Sunday, 17 January 2016

Beyond Face Value

Firstly I hope 2016 is being kind to you so far, January can be a bit of a difficult month so make sure you take some time to be kind to yourself.  Recently on the TV show The Undatables (Personally I really don't like the name for it.) There was a lovely man Tom Morgan who is Autistic and has Tourettes who caused quite an impact over social media. A lot of messages were saying to look at him you would have no idea he had any difficulties or differences and confusion over how he would struggle on a date. In reality he experiences a lot of social anxiety in social situations and struggles with body language, making eye contact and making small talk. Which is something I can empathise with as being dyspraxic I can experience quite a bit of social anxiety.

But I think it's so important to remember that there is no set "look" for someone who has a hidden difference, difficulty or disability. Just because you can't see something visibly, it doesn't mean that it's not there. When people think of specific learning differences and difficulties people often think it's just about learning, in education or in the work place, but for many they can affect day to day life and day to day tasks many people take for granted. When people think of dyspraxia many just see it as someone being a bit clumsy or having bad handwriting and are surprised when they realise how much there is to it and how much it can affect day to day life.

Last year I was very lucky to be given the opportunity by Scope to write about day to day life being dyspraxic for their #endtheawkward campaign and about some of the negative assumptions and misconceptions which have happened to me over the years. If you haven't had a read it can be found here:

See beyond face value, and don't make assumptions or judgement who might need a disabled seat on a bus or train, why someone might have to take a while to process information, carry out tasks or the world around them, or why certain environments are overwhelming to name just a few. There are so many people out there who struggle with something invisible and so many different invisible difficulties, differences, disabilities and illnesses out there. Also even if you meet two people who have the same label, no two people are the same everyone is unique.

Disclosure is something important to remember and who, where and when people choose to disclose. Even if someone has chosen to disclose something about their difference, difficulty or disability to you there's a good chance you don't know everything and there's so much more going on.

You also never know what strengths or positive qualities someone has alongside what they are struggling with. The person you see struggling to co-ordinate themselves through a busy crowd might be really determined and resilient, the person you see struggling with spelling or articulating their thoughts onto paper might be very creative, the person you see who doesn't find social situations easy might be very loyal and have a lot of empathy and understanding for others.  Most importantly there's a person behind any label. In life whether it be on social media or real life you only get to see a small snapshot of a person, who they are, their strengths, weaknesses and qualities. It's so easy to jump to conclusions but it's just as easy to see the bigger picture.

If we all try to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and have a little bit of empathy, kindness and patience it can go a long way.

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