Dyspraxia is something we have learned to live with in our family. Sadly, we had no idea that Will had dyspraxia until he went to 6th form college. I learned to dread parents evenings. Every teacher would say the same thing. Will was slapdash, his handwriting was dreadful and his concentration poor. The only time Will ever had a positive report was from a geography teacher who had confused him with another child in the class! We did have small flashes of support – I particularly liked the use of a bigger pencil to help his handwriting. This pencil was like a small tree trunk and very unwieldy, so I wasn’t surprised it didn’t help.
How did Wills dyspraxia manifest itself?
Poor Will was accused of constantly daydreaming and going off into ‘William world’. Being a nurse, I wondered if he was having absence seizures, so dragged him off to the GP. From there we were referred to a neurologist and he had EEG’s to identify these supposed lapses. There were none and we were left battling an unseen foe and not feeling we were being heard.
So what is dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is a developmental coordination issue that used to be known as clumsy child syndrome. Normal developmental milestones are reached but at a slower rate. For Will, he hit all his milestones absolutely fine. Although, he never crawled forward – just backwards and got stuck under furniture! He walked on his first birthday and chatted well, using a wide range of language and in context.
However, and this is on reflection, he was always lousy at putting shapes into a box. Do you remember the wooden box with shapes on the lid, through which you would post the corresponding shape? Will would attempt this for a short period of time and then give up because it was too hard. Jigsaws were an equal challenge to him.
Learning to tie shoelaces was really challenging for him. This was partly due to his lack of fine motor dexterity, but also because his ability to remember tasks was so poor.
Will and I soldiered through his GCSE’s. The whole process was very hard and his frustration often boiled over. We had many tears and tantrums but he left formative education with 8 good GCSE’s and strode forward to 6th form with a real spring in his step.
How did he cope with 6th form?
Dyspraxia in adults can be more challenging. Will was already realising that he was ‘different’ but that no one was able to tell him why. I think it coloured his early experiences of 6th form until finally, the penny dropped. He submitted a handwritten piece of work for his first assessment and from then on we were on a totally new trajectory. His tutor recognised the issues based on his dreadful handwriting. He was given support, access to a college laptop and more time to complete tasks. We paid for an educational psychology assessment and Will was diagnosed with cognitive dyspraxia. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to finally have someone believe us.
It’s interesting, he doesn’t totally fit into the dyspraxic mould. Yes, he was not good at ball games or team sports but he excelled in Judo, representing Sussex and his dojo worldwide. Judo isn’t all about grunt and groan, it requires skill, dexterity and balance. All aspects that a dyspraxic person isn’t supposed to have.
Typing is also supposed to be challenging and yet Will can type at about 130 words per minute !!! And, his proofreading is excellent. He is very eloquent and speaks clearly. However, the emotional issues identified, fit him to a tee.
Will left 6th form with 3 A levels and was accepted to Kingston Uni to read English Language and creative writing. The pastoral care and support he received were second to none and he managed to achieve a 2:2. He then decided he would like to continue studying at Kingston and took a second degree, this time in journalism. Again he achieved a 2:2. We are very proud of what he has achieved despite the challenges presented to him.
What have we learned from Wills journey with dyspraxia
Not everyone has heard of dyspraxia. The number of times we have both been ‘corrected’ and told surely we mean dyslexia. Errr. NO. We mean dyspraxia!!
It is not something that one grows out of. I’ve never understood why some people say that. You would hardly suggest that to someone with 1 leg, would you?
No one is to ‘blame’ for Will being the way he is. I had a good pregnancy, he was a term baby, I have never smoked and didn’t drink whilst pregnant.
Will is a very intelligent young man. At his Ed Psych assessment, he was placed on the top 93rd centile. He’s just wired differently.
So what lies ahead?
Life is always going to be challenging for him. He has many coping strategies in place to help. Bite size chunks of work, repeating tasks until they become memorised, and asking for support when needed are all things he does. However, he’s also at an age when conforming can be regarded as helpful. Happily, Will doesn’t mind not being ‘normal’ and actually plays up to it. This has held him in good stead so far.
Whatever he chooses to do long term, we are very proud of how he has coped with his difference. He is our very tall, very funny boy. He is our Sprout and we love him