To get a different perspective on Dyspraxia I decided to talk to my Mum about her thoughts on my diagnosis and ask her if she ever suspected if I had any special needs when I was younger.
What was I like as a child and did you notice anything ‘different’ about me?
You were two weeks late when you were born and I thought you were never going to arrive as even your inducement took forever. Three shifts of midwives and then only the sight of the forceps triggered your sudden appearance. As a young child, you always took a long time to do anything and time never seemed to have any meaning to you. You were always last out of school and the last one to be ready to leave the house. Your awareness of time has improved as you got older and now you never arrive late.
You were always a very happy and contented child. You loved music and singing from an early age so I enrolled you at a local stage school. You did ballet, tap, jazz, singing and acting. I remember there was an annual show and you were often out of sync with the other children when dancing or turned the wrong way but the dance teachers never said anything about it. In true ‘Rebecca style’ you always had a smile on your face. You struggled with acrobatics but that didn’t matter as singing was your passion and favourite thing to do.
At primary school teachers picked up on your slow handwriting speed and you only achieved a 2C in writing which was just below average. You didn’t produce much in terms of the quantity of your work. Your teachers didn’t really know why you struggled to produce the quantity required as they felt you had the ability to do more but this was not evidenced on paper. You also had an awkward pencil grip and pressed too hard on the paper. Even now you still hold your pen, as well as your knife and fork, in unusual grip!
You always needed to get lots of sleep and got worn out easily. Other parents told me that their children got up early in the morning but I always said that you were good as you were not an early riser! It is strange how this has changed as you now get up very early in the morning. I always felt you lacked the stamina shown by other children but just accepted that this was part of your character.
I would describe you as a day dreamer, always content in your own little world. You tripped over from time to time…often over your own feet! However, you were never deterred from trying anything and always gave everything your best shot. It was obvious from early on that you were not a naturally sporty child- you lacked the coordination to ride a bike, throw and catch a ball and was always slow in races. On the other hand, your love of music and all things creative seemed to be seemed to be your strength. You managed to carry on music through to GCSE and still enjoy singing and performing even now.
How did you feel when I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia at university?
Following your screening at university which confirmed your slow handwriting speed you asked me if you should go ahead with the recommendation of a full educational psychologist assessment. Obviously, I wanted to support you in any way I could and so you went ahead with the assessment.
I was quite shocked when I read the full report as in some areas you clearly scored quite low against the national average and the label ‘Dyspraxia’ was not something which had ever been mentioned about you before. All credit to you though as you had achieved very well educationally considering the lack of support you had received at primary and secondary school. The positive outcome of your diagnosis was that you were entitled to extra time in your exams and offered a study skills tutor should you want one.
Had you heard of Dyspraxia before my diagnosis?
As a primary school teacher of over thirty years’ experience you would have expected me to have come across some children with Dyspraxia before but there were very few. I first came across the condition when I was a newly qualified teacher and my head teacher ran an after-school club called the ‘clumsy club’. It was targeted at children who needed to improve their co-ordination and balance yet no one mentioned the word ‘Dyspraxia’. This was probably not unusual in the 1980s as speaking to other colleagues they were also unaware of the condition and no special needs training covered this area. Even Dyslexia which is now well known was not recognised widely and people were not familiar with the term. The debate around Dyslexia and Dyspraxia continues amongst teachers and parents with disagreements about whether labelling children is necessary or more of a hindrance. It was in 2014, when studying for my Special Educational Needs (SEN) qualification, that the lecturer explained what Dyspraxia was and how it is comorbid (overlaps) with other conditions such as Dyslexia and ADHD. We have both learnt a lot since your diagnosis and realise that Dyspraxia is still one of the lesser known special needs.
Do you think my diagnosis has helped me at all?
Yes, because the diagnosis has given you an insight into how you function best. You have developed a greater understanding of why you sometimes struggle with certain everyday tasks. For example, you feel less worried about driving now that you appreciate that many other people with Dyspraxia find spatial awareness a challenge whereas before you just thought you were a bad driver. You have now grown in confidence on the road and developed strategies to compensate for your lack of innate awareness.
Since your diagnosis, we have also become more aware of your strengths such as attention to detail, planning and organisational skills, strong interpersonal skills and your high levels of empathy. Having a special need hasn’t given you an excuse not to do something, it has just helped you to know how to tackle things differently. This year you have risen to the challenge of several physical activities which were outside of your comfort zone and you have given them your all!
Thanks to my mum, Alison, for taking the time to talk to me. It was interesting sharing our experiences with each other.
Do any of these things strike a chord with you or anyone else you know?
I would love to hear about other people’s experiences.
If you would like to read my other posts on Dyspraxia they are linked below:
Thanks for reading,