Last year, I had the honour of being invited to speak on my experiences as a black person with dyspraxia, by the Diverse Creative at the Thru The Lens event. As someone who was diagnosed with dyspraxia (a neurodivergent condition) at the age of four, this is definitely a topic I am extremely passionate about.
This passion has led me to start an Instagram page, called The Black Dyspraxic. Shameless plug, but please follow and share! It is essential we discuss about the intersection between race and neurodiversity, and here is why.
Society is beginning to become more aware of the barriers presented by race; it is a gradual process, but we are getting there. Most of our parents used to tell us that, as black people, we have to work fives times harder than our white counterparts. We are also just beginning to become aware of neurodivergent conditions such as dyslexia, autism, ADHD and dyspraxia. Approximately 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people in the UK) are neurodivergent. This means that their brains function, assimilate and process information differently. Only 16% of autistic individuals are in work, despite 77% wanting to be employed. Only 1% of corporate managers have dyslexia, even though 10% of the UK population is dyslexic. 1/4 of the UK’s prison‘s population have been diagnosed with ADHD. Given these statistics, and the barriers experienced by black people in the UK, imagine what the stats would be for the people who live within this intersectionality.
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. Dyspraxia meant that I got bullied a lot as a kid. I found it difficult to have a quick response to reply, making me a very easy target. I was regularly called a spastic and retard, which had a very detrimental effect on my confidence. I was never really seen as a kid that people wanted to be friends with at school, by children of all races.
As a boy – especially as a black boy – coordination is everything when it comes to playing football, basketball and dancing. The advantage of this was that it made me realise at an early age that there was a lot more to being black than excelling at sport and being the best dancer on the dancefloor. Nowadays, I often get people say, “You’re not that bad at dancing or sport!” My response is, dyspraxia doesn’t you mean you can’t do something, it just means you have difficulty being naturally good at certain things. In spite of my difficulties, I enjoy playing sport, and doing my thing when that beat drops!
I currently work as a research assistant and evidence synthesiser at Newcastle University’s Institute of Population Health Science. Looking back, I am so thankful for the positive impact this has had on my character and personality. Dyspraxia has caused me to become resilient, hard-working and determined. It empowered me to become an encourager – I’ve constantly had to encourage and motivate myself, and I often do it for others around me. Dyspraxia has allowed me to become a creative thinker, with different ideas for business ventures and entrepreneurial solutions.
Some of the most famous neurodivergent individuals include Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, which leads me to wonder what the economic and social benefits would be to black people across the globe, if as a community, we learned more about neurodivergence and what could be done to create an environment where gifted individuals in the black community can live to be the best versions of themselves.