Changing the Narrative on Verbal Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia or DCD (developmental coordination disorder) has had more than its fair share of causing issues in my daily life. What has impacted me the most regarding my dyspraxia, is the verbal element, sometimes specifically called verbal dyspraxia. Whether I am in a social or work environment the physical aspect of dyspraxia is not usually that visible to most and I can go a long time without ever feeling the need to mention that dyspraxia causes me issues with coordination. However, verbally my dyspraxia is very apparent.
The impact my speech has had on my mental health has grown significantly as I’ve gotten older. Surprisingly, kids didn’t react much to my speech impediment growing up, but adults have. For some reason, adults have decided that the way you speak is a direct link to your IQ capabilities and is an indicator as to whether or not they will respect you. Honestly, it’s the worst.
This prejudice needs to stop.
Dyspraxia is primarily a coordination based disability, which also means one's ability to coordinate vocal and oral muscles when producing sounds/words is affected. Where the brain is spending a lot of extra focus on this, it can result in one pausing often, skipping some words out, blending some words, or even forgetting what they were trying to say in the first place. Lots of ‘erm’ filler words are common for us.
My unfortunate experience with prejudice due to my speech issues has left me feeling isolated and disheartened. I encountered colleagues who dismissed my ideas or undervalued my contributions, assuming that my speech impediment somehow meant I had less to offer. Their lack of understanding further accentuated my fears and anxieties.
I firmly believe that fostering empathy and open dialogue is the cornerstone of eradicating prejudice in the workplace. By cultivating understanding about verbal dyspraxia and other communication disorders, we can replace misconception with compassion. It falls upon employers and colleagues to create an inclusive environment where each individual can thrive regardless of their unique challenges.
Embracing self-advocacy has been a game-changer. I began speaking up about my needs, requesting reasonable accommodations, and engaging in conversations about fostering a more inclusive work environment. I sought help from my human resources department and worked collaboratively with them to promote awareness programs and knowledge-sharing sessions in a way that didn't expose or single me out. It was a terrifying discussion at first, confronting your management on their lack of ability to control mistreatment within the team. However, I had the support of my HR team to help me verbalise the appropriate requests for positive change.
Education is a powerful tool to break down barriers and dispel misconceptions. My HR team organised and invited colleagues to listen to and hear from experts to educate them about verbal dyspraxia's impact and how to communicate with individuals experiencing speech difficulties effectively. These initiatives aimed to reshape perspectives, challenge biases, and inspire others to become allies in the fight against prejudice. You’d be surprised how quickly one's views can change once educated on a topic.
Though facing prejudice hasn't been easy, and has resulted in me missing out on multiple opportunities, I refuse to let it define me or limit my potential. Instead, I draw strength from my journey and use my voice to call out prejudice, so that others can see that I am more than my speech impediment. My tenacity and resilience have propelled me forward, reminding me of my worth and enabling me to achieve success, despite the challenges I have faced. However, this is not to say I don't still face ongoing prejudice. Some people are very proudly so, no amount of education and calm discussion will change their minds. That’s when HR needs to step in, remember to document everything to protect yourself. You deserve a workplace in which you feel respected, and those kinds of people have no right to be there.
The battle against workplace prejudice is ongoing, but sharing my story is a small step towards raising awareness and shedding light on the experiences of individuals with verbal dyspraxia. By embracing empathy, fostering dialogue, and advocating for inclusive environments, we can create workplaces where everyone's skills and contributions are valued, regardless of their unique challenges. Together, let's rewrite the narrative and break free from the chains of prejudice, empowering individuals with verbal dyspraxia to thrive professionally and reach their full potential.