Stephanie Sammartino’s Story

 

Trapassi stage shotSmallI remember the day that I realized I was different than my friends. I looked the same as they did and I liked the same things they liked, but something was different. It never bothered me before that it took more practice to be able to jump rope. It never made a difference to me that they could tie their shoes, use scissors or write…and I couldn’t. I didn’t know that I was doing the motor skills development exercises we did at school incorrectly. I thought I was doing a splendid job and I had a lot of fun with them. That all changed when I moved up to first grade and the teacher brought out the red bouncy ball. It was time to get introduced to dodge ball and I was introduced with a blow to the head on the very first throw.

That was the first time I remember feeling embarrassed at school. I continued to feel embarrassed each time I was introduced to a new game and each time when teams were chosen and I was chosen last. It was around this time that I also realized that I loved to read and that I preferred to be by myself. Learning was fun as long as I didn’t have to keep track of my papers, but I did have to keep track of my papers and I lost them often, which affected my grades. It was embarrassing when I would lose my papers and it troubled me most when I couldn’t find the homework I had labored over the night before. I didn’t like feeling embarrassed.

As time went on I did gain the motor skills to be able to write and use scissors. I wasn’t able to do my own hair until I was fifteen. I had spent the last eight years becoming an excellent horsewoman and I enjoyed being able to compete. Horseback riding gave me better control over my muscles, which still gave me problems. I also figured out that I have a fighting spirit – I developed a very competitive drive. I still didn’t like being embarrassed and I still wasn’t great at sports. I figured out that I could get by playing volleyball and soccer, but I had to try harder than most. I only played for fun.

I was one of those kids that went through chubby phases. By the time I was seventeen, my appetite for junk food and my avoidance of physical activity beyond horseback riding were catching up with me. I had stopped growing, but my love for food stayed the same. I became “the chubby- funny one” to keep from feeling embarrassed about my increased size.

I continued to struggle with my weight and activities like driving and typing. I was back in a happy place though, like I was in kindergarten. Life was exciting and I was involved! My struggles were less visible to others and between working hard and my sense of humor; I was able to not feel the embarrassment when my coordination betrayed me.

There came a point, however; when I realized that I didn’t like my figure. I was attending college by the beach and the extra weight was bothering me. I was friends with a young woman from my lifeguard training course who was quite fit. I asked her how she kept herself that way and she told me that she didn’t eat a lot of junk food and she worked out with weights. I learned everything I could about working out. I had tried to get involved in doing aerobics classes, but I found myself feeling a little awkward and that old feeling would rise up to my rosy cheeks. Using weights kept me out of the aerobics room. I became smaller and more importantly, I felt great! The best part about knowing my way around the weight room was that it didn’t matter that I am “uncoordinated.”

Things are different these days for children growing up with the struggles that I had. There is a word for their condition, it is called dyspraxia. In some ways I’m glad that there was no diagnosis for my issues, because there was no room for making excuses. I live with the no excuses attitude every day. It gets me through my gym workouts when I don’t feel like going. The workouts aren’t grueling, but they aren’t fun. I eat well by avoiding processed foods as much as possible. Anyone can be fit – even a mom who is over forty and living with dyspraxia. I am living proof! My name is Stephanie Sammartino and I have dyspraxia.

Stephanie Sammartino has competed in fitness events with the World Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation. She lives with her husband, Tony in Pennsylvania; while their daughter, Taylor attends college in North Carolina.