adults and young adults, which is very important given how common late diagnoses (like mine) are. There are consultancies I know well who set up in-work provision (assistive software, quietrooms, flexible hours etc) but I think there is a gap in the market specifically for business-focused communication skills and self-esteem support aimed at people with SpLDs: (ie: interview skills, presentation skills, interpersonal skills). I am constantly hearing variouses bang on about how much these matter in business, and constantly hearing about people with SpLDs who lack them. Of course, this is mostly due to lack of recognition but even when they are identified and diagnosed the legacy of a lack of support is often a very negative self-image. It would be great if there were a dedicated supportive organisation with a floating pool of SpLD-aware therapists, actors, drama teachers and suchlike. “Drama therapy” is often mentioned in the context of physical/mental disabilities but not SpLDs, where I think it would be very valuable.
Obviously I am not qualified for this on my own in any direction but I would love to team up with investors and people with the relevant skills and abilities to make something like this work (or get qualified opinions on how feasible it is…). There is a lack of corporate world knowledge in the SpLD sector as most people with an interest come from medical or educational not business or fundraising backgrounds. I’m fully aware the economic climate is what it is, but the more work and networking I do in this field the more I think there is a business case which just needs the right people to find and make it.