Sam talks about Dyspraxia Awareness Week 2022.
Whether people have Dyspraxia or not, they should have no barriers when it comes to participating in some kind of physical activity or sport. However, studies have long shown evidence that individuals with Dyspraxia are less likely than those without the condition to engage in physical fitness activities. This year for Dyspraxia Awareness Week, the theme is ‘get moving with Dyspraxia.’ The aim is to promote physical activity and to raise awareness and understanding of why people with Dyspraxia have been withdrawing from those environments much more often than their non-Dyspraxic peers.
To me, as someone who has lived with Dyspraxia, it all starts with being given the opportunity, providing they want to take it on, to take the lead in sports events, for example becoming a “team captain” in school PE lessons. So many times throughout my school life, I was excluded from many a PE lesson as I would always be the last person chosen to be on a team. This is self-perpetuating as eventually you develop a dislike for sports and find reasons not to engage. It would actually play to the strengths of a number of people with Dyspraxia if they were given the opportunity to lead. This is mainly because, as I have witnessed myself, someone with a condition like Dyspraxia can be very good at understanding what sort of skills and personalities are needed in a team.
Of course, it has to be based on individual capabilities. You can’t force someone to be a team captain if they don’t wish to be, but it is just one way of ensuring we can get involved and taking this responsibility reinforces the need to participate positively. Another thing which I feel is missing, is the compassion and understanding from some (although not all) teachers who seem to forget that there are people who experience development in a different way and aren’t all at the same place physically. There is currently a shortage of special educational needs teachers in the UK, and this will also hugely impact people with Dyspraxia, as the opportunity for them to discuss ways to enhance their confidence in PE will be lost somewhere behind other subjects which unfortunately take the priority.
Something I am hugely passionate about is making sports clubs and school PE sessions more inclusive for people with additional needs, and with Dyspraxia, there are still evident gaps that need addressing. I have experienced some of this first hand. I used to attend what was promoted as a “Community Kickabout” where anyone, regardless of their level of footballing ability, could attend and have a game of football with likeminded individuals. This soon changed, as it became evident that the majority of people who attended were already involved in a club that play competitive football, which wasn’t yet the way this particular group was set up to be. Once it became more about those with much more ability and confidence in the sport, I as well as a number of others who have neurodivergent conditions, soon left as they didn’t feel valued. This is why I want to challenge the leaders in these settings, or to phrase it differently, help them to understand ways to make their sports club or PE session as fully inclusive as they can be.
The overall health and wellbeing of both children and adults with Dyspraxia will be hugely enhanced if these environments were built from the ground up with them in mind. What’s more, is in the majority of cases, especially once an individual with the condition reaches adulthood, they know the foundations needed for them to feel included. For me, being an adult also comes with a responsibility I love to have in order to increase the choices people with Dyspraxia have when it comes to physical activity.
What has been noticeable, particularly throughout Leicestershire (with it being my home county) is that sports clubs are working towards certification that, via meeting certain criteria, will grant them status as a bronze, silver or gold level inclusive club. What I think needs to be done is ensure this goes further than being a tick box exercise and that promoting and embracing inclusivity becomes embedded at a fundamental level. The best question to ask in this scenario would be: “if you were to be a participant in this session, what would need to be in place in order for you to feel like you belong here?”