Healthy Living: Sarah offers help to fellow sufferers

Pictured is Sarah Johns,who has written a box about living with Dyspraxia
Pictured is Sarah Johns,who has written a box about living with Dyspraxia
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n Dyspraxia means that movement and coordination are affected.

A woman is working to set up a new support group for people living with dyspraxia in Sheffield - sharing her own experience of the condition to help and advise others in the same situation. Sarah Dunn found out more.

“IT’S quite ironic really,” Sarah Johns giggles.

“But my job title is a ‘co-ordinator’ - when co-ordination is one of the big things I struggle with!”

It is because Sarah lives with dyspraxia - a disorder associated with the area of motor skill development which affects movement and co-ordination - that this is a problem.

The 33-year-old, who also lives with attention deficit disorder, also struggles with organisation and concentration and can often be clumsy because of the disorder.

When she first started noticing the symptoms, she was not particularly informed about dyspraxia and the problems it can cause.

Unlike dyslexia - which the wider public are more knowledgeable about, even if there are still issues about it being picked up on properly at school - the disorder is less well-known.

It is this lack of awareness around the condition that has made Sarah keen to set up a support group for children, adults and their families - offering a place to get together to share experiences and get advice. She is passionate about opening up the disorder and proving that it does not have to stop people reaching their full potential.

Sarah, from Woodseats, is living proof of this - since although she has struggled with various elements of her life due to the condition, she has overcome the barriers it has placed in her way.

She admits that is has not been easy however, and when she was first battling symptoms she fell into depression because of her frustration at not knowing what was wrong or how to deal with it.

“I didn’t really realise until adulthood that I could have dyspraxia,” Sarah said.

“I’d always been clumsy and struggled with co-ordination in things like team sports at school - there was just too much going on for me to be able to keep track of where the ball might be going, then process the information to allow my body to react. My hand to eye co-ordination was terrible and I’d just end up standing on the ball!

“At university I’d always be the last one working in the library, just because it took me longer to take things in and process the information, and learning to drive probably took more time compared to other people.”

Depsite the challenges she had to overcome Sarah completed her degree in sports science and physiotherapy at Cardiff University, passed her driving test and landed a job as a physiotherapist with the NHS.

But it was whilst working in such a busy, stressful environment that her symptoms were exacerbated - and with it came an increase in frustration and anxiety she was experiencing.

“I found it really difficult being in that environment,” Sarah said. “I was really struggling with organisation and co-ordinating my tasks - I knew what I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t get things in the right order. In the end I needed to get some time out from it all - I had fallen into depression because I was so frustrated at not being able to do the simple things.”

Sarah, who has since changed jobs and now works with adults on the autistic spectrum at the Sheffield-based Autism Plus charity, has used her experiences of the condition to write a book for others in the same situation.

It is aimed at those living with dyspraxia, as well as parents of children diagnosed with the condition, and works to a clear and concise formula to help and support people on their journey in a down to earth, practical way.

She also hopes it will open up the condition to the wider public: “Often people will say they have heard of dyslexia, but they do not know what dyspraxia is,” Sarah said.

“I think people need to understand it more to ensure that those who live with it are supported and helped to deal with the symptoms and lead fulfilling lives. That’s another reason why I wanted to set up the support group - as well as helping people, I want to raise awareness of it and inform more people about what it is.”

She is holding the first one on June 22 at the Autism Plus base in Coleridge Resource Centre in Tinsley Park Road, Attercliffe, running between 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

Anyone affected by dyspraxia is invited to attend the event, which has the backing of the Dyspraxia Foundation charity. Sarah intends to work out how to manage the group in the future after seeing how many people turn up for the first session.

If there is enough demand, she hopes to create both a group for children and parents as well as a separate group for adults.

“It will all be very informal,” Sarah said, “so I don’t want people to feel daunted by it. Initially I’d just like to assess what is needed out there and then work to set up the groups that people want.

“The main message I want to spread with the group is that dyspraxia doesn’t have to stop you achieving the things you want in life.”

the facts about dyspraxia

Dyspraxia means that movement and coordination are affected.

The main problem is that messages from the brain are not being reliably transmitted to the body. So in reality, dyspraxia does not directly change intelligence but it does affect learning ability.

The condition can lead to a full spectrum of problems with language, perception and thought.

Dyspraxia also appears to hinder thought processes. Individuals may have trouble planning and organising their thoughts and are often unable to understand logic or reason.

School age children with the disorder can suffer from poor co-ordination, immature speech which is slow and difficult to understand, and can struggle with tasks like tying shoelaces and working out puzzles.

Visit www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk for more information about the condition and about the charity’s work.

Email Sarah at sezjohns@hotmail.com for more information about the new support group.