I have Dysgraphia and here are my experiences with it

I have Dysgraphia and here are my experiences with it

No, I didn’t say Dyslexia, I said Dysgraphia…

I have Dysgraphia (I have more specific name for it, but I ain’t tellin’ some randomer on the internet, you’ll just have to ask me yourself!).

This manifests mostly itself (physically? Is pain physical?) in the form of pain while handwriting, but the research on any mental effects is severely lacking. Everyone focuses their efforts on dyslexia, probably because it gets more press. So what I want to talk about here is my personal experience with dysgraphia. That is, if I can separate dysgraphia from my self-perception, let me know how I do or if you experience any of these things.

This is something I was almost certainly born with, so naturally I had no idea that other people didn’t feel pain when they wrote! I had later learned that anything that requires fine-motor skills causes this pain. (You wouldn’t have thought whisking required fine-motor skills but it very much does). The only way I got “diagnosed” with this was because of both my terrible handwriting that never improved and the fact that I would hold very strange positions when writing in school exercise books. This was before affordable mass-market laptops, BTW, so I didn’t really have a choice but to write things by hand. Eventually I got to use one of the windows 95 computers that just happened to be outside the classroom and that helped a lot.

The pain is interesting. It starts just above what you would call the wrist and spreads in both directions until it reaches the shoulder and seizes up my fingers! That sounds more serious than it actually is, the seizing up in the hand will go away if I take a break, but the interesting thing is, the pain doesn’t. If I stop the fine-motor skill task and rest, the pain will lessen, but it will just return again to the same intensity as before upon resumption of the task. Only a more prolonged period of rest (or a mood change, but more on that later) will truly resolve it.

Something I wouldn’t be able to come to terms with until I was older (and had a more developed Theory of Mind) was the mental component. Because of course you can’t ever truly know how someone else thinks, but there are clues that you can only pick up on as you get older.

The best way I can describe this aspect is that the process in my mind that converts ideas into words (and back again) is not exactly standard-issue. Words are used to convey ideas from one mind to another, but you have to first convert your ideas into words. In most people this probably happens naturally, but in me it’s a lot slower. I think it must be slower the more unusual the idea is that the word describes.

This results in me eschewing the use of terms that describe certain ideas if the link between the idea and the word isn’t reinforced by repeated use. In my work this means that I might be asked a question on a topic that I understand but don’t come across often and I’ll have to ask for a definition of the term before I can answer correctly. But as time goes on, and I use that particular idea more and more, I’ll get used to the term and associate it with the idea, It just takes a little longer for me, I suppose. So try to be more direct with me, it’ll be easier to convert to ideas, and I’ll appreciate you more.

Bridging the physical and mental components is the fact that the degree of pain felt is down to my mood at the time. This was particularly unhelpful in an exam situation where you’re not exactly in a good mood to start with, but helpful in the fact that I enjoy programming for its own sake and that means that despite what pain I do feel, I don’t care anyway. Just like now; there’s a low level pain in my forearm as I’m writing this, but because I’m motivated to write this, my mood seems to prevent the effects from progressing.

I hesitate to call this a disability, but that’s what it is, a Specific Learning Disability. Even though, If I hadn’t just told you about it, you’d never even know. It’s probably for this reason that I try to champion mental health whenever I can, because if you’d ask my mum, she’d say there were either sane or in-sane people, and that kind of attitude has to change. Even those few mental health issues that do cause someone to loose their grip on reality, they can still seek help. And for those mental health issues that have nothing to do with the perception of the world around you, all that’s really required is some understanding from you. But I’ll talk more about mental health in a later post…

– Raingram


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