The Two Dyspraxics (formerly KeDA)

Matthew Munson and Barbara Neill are The Two Dyspraxics


Barbara's interview about dyspraxia

Posted by Barbara Neill-Bottle on May 18, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Barbara has given an interview about her dyspraxia and how it has affected her life, as well as the role that KeDA plays in raising awareness. Below is a transcript of the interview that can also be seen here:

The Life & Times of A Talented Woman

By Matthew Munson

1. Why don’t we start by you telling us about yourself? Who are you and where do you come from?

I'm Barbara Neill and I was born in the village of Aylesford, Kent. I've spent most of my life living in the Maidstone area.

2. When did you first realise you had dyspraxia?

I discovered my dyspraxia when my son, (now aged twenty-two), was diagnosed as a young child, so I've known about it for the past seventeen years or so. I had a massive 'eureka' moment as I read through the questionnaire for my son, and recognised myself.

3. Did you find school difficult? Were there any particular subjects you struggled with as a result of your dyspraxia?

I went to Balfour Infants School in Rochester, and I loved it but it all went steadily downhill from there. However, I did manage to pass my Eleven Plus and that never fails to amaze me, as there was certainly no recognition of dyspraxia and, subsequently, no provision for schoolchildren with dyspraxia in those days. I went to a school that was known, at that time, as Maidstone Technical High School for Girls and there was only one subject I didn't struggle with. English was easily my favourite and I've always really enjoyed creative writing. PE was terrible and I was the archetypal 'last one to be picked' for team games. I left school at fifteen with no qualifications. However, I have made up for it, as an adult and have gained several qualifications related to my work.

4. You’re also the mother to a dyspraxic son. How did you approach your son’s diagnosis – and also help him learn about and deal with the condition?

When my son was diagnosed, I was fortunate enough to have a friend who also had a dyspraxic son and had ‘been through the process’ a year before. My son was only five years old when I first suspected he had dyspraxia, and it was an uphill struggle to get his school to acknowledge the fact, never mind arrange for a diagnosis. Every year when I read, in his school report, that he “could try harder”, particularly in PE, I had to remind his teachers that he needed to be assessed for dyspraxia. It was when he started secondary school that we were taken seriously enough for him to be assessed, diagnosed and offered support. However, he approaches dyspraxia very differently from me; he tends to be like a bull in a china shop and just ‘goes for it’, when he wants to do something. Consequently, he’s had quite a few accidents, which can be very worrying from a parent’s point of view. I have always tended to ‘stand back, until I feel confident before approaching tasks.

5. How did you feel when you first discovered you’d got dyspraxia?

I was surprised to discover I had dyspraxia but continued to play it down for a number of years. That’s changed now, of course, as I work towards raising awareness of dyspraxia. Even now, I keep remembering things I’ve had problems with during my life and realising that the problems are due to dyspraxia.

6. How about now? Has your attitude changed over time?

It certainly has. I’m aware that I’ve been held back in many ways because of dyspraxia and I’m appalled that there has been no help available for adults for such a long time. I’m quite happy to shout about it now, instead of trying to blend into the background, as I used to before I found my confidence.

7. I’d like to talk a bit about Kent Dyspraxia Association (KeDA -, which you co-founded. Could you tell me a bit about the association?

Due to my dismay at the lack of provision for adults with dyspraxia, I jumped at the chance of setting up an organisation for adults with dyspraxia, with Frances Beaumont, the Occupational Therapist who carried out my assessment. Frances had been thinking of setting up a “support group” for a while but really needed a ready, willing and able dyspraxic adult to share the responsibilities. After a very well-attended talk that Frances and I gave in Faversham, followed by a meeting in which we formed our committee, KeDA (Kent Dyspraxia Association), was established. We are having a series of roadshows throughout Kent, in which we aim to raise awareness of dyspraxia and, hopefully, let people who have it, (or at least have a number of the symptoms), know that KeDA is around to offer support.

8. How do you see KeDA getting involved with awareness-raising over the new few years?

In addition to the roadshows, Frances and I, (who both have teaching qualifications), give talks and hold workshops, and will be giving talks at the Health & Social Care Expo at the Kent Showground in Detling on 16th June. I will also be delivering a session on Dyspraxia Awareness at a ‘Learning at Work’ day at a local branch of the Inland Revenue. I have developed a checklist of some of the most common difficulties associated with dyspraxia that I circulate whenever possible, as I feel strongly that there are likely to be many adults who have dyspraxia but are unaware of the fact.

9. As a trained hypnotherapist, do you see that skill helping people with dyspraxia?

As a Hypnotherapist, (trained by my father, Bob Neill, who was a professional Hypnotherapist for many years), I have developed a number of programmes specifically for people who have dyspraxia. I’m aware that various strategies can be used to help with some of the difficulties that people with dyspraxia encounter on a daily basis. In my experience, the reality is that, often it’s yet another thing to learn that takes even more effort. What I really like about Hypnotherapy is the fact that it is very powerful, very effective and doesn’t take any effort at all; in fact it’s the exact opposite, as it’s based on relaxation but takes it a stage further by actually addressing some of the difficulties that can be greatly alleviated as a result. In fact, I always aim for complete success in one session so if, for example, an adult with dyspraxia wanted to learn to drive but needed the confidence to do so, a session of Hypnotherapy with a therapist who has a thorough understanding of dyspraxia and how it can relate to driving, should be enough to give them the confidence they need. I passed my driving test over thirty years ago and have never had any points, (or endorsements), on my driving licence. Hypnotherapy can help with just about anything, including anxiety when eating in company, (fear of making a mess etc.), walking in a way that reduces the risk of stumbling or falling, and many other difficulties faced by people with dyspraxia on a daily basis. There is more information on my website:

10. Finally, what advice would you give to someone who’s heard of this label of dyspraxia for the first time?

My first piece of advice to anyone who is personally affected, would be, “don’t panic”. It’s not all doom and gloom and there are, believe it or not, a number of positive aspects of dyspraxia. For instance, people with dyspraxia tend to have average to above average intelligence, (Einstein was dyspraxic). We also tend to be creative, artistic, compassionate and determined; traits to be proud of, in my view. I would also, of course, highly recommend Hypnotherapy, as it really can make a huge difference and is also a very enjoyable experience. I would also suggest linking up with other people who have dyspraxia. If you live in Kent, contact KeDA; There are quite a few websites about dyspraxia and I have listed some on the links page of my website. I can also highly recommend a facebook group; DYSFunctioning, which has a very supportive group of people who are only too happy to help each other. The Dyspraxia Foundation serves the needs of children with dyspraxia and their parents and it is hoped that, in the future, they will also serve the needs of adults with dyspraxia. I can’t emphasise enough the need to be as positive as you can. In my experience, dyspraxia causes difficulties; not impossibilities!



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