Before Jack started school, there were a few things that concerned me, as Jack was my first baby and not having been around any other young children it was hard to know what was normal and what was not, and as a first-time mum, you always doubt yourself. People are also too keen to make you feel like you are being neurotic and like to tell you;
“Don’t compare to other kids”,
“Kids all develop at different speeds”
“Ah sure, he’s a boy, boys are slower to develop than girls!
” Ah, he’ll do it in his own time”.
All I can say about this, is trust your parental instinct, if you are worried about your child’s development, then get it looked into, and don’t let anyone make you feel like you are being neurotic, at the end of the day our children are the most precious things in our lives and it’s better to be safe than sorry, even if it is just to put our own minds at ease.
The first major concern was Jacks speech, which was significantly delayed. He had a few of words by the time he as a year old, but he developed really slowly after that, by the time he was three, his vocabulary was extremely limited and his pronunciations of most sounds were not typical for his age. Despite going under major heart surgery at 4 months old Jack was hitting all of his other milestones in good time, he was always really alert as a baby and was walking by 9 months, the only thing was the speech which I thought would just come in time.
Jack had other stuff going on before he was at school too. He had a problem with eye contact, he just wouldn’t make eye contact with you and if he did manage it, it would be only for a second. There were times when he would be playing with his toys or doing his jigsaws, he would be completely engrossed in what he was doing, the depth of focus and concentration on his face was unreal. Other times he would just sit there in a daze, I would often wonder what was going on in that little head of his.
Jack then began developing a few obsessive behaviours, but I put some of this down to terrible twos and normal toddler behaviour such as a meltdown if he didn’t get the right colour cup etc, which I know a lot of kids go through, but this developed onto other things, for example, the route I drove to and from his playschool. You could go two different ways, but if I didn’t go the usual way, or if we were going to the shops after playschool, he would start screaming and crying.
Jack had a thing about our neighbour’s minibus. First thing in the morning Jack would look out the window to check it was there. When the guy went out in it to work, Jack would get really upset, and at times inconsolable. Thankfully most mornings we left before the minibus did. Whenever we were leaving the house, I would have to walk him up to minibus and back again before putting him in the car and the same again on our return before going into the house, and if we didn’t do his with him it would result in a full-scale meltdown. Jack was a quiet and well-behaved boy most of the time, but when he had a meltdown or a tantrum it was really full on.
This went on for a while, and then when my relationship broke down, we moved, and this behaviour about routes and the minibus disappeared. So I just thought this was a phase he was going through and didn’t think much of it after that.
Jack was also quite sensory, trying to wash him and brush his teeth was really difficult, he hated wearing clothes. He would always strip off to his underwear when we were at home. I never knew of sensory processing disorder until I started researching dyspraxia, so once again I didn’t think much of it and just put it down to him being a 3 or 4-year-old.
The summer before Jack started school he began putting his hands over his ears whenever there was a loud noise, such as a hand-dryer or a motorbike. I got the health nurse to look at his ears but there were no problems. He had suddenly become very fearful of things too, such as dogs, cats, birds, anything that moved. The meltdowns were still happening over different things and he developed this high pitched scream that he would do if he didn’t get his way. At the time I just thought it was a behavioural thing with him and he was testing his boundaries with me.
Jack was eventually diagnosed with a speech and language disorder in the summer before he started school, and referred for speech therapy. Jack’s meltdowns worsened and became quite unmanageable. I thought the behavioural problems were due to the frustration of not being able to communicate and express himself properly, but they began to get really out of hand and he was being really defiant as well. I couldn’t believe the change in his behaviour. I began to think it was to do with being in the nursery or that Jacks dad and I had recently split up, and it was a reaction to all the changes that had been going on.
Then Jack started school, and further difficulties arose, from him being unable to hold his pencil correctly, to not paying attention and unable to follow instructions, to behavioural issues in the yard.
At this point, Jack was referred for an assessment of needs, and he underwent occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychology assessments, the result of this was that he was provisionally diagnosed by the physiotherapist and occupational therapist with developmental coordination disorder. The psychology assessment came back saying that whilst Jack was showing some autistic traits, he was not showing enough to be on the Autistic Spectrum, and although the psychologists knew that a diagnosis of DCD was suggested by the Physio and OT, they put his behavioural problems down to the relationship break up and down to the fact that he was getting enough sleep, Jack has always been extremely difficult to settle at night, but that’s a whole other blog post. So their suggestion was that I go on a parenting course and read books about sleep routines. As you can imagine this made me feel like his behaviour was due to something I was doing wrong. What I wasn’t told is that all of the problems Jack was suffering accompanied with DCD are all symptoms of Dyspraxia. I had to go and find that out for myself!!
It was a huge relief, it all began to make sense. At least now I can learn and try to understand Jack’s difficulties, and most importantly learn how to help him the best way I can.
You can find out more about dyspraxia in my post What is Dyspraxia?