My son started school in September 2014. I knew that he would have difficulties as he had, what I thought at the time was a speech and language delay, and was being assessed for this. Within the first few months at school, it became obvious that communication wasn’t his only problem. He was struggling in all aspects of school and his behaviour at home was getting also out of control.
One of the main problems he was having at school was that he just didn’t seem to be connecting with what was going on in class, he seemed to be off in his own world a lot of the time. I put this down to the fact that he had a receptive language disorder and probably found it difficult to understand what was being said to him. He had a very weak pencil grip which made writing almost impossible, his drawing and colouring skills were very young for his age. P.E was also very challenging for him as his ball skills and coordination were very poor too.
He was referred for an Assessment of Need, which involved an occupational therapy, physiotherapy and a psychology assessment. When this was complete they said that although he had traits of autism that “he did not present autistic in nature”. He was showing signs of Developmental Coordination Disorder, which is also known as dyspraxia, but this would have to be officially diagnosed by a Paediatrician.
It never occurred to me that J had motor skill problems, as he was always running, climbing, and jumping around. Of course he had a few knocks and falls, but didn’t all children? It was only during the assessments that I saw how weak his motor skills were, he would be asked to hop, or jump from one spot to another, and it was during this I could see that he had no coordination and was unable to balance.I was annoyed at myself for not picking up on this before.
My 10 year relationship with had broken down with the children’s father only a few months that same year, I had been so preoccupied with the events that lead up to the break-up, that maybe I had taken my eye off the ball. I was never around other kids J’s age to compare the level of his motor skills . It came as a bit of a shock as J had attended a pre-school for two years, who prided themselves on early education and motor skill development. Looking back now I realise that I relied on them too much to notify me if anything was out of the norm. When I asked them about Jack’s speech they didn’t seem to think there was no issue. At that time my self-esteem and confidence was at rock-bottom and just saw that the carers in the pre-school were the experts and they would know better than me. I have learnt a lot since then, and I have realised that the professionals are not always right. I now always trust my own instincts when it comes to my children and I have found that works much better.
I had never heard of dyspraxia before this assessment, and since then I have been trying to learn as much as I can about the condition and how it effects J. I felt it was important to get my head around it so that I could understand his difficulties, to help him as much as I can, and also to ensure he gets the help and supports he needs outside of the home too.
In the beginning I thought it simply meant that his fine and gross motor skills were not as developed as they should be and that he just needed a bit of extra help to catch up with other kids his age. Whilst learning about the main difficulties of dyspraxia in regards to motor skills, balance and coordination, (which is explained more in my other post “What is Dyspraxia” ) I began to learn that it was far more complex than I thought.
When I came across this image at The Blog with One Post, it was a real light bulb moment for me, it was like all the pieces of the puzzle were coming together. The speech and language disorder, the sleep issues and the melt-downs etc., they were all part of dyspraxia. The feeling of relief was enormous, but I was also very angry, why hadn’t the professionals explained this to me at at the time? They put J’s behaviour and sleep issues down to my “parenting skills” and the recent breakdown of my relationship. I had been beating myself up for months thinking all of J’s problems were down to me and all the upheaval that had been going on at home. I have since learnt from other parents who have also been through this process that “parent blaming”, rather than fully investigating the issues, is quite common in this heavily flawed system. But now what was important is that I could get an understanding what was behind J’s difficulties, so I could help him manage them.
The Blog with one Post is a great blog written by a young lady called Natalie Williams, who has dyspraxia herself, she gives a great insight into the condition, I have found her posts really helpful whilst trying to educate myself about this condition. .