Deafness and dyspraxia | Kathleen Foster - UK

Being a deaf dyspraxic isn't easy. Firstly, you have to deal with two sets of assumptions about what your conditions mean. Secondly, you have to navigate two different groups and services for support. Deaf people don't always understand dyspraxia, and dyspraxics don't always understand deafness.

My deafness is weird. My consultant's best guess is that it's congenital, however, it doesn't fit any known pattern. I'm 23 and I can hear nothing above 12,000 hz. That's roughly the hearing expected of a 50-year-old.

However, below that, my hearing is significantly worse at lower frequencies. We don't know what to make of it! The best conclusion is that it's probably some weird genetic thing that affects a handful of people and doesn't show up on tests.

The dyspraxia is much more typical. I find shoelaces difficult, I fall over constantly, my handwriting is shocking and I struggle to organise myself. It's all very fun, and something readers of this magazine know all too well.

What's interesting though is the differences and similarities in other people's reactions. Deafness is something most people have heard of (heard? Get it?), even if their understanding is poor.

Dyspraxia, well you know the reactions. "What's that? Do you mean dyslexia? , I'm definitely dyspraxic, I dropped a plate once three years ago." It gets very, very tiring.

One similarity is how poorly understood both conditions are. Deafness is usually understood to mean someone with no hearing whatsoever. In reality, deaf people have varying amounts of hearing. Some of us use BSL. Some of us use sign supported English. Some (like me) learned to lipread very young, so we rely on that and our residual hearing.

Another similarity is the reaction. Frustration is the most common. Frustration when I drop or fumble things, frustration when I ask someone to repeat themselves, frustration when I take longer to do something. And then the frustration from me when hearing neurotypicals say never mind or take over.

Coping with other people's emotions has always been a strength. I know what it is like to struggle. That empathy is a very powerful tool.

One thing both my deafness and dyspraxia both give to me is my uniqueness, and my ability to stand out from the crowd. I have never fit into any group, so why try? Why not just be me and wear flowers in my hair (and on my boots, jeans, jumpers, dresses and wallpaper)? Being myself is far superior than trying to be someone I'm not.

I find looking a little bit like a strange, hippy flower child means people are more accepting of me. It's no longer a dyspraxia thing or a deaf girl thing. It's just Kathleen, being herself. People are very forgiving of eccentrics.