Incomplete thoughts around co-existing Asperger’s and dyspraxia

A conversation today on Twitter made me wonder, will I ever really know whether all my neurodiversity issues fit under the Asperger’s hat (regardless of the almighty DSM criteria), or whether I might also be dyspraxic (an ‘Aspraxie’ as I’ve seen it referred to!).  I am not interested in being told that ultimately it doesn’t matter, because that’s not how my brain works.  It causes me psychological pain if I am not able to categorise and explain things, even when those categories are perhaps meaningless in terms of day-to-day life.

I have a long history of physical problems, some of which are expertly hidden, or blamed on a ‘bad’ back, leg or wrist, for example I will often ask for pizza in a restaurant to be served already sliced.  My slow speed in carrying out physical tasks gets passed off as ‘perfectionism’, and only one friend has ever noticed that I have to put my finger under the line I am reading to keep my place if there is any background noise.  I am not known as ‘clumsy’, quite the opposite, because every movement I make is deliberate and focussed.  Until I am distracted of course, then I am ‘uncharacteristically clumsy’.  This may be best captured by the fact that I am somewhat good at ballet (slow, deliberate, controlled, as long as it doesn’t go beyond my limited range of movement – I can’t even touch my toes), yet I am uncomfortably awkward and incapable at faster things such as tap-dancing or hip-hop.  (As an aside, some people think they ‘know’ that I’ve done ballet because of my posture and ‘grace’, but it probably is just my natural stiffness, and a stillness that comes from a fear of moving lest I break something, rather than any swan-like inner peace.)

Therefore some aspects are harder to disguise, such as my tendency to misjudge edges, which sees me frequently walking into door frames, filing cabinets, book-cases etc, particularly if I am speaking or greeting someone whilst walking.  I have to hold the handrail or wall when I go up or down stairs and cannot carry out a secondary task such as putting my gloves on, otherwise I would fall down the stairs.  I have fallen over whilst gardening more times than I can count, because I get so engrossed in the task at hand that I lose the hypervigilant control I usually need to exert over the rest of me!  Throw some migraine-related vertigo in there and you’ve really got YouTube gold…

Overall, issues with physical movement, coordination, weakness and fatigue, have prevented me ever attaining fully independent living, and have lead to loss of jobs, university places, friendships, relationships and self-esteem.  Reading the list of adult ‘symptoms’ on the Dyspraxia Foundation website was another lightbulb moment, similar to when I first realised I might have Asperger’s.  But then I read about the likely overlap, as well as potential co-existence, and started to wonder, how will I ever really know?  The potential overlaps in language, organisational and sensory issues between dyspraxia and AS (and other neurodiverse conditions) are clearly acknowledged, but it seems less obvious whether there is overlap in terms of movement difficulties.

This probably won’t be my last musing on the topic, but it’s where I’m up to at the moment.  There is of course the question of whether it really matters, but it does matter to me.  Maybe it shouldn’t, but I would like to know, even if it’s just that I end up categorising myself as possibly having both, but just waiting for the right suitably modest expert to confirm.  Cue the next area of personal research.

© Catastraspie, 2012.

English: Depiction of a Dojikko (a clumsy girl...

English: Depiction of a Dojikko (a clumsy girl, that doesn’t miss a chance to make a mistake). Deutsch: Darstellung einer Dojikko (ein tollpatschiges Mädchen, das keine Gelegenheit auslässt einen Fehler zu begehen). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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20 Responses to Incomplete thoughts around co-existing Asperger’s and dyspraxia

  1. It really sounds (well, reads) like dyspraxia to me. I’m one of the few people who ‘only’ has dyspraxia and dysfasia without something like ass, down etc. and I often miss edges, and am perfectly capable of doing things like writing neat, as long as I focus, but those things cost me an immense amount of energy.

    • catastraspie says:

      Thank you for your comment, that’s *really* helpful! 🙂 I have no frame of reference and nobody to ask. I notice it most when I’m already really tired and I lose focus and start knocking things over. If someone I think is attractive says hello to me, that’s a guaranteed bookcase/door-frame!

  2. Audrey says:

    Yes, I Am the EXACT SAME WAY!!! I have wondered too but I have always put my issues under the small (often not talked about) heading of “executive functioning” in an Aspie. I have found most ASpies do not struggle in the area of executive functioning as much as I do, but then I found you and this blog! I have an ASpie blog too:)

  3. Well, that certainly sounds familiar! Moving through space has been a constant challenge. There must be some significant linkage between Asperger’s and dyspraxia. I’m anxious to hear what you’ve discovered.

    • catastraspie says:

      I don’t really know any Aspies who don’t have these issues, so I’m really intrigued to see whether they do ‘double dissociate’. I suspect it will be a long learning process though, so please don’t be too anxious as I have no news yet! 🙂

  4. Your description sounds a lot like Dyspraxia. Obviously only a properly qualified psych can make a definitive diagnosis but it certainly sounds like something worth looking into.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that Dyspraxia has a huge bucket of symptoms which any individual dyspraxic will have to a greater or lesser, and possibly differing, extent. Just because I have Dyspraxia and certain symptoms are most noticable in me, you may have dyspraxia and a different most noticable symptoms. With me my most noticable symptoms are hand-eye co-ordination (I *never* eat soup in public and was secretly quite pleased when my employer demanded that everyone use lidded travel mugs for drinks), working memory and tactile defenciveness. I know other dyspraxics who have far less problem than me with co-ordination (they can eat soup in public and carry a cup to their desk without spilling more than a ‘normal’ person would) but with far worse working memory (I remember one friend with dyspraxia and terrible working memory being asked if she was a lesbian because the seemed to be staring at another woman’s breasts, she had to explain that she was trying to remember the woman’s name so was repeatedly reading her name tag).

    • catastraspie says:

      Hi there, thanks for your comment! I too have a lidded travel mug (and probably stare too much at people’s name badges because I’m often explaining myself!) 🙂 Such a wide range of presentations, I find it so interesting.

      • A book I found very useful, which you might like to give a try, is “That’s the way I think”. It’s a book about Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD. What makes it different from other books on those subjects is that it is aimed at adults who have Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD rather than professionals or parents of children with one or more of those. One of the things it emphasises is that rarther than if you tick boxes 1 through 6 you go in pigeonhole A, 7 through 12 you go in pigeonhole B, someone with one of those may tick boxes 1 through 4 but also 8 and 9 may still go in pigeon hole A as would someone who ticks boxes 1, 2, 4, 9, 11 and 17. The key is to look at the underlying causes. They also often cohabit with each other and with other things in the Autism spectrum.

        The thing I love most about the book is the title, “That’s the way I think”. Dyspraxia, at least how I preceive it looking from the inside out, is a different way of thinking. I do find that I do think differently to how other people seem to think, not necessarily better or worse but certainly differently. I find this upsets people and worries them, in particular how Dyspraxia interferes with perception and projection of emotion. I have to have a ‘Normal Person Act’ where I consciously think how a normal person would act in that situation (if you’ve seen the film “Never let me go” think of the scene where they first arrive at the cottage and are taking their cues from the people who have been there longer) and mimic that. If I drop the act, due to being tired or just cos I can’t be bothered to keep it up, people have literally backed away. One friend described it as being like the scene in a horror film where the psychopath goes from being all smiles and friendlyness to cold and quietly murderous. Fortunately she knew about my Dyspraxia and I’d explained what it meant and that I had to ‘keep up an act’ in public to appear normal. I don’t think till then she’d realised just how much of what people see is an act, albeit one that is becoming habit so doesn’t require as much conscious thought as it did.

        Dyspraxia is often classed, in the medical model, as a regressive condition. I think it’s not so much that the condition fades as you just get better at mitigating for it. You learn what to avoid, you improve your act and you learn to clamp down on the viceral reactions (I hate shaking hands, feels like I’m handling slime of trying to hold a hot metal bar depending ont he condition of the other person’s hand, I hide the revulsion so as to appear ‘normal’).

      • catastraspie says:

        Thank you for the book recommendation, I will check that out. It sounds like there is so much overlap with Asperger’s, it must be impossible to distinguish them in people who have both. The putting on an act thing is a strong feature of AS. I’ve been told so often that I’m very different to how I first appear, once people get to know me. I think I seem standoffish because I’m not doing the right social things, but I’m really not, and the contrast seems to surprise people.

  5. Pingback: Always someone out there… | Keep Being Strong

  6. Mark says:

    Yes definitely dyspraxia. I have it and there is so much overlap between the two.

  7. Pingback: Dyspraxia | Keep Being Strong

  8. This sounds exactly like dyspraxia. Anecdotally a lot of Aspergers bloggers seem to have dyspraxia as well, and I’ve read a number of studies suggesting that clumsiness or difficulties learning new motions are very common in Aspergers (but less so in autism, oddly). Stewart Mostofsky at the Kennedy Krieger Institute has some interesting research on how autistic kids learn new movements, if you like that sort of thing. Some researchers think that motor difficulties might help cause some of the social differences in autism/AS, like difficulties with joint attention, pointing, and subtle things like mirroring other peoples’ movements and having the right timing during conversation. I think this makes a lot of sense. What do you think?

    • catastraspie says:

      That sounds really interesting, thanks, I will look into it. I’ve read a bit about mirror neurons (or lack of) and how they might affect social behaviour and movement, and thought that made a lot of sense 🙂

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