This week Emma hosted an event together with the Dyspraxia Foundation as part of Dyspraxia Awareness week.
Dyspraxia Awareness Week runs from 12 – 18 October, and is a chance to inform and educate the public about the condition. This week’s focus is on teenagers with dyspraxia and the social and educational challenges they face. A report launched this week shows that 70% of 13 – 19 year olds with dyspraxia say they have faced bullying, while more than three quarters avoid taking part in sports or physical activity.
As well as the launch of this report and the reception in Parliament, schools and workplaces up and down the country will have the chance to raise money to support people with dyspraxia on 17 October by dressing up for ‘Funky Friday’.
A number of MPs and peers attended Tuesday’s event, including the Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson MP, the Shadow Children’s Minister Steve McCabe MP, and Lord Walton of Datchet, who authored a pioneering paper on developmental dyspraxia in 1962 – believed to be the first academic research into the condition.
Lord Walton remarked how pleased he was at the great work the Dyspraxia Foundation was doing for the cause. Mr Timpson also said he looked forward to working with the Foundation to improve understanding of dyspraxia within schools and among the general public.
A number of MPs had the chance to meet constituents affected by dyspraxia and learn more about the condition.
Emma was also honoured to welcome the Dyspraxia Foundation’s founders, Marilyn Owen and Stella White, who set up the organisation in 1987.
“I was so pleased to be able to welcome the Dyspraxia Foundation to Parliament and to highlight this important issue to MPs. Dyspraxia doesn’t have the same profile as other learning difficulties like dyslexia, and so I want to use my position as the first openly dyspraxic MP to get the issue on the agenda and get parliamentary colleagues talking about how we can support people with the condition.
“I was very encouraged by the interest MPs and peers showed, and I want to congratulate the Dyspraxia Foundation on helping to organise such a successful event.”
Emma’s speech to the Dyspraxia Foundation Reception:
It’s fantastic to have you all here in Parliament today. I want to thank the Minister for his remarks, Michele and the rest of the Dyspraxia Foundation team for their help in setting up tonight’s event, and Jeffery for sponsoring.
I’m also delighted that we have the Foundation’s founders, Marilyn (Owen) and Stella (White) here, as well as so many dedicated activists and experts – (including, as the Minister mentioned, Lord Walton)
I’m also pleased to see Labour’s Shadow Children’s Minister Steve McCabe here.
As far as I know, I am the first MP to have dyspraxia, but I would not be surprised to learn that there have been others before me.
A lot of people never received a diagnosis, and even those who do get one often keep their condition secret. That’s something that has to change, and why Dyspraxia Awareness Week is so important.
I myself was twenty seven when I met with an educational psychologist who advised me I had mild dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Reading his report I felt my whole life click into place, I suddenly understood why growing up I always felt a little different to the other kids,
Why I kept putting my shoes on the wrong feet, why I couldn’t tie my laces, why I was always so clumsy
I was always frustrated that things that came easily to all of the other kids were so hard for me
I used to also suffer from low self-esteem and confidence, and for a time at school I got frustrated with having to work harder than the other kids and started to misbehave. But I realised that if I was going to make something of my life I needed to start knuckling down – even if it did take longer to grasp and understand things I knew that I was just as capable as anyone else.
Dyspraxia still affects me every single day, but I don’t feel that it has stopped me from achieving my dreams. Now, as a Member of Parliament, I know how lucky I am being in a role where I can openly talk about my condition and not have it impact on my job. That’s why I try to use my position to speak up for those who feel they can’t be open about their dyspraxia.
Because many people worry about being held back by their employer, or not being able to find work at all because of their dyspraxia.
In my former jobs I never spoke openly to my employers, I was so worried that I would be first on the dole queue if any cuts came around.
This is one of the reasons why raising awareness of dyspraxia is so important, that is why despite some nervousness and reservation I agreed with the encouragement from Michelle, Eleanor and Theresa to ‘go public’.
Since then the tweets, e mails and letters of support have been overwhelming
Living with the condition for so long,
Not knowing how many others actually had it
Feeling different all of the time
Not even knowing that the Dyspraxia Foundation existed
And to suddenly be part of a community was incredibly comforting
I am proud to be a person with dyspraxia, it need not hold people back
The people I have met through the Foundation are living proof of that. I have met so many strong, talented people who are so funny and quirky, that people are instantly drawn to them.
My message is that having dyspraxia can be a good thing, the people who make a difference in the World are those who stand out and are not the same as everyone else
I hope by the continued efforts of the Foundation and parliamentary colleagues we will see a day when dyspraxia has the same profile as other special educational needs such as dyslexia.
Finally I’d like to share with you a story about a young boy who growing up struggled in school, had difficulty concentrating, and was often in trouble with his teachers, who called him a “dunce”.
He had difficulty with spatial tasks, and struggled to tie his shoelaces well into adulthood.
He was sacked from his first two jobs because his spelling was so poor.
This little boy went on to become one of the most famous scientists of the 20th Century
Nothing ever held Albert Einstein back.