I am on at the bottom of the escalator with my toddler. There are our four feet waiting to tread on the moving stairs. I can’t do it. I really can’t. I panic, pull my toddler towards them but then drag him back because I cannot possibly visualise getting four feet onto the constantly moving stairs. I think people might be watching and am nervous.
I am not a normal human being.
To my two year old, the escalator is exciting. To me, it is an obstacle that must be challenged. It moves whilst my feet want to move and I can’t work out or comprehend how to combine the two. Add some tiny welly clad legs that also move of their own accord and I am flummoxed, scared, so many things going on at once that need to move in one fluid quick motion. I grab him again and he steps on confidently and easily whilst I pile on behind in an uneasy flurry of two many feet and nerves. We have done it. Now at what point do I consider stepping off when nearing the top? The more you think about it, the worse it becomes and the stairs are slowly beginning to flatten.
I am dyspraxic.
Even in my head, despite the test that confirmed it, the small tap to the base of my spine which made me fall over, the word sounds like an excuse. Clumsy, stupid, thick. Words that I imagine the whole world has always said about me and which many people probably have.
It is a relatively new word to an old condition but people are suspicious of new words, think they are an excuse for bad behaviour or stupidity, maybe something invented by a Labour government as an exercise in political correctness to absolve bad parenting and dim children.
I have a degree but struggle with putting five fingers into a glove. When those fingers are not mine, it is impossible.
Recently, at work, I utterly buggered up an observed lesson involving lines of symmetry. I was not the one being observed as I am a teaching assistant but without the mirrors used in the previous lesson, I was completely unable to visualise the opposite of a shape and thus when a child made a mistake, in my head it was correct as I could not see differently, could not visualise it. I can write a thousand words far more easily than folding a trapezium in my head.
When realising my mistake, I corrected it and explained that I was wrong but saying it was due to dyspraxia was virtually impossible to the teacher let alone a child.
But it took a lot of effort for me not to burst into tears of guilt and self-hate.
If a child has special needs, there is quite rightly support available for them but what happens when they leave school or college?
Special needs do not just dissipate once a child is out of school uniform and not every adult with special needs is easily identifiable. I have Fly London boots and a designer coat, I might look normal, confident, assured but a fuzzy voice overhead telling passengers for Bristol Temple Meads to now go immediately to Platform 1B for Wolverhampton instead of the platform I am already waiting on? I am terrified, confused.
I can’t distinguish in a panic my left from my right. North, South, East and West have always been utterly alien concepts to me. My visual memory of where I have been is poor and I can have a long conversation with someone one day and not recognise their face the next. I can look at a pigeon’s gnarled foot on a train platform, think about, write about, even photograph it but I always only seem to see the small scale detail in a panorama, not the whole of it, I drift through life in a nervous panic, too scared to try to achieve anything higher than just not looking like like an absolute fucking idiot in front of strangers.
I know deep down I could achieve more. But so many small constant fuck ups, so many lost things, so many forgotten things, so many lost memories leaves you with an utter sense of hopelessness and doubt. I have fucked up today, I will probably fuck up tomorrow.
But I will I go out. I have my child and his constant confident forays into the world and so I will get on a train for him. I will have rechecked the timetable several times and my heart will be pounding.
But despite it all, despite the terror and panic, I love exploring and so does he.
And now I have a glove-less two year old to tell me where Platform 2b is.