I loved watching “Doctor Who” as a child. Then, later, I loved watching it with my own family.
Last Sunday’s appearance of Jodie Whittaker as the first female to play the Doctor was hugely enjoyable. But it was the introduction of Ryan Sinclair, one of the Doctor’s new companions, that really made me sit up and take notice.
You see, nineteen-year-old Ryan has dyspraxia – a developmental condition that causes difficulty with co-ordination and organisation. You could say it’s about space and time.
It’s the first time I’ve seen a dyspraxic character portrayed on television. I have a relative with the condition, so it was great to see “Doctor Who” bring some awareness of dyspraxia to a wider audience.
I felt for Ryan as we saw him trying and failing to ride a bicycle. The frustration and anxiety from being unable to rely on your body to do what you want it to came across so well.
The thing about dyspraxia is that it’s mostly invisible to others. That can mean people don’t believe that an intelligent person has real difficulty with an “easy” task. Worse, they can even suggest that the person is exaggerating or making up their problems. That kind of unintentional cruelty can result in a lot of anxiety for the young person at the receiving end – a person like Ryan.
And that’s not helpful. Because the other thing about dyspraxia is that it can come with some great strengths. There’s creativity for a start. When “easy” things are difficult, you have to be creative to find a way to accomplish them, and that creativity spills over into lots of other areas.
There can be a way with words and a keen sense of humour. There can be a talent for art, design or invention. A keen sympathy with people and animals, especially those that are suffering in some way, is also a trait. And there’s huge loyalty to their friends.
Then, as demonstrated by Ryan, there’s that unwillingness to give up. On anything. No matter what the obstacles.
Ryan’s introduction came in Dyspraxia Awareness Week. That was no coincidence. Showrunner Chris Chibnall has a relative with dyspraxia. It seems he and the “Doctor Who” team worked with the Dyspraxia Foundation to portray Ryan’s struggles and character accurately.
I can’t wait to see more of Ryan’s story in “Doctor Who”. I hope his inclusion leads to greater understanding of the condition. And wouldn’t it be great if that meant that everyone living with dyspraxia found their own lives made a little easier, too.