Personal Stories, Working with me, Dyspraxia

Ten things you need to know when working with me - a dyspraxic insight

So here is my list of things you should know about me. I am dyspraxic. My previous post highlighted that I am a retail assistant. While that is true, I also dabble in teaching assisting every now and again and have previously worked in care homes. So, when I talk about people in my care, this is what I am referring to.

Communication is key

If you want me to complete a certain task or if I need to move somewhere else to help other people, then communicate to me. I have been in situations where I have had colleagues talk to other people about where I need to go and what I need to do, yet I am the last to know so unable to prepare for the latter half of the day in due time.

Also, please communicate to me important details about things that you think I might need to know. It will help me to better support the people in my care and help avoid what could be a dangerous situation. It surprises me how while we learn about communication from a young age and even through different courses it is not practised, especially if you are an assistant of some sort.

I can complete a task, but it will just take me longer to do

Targets are not my friends. I understand that are certain tasks that need to be completed within a certain time limit, but I cannot work like that. It just gives me added pressure to deal with on top of the task I already must complete.

The worst job I ever did was when I worked in a factory. I had to create a cardboard box where all the packaged medication would end up and then push the trolley with the cardboard boxes to a faraway place only to speed back again to create a cardboard box to put the already pilling up medication that was shooting down the conveyor belt. I also had to put the pre-packaged tablets in their box and do it in a set time. With my motor skills I could only manage one every five minutes or so, therefore delaying the whole process.

At my current job, I have been left alone for my shift to fold clothes. I do take longer than my work colleagues to fold clothes and complete a whole table of clothes, but I get left to it, and get given help when required.

If the end result is the same, let me complete it my way

There have been many times in previous jobs where I have been shown how to do something by a good-natured work colleague to reduce the amount of time it takes or because it is not the “correct” way to do a task. I got shown how to mop, something I knew how to do, but when I did it, it was called “Awkward”.  

While I do appreciate help when it is given to me, if the end result is the same, please leave me alone to complete the task.

I am inconsistent but that does not mean I am not learning

What I have learnt from having Dyspraxia is that I will have good and bad days. Due to short term memory problems, if I get shown how to complete a task, I might be able to do it straight away. Or if someone tells me something, I might remember it on that day.

However, the next day there is no guarantee that I might be able to complete that task again, especially if I have not been practicing. This does not mean that I was not paying attention or not learning, it just means I need that individual to be patient with me while they explain the task again, so it can be stored into my long-term memory.  

Let me write down instructions or important information

Again, due to short term memory problems, if someone tells me a list of instructions, I will forget most of them. I have been involved in a care home where I had to give out cups of teas to the residents. There were about 15 teas on the tray, (which I thankfully did not carry), and I was told who all of them belonged to.

I asked if I could write their names on a slip of paper and put them next to the mugs. This request was denied, and the person just said I need to listen and repeated the names again. I got confused again and the person was telling me the information got angry at me and accused me of not paying attention.

Therefore, I need to be able to write down instructions if you want me to complete what you are asking me to do.

I do respond best to some sort of a routine

I love routine. I am as rigid as they come. It helps me especially in a work environment if I know what will happen and when. This is so I can remember more of what I need to do.

For example, where I used to work, I was given a list of tasks to complete at certain times during my shift, like cleaning the coffee machine at 02.15. Of course, in employment, unexpected things happen and while I would always try and aim to clean the machine at that time, I would have to adjust accordingly, especially as I was in a shop environment and having to serve customers at that time as well.

However, despite this, I still do need some sort of routine to be able to function in a work place.  

Speak to me in a direct and literal manner

This is especially important when giving out instructions. Two examples of how confusing this is, is when once, I got asked if I could bring someone a slip of paper. They did not specify if they wanted lined, plain or coloured, so I returned paperless and asked them to be more specific. Of course, this was me “wasting time” so were not happy.

Another time I got asked to fetch a cup, so someone could be sick in it. I did, but it was the wrong kind of cup and so the staff were not happy because this resident wasn’t feeling well, and I fetched something they didn’t want. After the incident, I wasn’t well received.

So, when giving out instructions you need to tell me exactly what you want me to do, in order for me to do the task to the best of my ability.

I may be quiet and not like small talk, but you can still talk to me

Everyone who I have come across in a workplace has started off by saying that I am quiet and when anyone tries to talk to me, because I am not comfortable with giving eye contact, I will look down. This indicates to them that I don’t want to talk to anyone.

While I can see their point of view, it doesn’t mean that you still can’t approach me and start a conservation with me. I love debating with people and if it was allowed, I would go up to people and be like “Hello, so what is your view on Brexit”? or another “big” question.

I can talk to my friend for hours and discuss politics, the news and other general events. Even what is on television and discussing issues around that. But at the beginning, I have had had colleagues not talking to me again because they thought I was too quiet or befriending me to “help me gain confidence”. But yes, by choosing to talk to me even if you have decided that I am too quiet for you, or you cannot hold a conservation with me at the beginning, means a lot and means you have accepted me for who I am, and I will talk to you back slowly but surely.

I can take initiative it just may not be initiative that you know

So, I have been told at several points that I lack initiative. To be honest, I still do not know how to show initiative.

I do need people to tell me what to do while I am working. Not every minute of the day, but if I have forgotten to do something I may need reminding to do it. I have been trying to anticipate what staff might want me to, for example sweeping the floor but I get told not to do it as someone else will.

My version of taking initiative is complete a task without being told to but don’t tell them that I have completed it. This may be wrong because while I am undertaking a task, I always get told to stop what I am doing and do what they what me to do or say no it’s ok they/it’s fine like that. However, I have observed colleagues go up to managers or their superiors and say how they completed a task and explain what they did. They get praised and get told they have shown initiative.

So, I do become confused on what initiative is, however I just try show them what I am capable of.

Above all, I am a hard-working individual who does get the job done

Despite my many flaws, I am committed to the job at hand and will always do my best to complete something. I am hardworking, patient, friendly and always willing to go the extra mile for companies.

I may do things a little differently and I may mess up from time to time, but that does not mean I will not get the job done.

Author image

About Neurodivergent Thinkers

Could this be you? If so, contact me.