“Now I know that’s not how everybody else experiences things. I’m not thick and I’m not lazy and I’m not slow.”
In this fantastic short film Kaiya Stone captures the daily reality of individuals with learning difficulties struggling to make sense of a world in which their perception is different to everyone else’s and simultaneously rejects stereotypes held by large portions of society.
The video is an excerpt from the show ‘Everything Is Going To Be KO’, written and performed by Kaiya Stone. She tells the story of her childhood, how she coped with undiagnosed learning difficulties, not understanding why things were different for her: ‘I’d be…trying to find this code and this key that everyone else has to make anyone comprehend what was going on up here’. Until, following a failed exam at Oxford University, she discovered she has dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty affecting between 1 in 10 to 20 people in the UK which can cause issues with reading, writing and spelling. Dyspraxia is rarer, with severe symptoms affecting only 2% of children, it affects the co-ordination of movement. Around 1.5% of children in the UK are diagnosed with ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder which causes problems with attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. However, although these disorders can have a serious impact on an individual’s ability to deal with everyday tasks and situations, Keiya explains that her success is not in spite of the way her brain works ‘it’s because of it’.
Keiya’s personal account of her experience being ‘neurodiverse’, especially as she did not have a diagnosis of any of her difficulties throughout her childhood, gives us an insight into the lives of many children in classrooms throughout the UK who might be struggling with these issues. I’m excited to see such an open and honest account of what it’s like living with learning difficulties take centre stage and hopefully tackle negative stereotypes and misconceptions. Surveys show that despite three quarters of people in the UK admitting they understand ‘little or nothing at all’ about dyslexia, a fifth of people think people with dyslexia ‘just need to work harder to keep up’ and a quarter believe they are less able in the workplace.
Dyspraxia is lesser known and therefore likely to be widely misunderstood: nearly half of people surveyed in 2013 had never heard of dyspraxia. Additionally, controversy surrounding the reliability and validity of ADHD diagnoses mean those suffering from the disorder are at risk of being stigmatised.
Therefore, this exploration of how we understand and react to learning difficulties is an opportunity for us all to examine our knowledge and understanding and reflect that disability does not mean inability.
The full-length stage version of ‘Everything Is Going To Be KO’ will debut at Gerry’s Studio, Theatre Royal Stratford East from 18th to 20th January.