The new series of Doctor Who isn’t just breaking new ground with the show’s first female Doctor – it’s also embracing inclusivity in another way, introducing a companion character with dyspraxia.
19-year-old Ryan (Tosin Cole) is revealed to have the condition – also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or DCD – in ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ and is seen struggling with his co-ordination.
But what exactly is dyspraxia? Digital Spy spoke to two experts – from the British Dyslexia Association, which also provides support for those with dyspraxia, and the Dyspraxia Foundation, which advised on this series of Doctor Who.
“It’s important for people with dyspraxia, especially young people, to have positive role models that show dyspraxia need not hold you back,” said Amanda Kirby, an advisor on dyspraxia to the British Dyslexia Association and Professor of Developmental Disorders at the University of South Wales.
“We hope [the introduction of Ryan] will also break down some of the misconceptions out there about dyspraxia, as these can have a negative impact on people’s experience of dyspraxia and make it harder for them to feel confident and achieve everything they can.”
So what are those misconceptions? “Often people think it just affects children and they will grow out of it eventually,” says Kirby, who is also a parent to an adult with the condition. “Dyspraxia is a life-long disorder and affects children and adults equally.
“Many consider that it doesn’t affect people that much. It is a spectrum so for some people the symptoms can be fairly minor but it can go through to having an impact on all aspects of life.
“Some people can dismiss dyspraxia as not being that much of a problem and not realising for some people how it can impact on their lives. Life is often much more tiring for someone who has dyspraxia than others as everything takes much more effort.
“It is [also] crucial for people to understand that dyspraxia doesn’t affect intelligence in any way at all. Sometimes, people see the symptoms of dyspraxia and associate clumsy with ‘stupid’ and make unfounded leaps about people and their abilities. Dyspraxia has nothing to do with someone’s intellectual ability.”
Here are the facts: “Dyspraxia/DCD is a lifelong condition affecting gross and fine motor coordination in adults and children,” explains Gill Dixon, ambassador for the Dyspraxia Foundation and also mother to two (adult) sons with the condition.
“In addition, many may experience difficulties with organisational skills, memory, processing speed, perception and, in some cases speech.”
Dyspraxia is also more commonplace than you might expect – famous figures with the disorder include Daniel Radcliffe, Florence Welch and Cara Delevingne.