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Dyspraxia Foundation this week launches the findings of a new survey revealing the worrying and hidden problem of loneliness among dyspraxic people and their parents/carers.
Jonathan Levy, Chair of the Dyspraxia Foundation comments: “Our survey has highlighted to us as a charity the hidden and very distressing link between dyspraxia and social isolation. With growing evidence of the serious impact of loneliness on physical and mental health, the risk of social isolation among dyspraxic people and those who care for then is something we need to take very seriously.”
That’s why the Dyspraxia Foundation – the only national charity in the UK dedicated to raising awareness of dyspraxia – is focusing on the link between dyspraxia and loneliness for its 2023 Dyspraxia Week campaign. During the week the charity will be hosting a series of online events and launching new resources for dyspraxic people, parents/carers and professionals to help combat loneliness.
The nationwide survey1 of dyspraxic adults and parents/carers highlighted the hidden and distressing impact of loneliness and social isolation on dyspraxic people of all ages. Dyspraxic adults are at least four times more likely to feel lonely than the general population (27% dyspraxic adults said they always/often felt lonely compared to 6% of people generally) and twice as likely to feel lonely compared to people with a long-term illness or disability2. These findings suggest that dyspraxic people are particularly vulnerable to social isolation, which has known consequences for physical and mental health.
34% of dyspraxic people feel left out, with many avoiding social activities because of worries about drawing attention to their coordination difficulties.
“Embarrassment caused by repeated small mistakes in everyday interactions leads to a fear of socialising. Also, some activities like sport and especially dancing are by their very nature exclusionary.”
31% said they feel isolated from others, with many saying the physical and cognitive fatigue associated with dyspraxia puts pressure on social relationships:
“I’ve got friends and everything but sometimes I feel left out because I can’t do things for a long period of time so clubbing, going on nights out, socialising etc. I get tired quickly from just standing so 2 hours in I’m ready to go home.”
42% of dyspraxic adults said they never or hardly ever feel understood by their local community with a worrying 37% saying they feel misunderstood by health service professionals making it difficult for them to access support for their physical and mental wellbeing.
“GPs and receptionists often ignored my dyspraxia as did the educational services at my university who were very judgmental.”
Being the parent/carer of a dyspraxic person can also be a lonely experience with 20% of parents/carers saying they always or often feel isolated due to poor awareness and understanding of dyspraxia. Some families had been excluded from events and gatherings because people didn’t want to make adjustments to include them, while others avoided situations where the person they care for might be unfairly judged for their lack of coordination and communication difficulties.
Jonathan ends “We want more people to know about dyspraxia and to include dyspraxic people in their lives and activities respectfully and with kindness. We can all play a part in helping to combat isolation in the dyspraxic community – including people who work in health and education services – by understanding and accepting dyspraxic people for who they are, without judgement or prejudice.”
For more information about the Dyspraxia Foundation see www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk
1 The survey ran from 24 days from 7-31st August 2023 and was promoted via the Dyspraxia Foundation website and social media channels. There were 656 respondents: 411 adults who identified as dyspraxic and 245 parents/carers. 41 people identified as both dyspraxic and a parent/carer. The survey included questions recommended by the Office of National Statistics to measure loneliness. This scale has been assessed as valid and reliable, and allowed us to compare loneliness in dyspraxic people to the population in general (Community Life Survey, 2021-22).