Wednesday 22 November 2017

'I'll never be able to ride a bike or swim' - Beautician (18) who suffers from dyspraxia

Natasha O'Byrne was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia in school.
Natasha O'Byrne was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia in school.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

When Natasha O Byrne (18) was in school, she had dreams of becoming a paramedic or a nurse.

But before she sat her Junior Cert three years ago, she noticed that she was beginning to struggle with little things in school. She’d lose concentration easily. She would do the wrong homework for her teachers. She also couldn’t ride a bicycle.

She knew she was falling behind, and eventually she approached one of her teachers to ask for help.

“I was falling behind. I wasn’t doing what I was meant to be doing. I couldn’t ride my bike, I couldn’t swim. It made me go to the teacher and tell her that I thought that something was wrong, and she referred me to a psychologist. We did two tests and I was referred to an occupational therapist. They said you’ve dyslexia and dyspraxia.”

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which makes it harder for some people to learn, to read, write and spell.

While dyspraxia is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. Often children with dyspraxia cannot catch and throw a ball, and their balance is poor.

“It was like my world collapsed," Natasha said. "I thought I wasn’t going to be good enough for college or anything. I went into a state of depression. I thought ‘Oh my God, I have this, I don’t want to have it. Everyone else can do everything, do their homework, go to college, everything.’.”

“When I got diagnosed with those, I thought there was something wrong with me.”

“I always suffered with anxiety, but when I got diagnosed I thought if I told people I had dyslexia and dyspraxia they would laugh and they wouldn't want to be around me.”

“I isolated myself from family, friends, school, training - I was training to be a wrestler and in the gym.”

Natasha recalls that her lack of co-ordination even affected her hobby. One day when she was training in the gym, she slipped and injured her knee.

“I was training for a year and a half. I basically got injured in the gym due to my coordination. I dislocated my knee and couldn’t really do wrestling anymore. I was literally getting out of the shower and I slipped and my knee popped out.”

“You can’t do multitasking, if you were asked to catch a ball and throw it, it would take a few minutes to comprehend. I can’t ride a bike and I’m 18 years of age. It’s not that it can be overcome, I just can’t do it.”

“I don’t have balance at all – that’s basically what dyspraxia is – it’s lack of coordination and balance. I’d go to my brother, I’d go to my mam [to talk about what was happening] but I’d always make a joke of it to them.”

When Tasha, from Blackpool in Cork, sat her mock exams earlier this year, she failed Home Economics and Biology. Instead of feeling defeated however, she decided to study extra hard and change her career goals.

“My attention span was so low. I couldn’t concentrate if I was typing out a message, I’d leave it and go off and forget. In school I was daydreaming in school. I was kicking myself because I knew I had to work.”

“I almost let dyslexia and dyspraxia stop me from finishing school. I didn't though, instead I carried on through the tough, good, bad, sad and most of all hard times.”

“I was trying to study but it was hard from the dyslexia side. I was studying and it couldn’t go in. I failed two mock exams and passed the rest with flying colours. I really put my efforts into Home Economics and Biology so I just focused on them for the rest of the year.”

“I decided to take on extra courses (make-up artistry, nail technician and spray tanning courses), so I could avoid college and being taught in groups.”

Natasha has now started her own business, Beauty by Tasha, in Cork.

"I said I’m not going to let it get to me. I’ll just plough on. I just did extra courses in the evening, so I was extremely happy. I didn’t think I’d go on to do that. I was thinking this is going to affect me, it’s going to affect my career, everything.”

"I always wanted to do paramedics or go into nursing. But then with the diagnosis, the beauty business. It’s still linked into what I wanted to do, you’d need to know how the body works."

Natasha would like to give a positive message to anyone who has been diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia.

“I would say to people just keep trying to do your best, and just work around things that you find are obstacles. My mam and my brother were there hrough the whole journey of the dyslexia and dyspraxia.”

“There was a lot of support. If you don’t let it affect you, it’s not going to affect you.”

“This is not spoken about enough and I feel that it's time to come out about it and help those who think their goals are affected by dyslexia and dyspraxia and mental health. I cannot stress how important this would be to people. People need to be made more aware.”

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