SOUTH Shields MP, Emma Lewell-Buck, has told of her life-long battle with dyspraxia.
Mrs Lewell-Buck, 34, was not diagnosed with the condition until she was 27 and has chosen to speak out about it ahead of Dyspraxia Awareness Week next month in a bid to dispel myths and misconceptions that dyspraxia is little more than clumsiness.
She said: “There are always going to be people who say ‘It’s a load of rubbish’, but they should try to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
“I don’t have as extreme a case as some people, and I can only imagine how hard their lives must be.”
Symptoms of dyspraxia are poor balance, difficulty in standing for a long time as a result of weak muscle tone, poor posture and fatigue and hand-eye co-ordination difficulties.
At last week’s Labour Party conference Mrs Lewell-Buck tripped over a curb.
She said: “My balance is always a bit off and I just went flying. People started looking at me and I thought ‘they think I’ve been drinking.
“This kind of thing happens all the time. I’ve developed such a thick skin that stuff doesn’t bother me as much as it would others.”
She says she has fallen over in similar circumstances “most weeks” since she was a young child and has always been poorly co-ordinated.
According to the Dyspraxia Foundation, two pupils in every class suffer from the condition, or as much as five per cent of the population.
Yet it receives a fraction of the publicity of less common disorders such as autism, so the foundation believes that tens of thousands of children and adults are unaware they have it. There is no cure, but early diagnosis can help teachers be more supportive.
But Mrs Lewell-Buck says dyspraxia has its advantages, and she does not wish she had been born without it.
She said: “My view now is that nobody ever stood out in life by being the same as everybody else. If you ask my friends and family, they will say I am a quirky character and that is what they love about me. That is because of my dyspraxia.”
She plans to visit schools in her constituency to talk about her experiences and encourage other dyspraxics to be equally ambitious.
Dyspraxia Awareness Week runs from October 13 to 19.
For more information, visit dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk or call 0146 245 4986.