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Dyspraxia- When You Can’t Read Social Signals

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Of the many problems I face every day with dyspraxia the most difficult is not being able to read social signals. I am a very shy and introverted person, many dyspraxic people are. It is difficult to be confident when you are well aware that you don’t read social signals correctly.
When we interact socially with each other we all give out signals of how we feel. We subconsciously express ourselves not just through our words but our body language,facial expressions and our actions.
Most people can pick up on these signals and form an accurate idea of how someone is feeling. We use these cues to understand if someone likes us or not, if we should continue to do something or not and in many other ways. They are important in everyday life in friendships, work,school ,anytime we interact with another human being. But most importantly we use them when dealing with the opposite sex. When we meet someone we are interested in romantically we don’t usually come right out and say it. First we try to work out if they feel the same way about us. We do this by reading their body language , facial expressions and behavior. We use the social cues.

Can you imagine how it would feel if you couldn’t understand these signals.What would you do if you couldn’t tell if somebody likes you or not?. How would you feel if you often thought people didn’t like you when they did?. Or if you thought they liked you but couldn’t be sure because you know you often get it wrong.When a guy/girl gives you a hint to see if you like them and you miss it ,only to have someone point it out to you later when you have missed the opportunity. What would it feel like to be always afraid of getting it wrong?

For many people with dyspraxia this is how the world is for them. I can not count the times I have thought someone didn’t like me, only to find out that they do. I was surprised to find that many of my friends liked me. I lack confidence because it is hard to trust my own judgement. I am aware that I often get it wrong. I met a man last year and I thought he meant he would come and see me the next day. My 15 year old daughter said to me ” no mum I think you better ask him because I think he means today”.  She was right I was wrong.. Shouldn’t  I be giving her advice ,not the other way around.
I can’t tell you how hopeless it feels to know that a 15 year old has more idea of what s happening then I do.

When you have dyspraxia you need people to be direct with you especially in romantic relationships. I once had a man get angry and say to me ”why do women always ask things they already know”. The problem is I honestly didn’t know. It was clearly obvious to him but it wasn’t to me.
So what can we do if we have dyspraxia? What do we do when the social cues tell us that someone really likes us but their behavior says they don’t? How do we know when to trust our instincts?

We need to make the people close to us aware that we have dyspraxia. The problem is that most people have never heard of dyspraxia.Only once in my life have I ever said to someone ”I have dyspraxia” and not had them say ”what is that?”. This means constantly having to explain ourselves. Unfortunately many people with dyspraxia (like myself) have difficulty organising their thoughts to express themselves verbally. Especially when they are put on the spot. I often find people don’t get a clear picture of dyspraxia because I can’t explain it well. The fact that we look normal doesn’t help. People are still very much if you can’t see it , then it isn’t real. The mother of one of my son’s friends actually sat there and told me there is nothing wrong with me. I had to have a health plan written up last year and I had to explain to the nurse what dyspraxia was.

There is no cure for dyspraxia. All we can do is educate those around us and hope that they will understand.Perhaps if we raise awareness the next generation will get more understanding .
As for social cues  I guess we will just have to continue to muddle through. What other choice do we have?

Sharon Beaumont

I am a single mother of 4 who has lived with dyspraxia for several decades. My hope is that by sharing my experiences I can help to raise awareness of dyspraxia. I trained as an Education Assistant but found some areas of this to be a difficult career if you have dyspraxia. Currently I am an Information Technology Student and am trying to teach my self to speak French. I love travel, writing and anything French.

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