"We'll work together to develop his organising and planning skills"
'The first time I heard the term dyspraxia was when David was two and a half and had been referred to the speech therapy teacher who said he had a praxis of speech. I was referred there thanks to a great health visitor who listened to me and agreed that David had a problem with speaking. At that time he only had 20 'words' and these were just vowel sounds that only I understood. To give you some idea of how bad it was, he had a stuffed dog called Noodle that after two years of speech therapy I finally realised he had been trying to call Pluto.
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"The health visitor said nursery would be good for him and we first went to one recommended for children with speech and communication difficulties. Unfortunately they didn't really recognise his needs or encourage him to develop his fine motor skills – by cutting, doing jigsaws, playing with LEGO, etc – and he was more or less left alone to paddle along by himself.
"However, I moved him to another nursery and things were very different. This one recognised his needs and the staff were fantastic – they put him forward for an occupational therapy assessment and the nursery teacher gave me work to do with him at home as well as a book on motor delays and language skills. I read the book and looked at the Internet and was in floods of tears as I recognised he had all the signs.
"After three years at speech therapy, the therapist suggested to me that David could be dyspraxic, so I went back to do some more research and had another good howl by myself. Nursery had then referred him to occupational therapy and the therapist there also agreed that he had dyspraxia. The child health paediatrician looked at those assessments together with a family history and David was finally diagnosed with a Developmental Coordination Disorder (the two terms are used interchangeably but DCD covers a wider remit than just dyspraxia).
"So far David's time at primary school has been good. In fact, when he started the headteacher told me more about dyspraxia that I knew myself! David has been taking part in the school's therapy improvement programme which helps to strengthen his movement and the teachers also make sure to sit him close to the board as when he looks up and down at his work he can forget what he is doing as dyspraxia is linked to a poor short-term memory. The next stage for me will be working with him and the school to develop his organising and planning skills as he gets older, but at moment he's doing well.
Dyspraxia: practical tips for parents
- I've found online forums invaluable for 'meeting' other parents. When David was a toddler I didn't have anyone to talk to and felt very isolated. The forums were great for information and for helping me to feel that I wasn't alone.
- I'd also recommend any parent reading Caged in Chaos by Victoria Biggs. It's written by a 16 year old dyspraxic girl – and she is so articulate at expressing her feelings and explaining what it is actually like to have dyspraxia. It helped me a lot to understand David.
- If you can, defer starting school for a year. This was the best thing that could have happened to David as it gave him a chance to catch up – so grab that opportunity with both hands and fight for that if you think it's the right thing for your child.