Dyspraxia requires more awareness and support, especially within the education system
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Awareness and support of Dyspraxia across the medical, education and government sectors within Australia is extremely limited. This needs to change!
Compared to more of the well know learning and intellectual disabilities, major research into Dyspraxia has only begun recently in Australia.
Over the years I have spent hours upon hours reading information I obtained predominantly from international research sites and parental support groups. In our personal journey an immense lack of support was felt the moment my son was diagnosed.
At the age of 3.5 years old, my son was diagnosed with “Global Dyspraxia coinciding with severe Verbal Dyspraxia”. I had no knowledge of this disorder, The only understanding I seemed to grasp from his diagnosis was: Intense speech therapy would be needed, (I was unable to obtain reassurance in him ever being completely verbal) I was also briefly informed on the various ways his gross and fine motor skills would be affected (how much so we would know as he aged).
Over the past 5 years I have spent large amounts of money for him to attend weekly speech therapy sessions where no rebate is available from Medicare, and health cover only allocates 3 visits per yr. Being his verbal dyspraxia was severe we were recommended to attend multiple weekly speech sessions yet at $90 for 45mins it was something we were unable to afford.
Where I personally have felt the majority of support to be lacking, is within our education system, and I believe this is where the most damage may be done. The system needs to change, not just for children like my son, but for a vast majority of children attending schools today.
My son is an extremely bright and capable 8yr old boy, yet he struggles with certain everyday tasks. His teacher this year has expressed to myself that he is indeed a very intelligent boy and able student, but can find him difficult to handle in her classroom some days. During his classroom activities- such as copying from the board, task switching and engaging in writing activities, he has a tendency in refusing to participate in work, can become disruptive and have emotional meltdowns. These behaviours have lead her to reposition his desk at the back of the room, a method I’m sure many teachers use in order to refrain the child from disrupting their fellow classmates, yet consequently is likey to creat a negative response from the child. This year has been the hardest schooling year for my son, thus leading me to research helpful teaching methods.
Multiple proven studies have found Dyspraxic children to be of high intelligents, yet they are unable to process information quickly and accurately enough. Being that Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder the problem is the left and right side of the brain do not communicate with each other effectively. Because these children are predominantly right-brained, it explains why they are able to observe and understand something, yet struggle with the execution of delivering its message. Being right brain dominant (this applies to all) Dyspraxics are more creative, imaginative and artistic. Therefore small changes to teaching methods where they find difficulties, such as visual and hands on learning activities and allowing longer time frames would impact positive learning immensely!
Children with Dyspraxia have attributes similar to ADHD behaviour that generally occur in times of-
* Frustration/ Stress - not being able to do or explain certain things correctly (such as copying written notes from a board).
* Task switching - without being prepared for changes in tasks - without a time countdown (e.g being told to switch from one activity to the next without reminders of timeframe remaining).
* Impulsivity or expressing his emotions, which can lead to angry outbursts.
Another common trait for these children and also very much so my son- is the difficulty to sit still 95% of the time. Unbelievably fidgeting actually helps dyspraxic children. It is the Nurons sending signals subconsciously ensuring they remember where their body parts are- this being something the rest of us take for granted. So by twitching their foot, or tapping their fingers, they are sending messages to the brain saying ‘here I am!’. This intern is how these children actually concentrate on what they’re meant to be concentrating on (very contradicting to which many of us have been taught, in turn this May lead many children, including my son to the possible mis diagnosis of ADHD.) If these children are told to stop moving around and to sit still the brain begins seeking the feedback but not getting a response, hence an inattentive child (or again poorly diagnosed with ADHD). Children like Jhet are being denied early intervention, support and funding within Australia (although now with the NDIS roll out will finally obtain more support). With Dyspraxia considered an invisible disability coinciding with limited knowledge and information (if any at all) in the education system, majority of these children are arriving at mainstream schools with high cognitive abilities but are unable to express or communicate their knowledge. This in turn is leading to a group of very frustrated, yet intellectually capable children. Thus bringing forward a recipe for continual disruptive behavior in the classrooms. It is known to most of us that highly intelligent children when becoming bored and frustrated can successfully undermine the learning of all, yet why is it they have none of their own learning needs met? If mainstream schools cannot harness a child’s intelligence, someone, or something else, will and it may not be for the better!
If students are not offered equal access to support and funding, and are not offered equality in education, then we are laying the foundations for disaster in schools and within our society. This includes every individual child, with or without a disability.
Over the years I have supported my sons teachers with an extreme amount of information and techniques to use in the classroom, many of which not accurately used. Unfortunately the system does not work for majority of our children. I know my son does not belong in a mainstream school, he is starting to disbelieve in his own greatness and potential. At home we watch a numerous amount of documentaries and talk about an array of subjects, He has an incredible wealth of knowledge on subjects not taught until higher grades, he is able to pick up music likes it’s been etched into his core, and unbelievable maths equations he can do in his head. It upsets me to see how much my boy second guesses himself, he is made for greatness, every child is different, every child processes information differently.
Please understand I am not blindsided into thinking a single teacher would be incredibly gifted to capably use an array of different learning techniques for each individual child in the classroom. What I am questioning and would like an understanding of is, the reason our children are being taught a method that works for a minority? Why are we not offered alternative school options specifically designed for different learning methods? (such as visual, aural, Verbal, physical, logical, social, solitary). Research has proven time and time again our preferred styles are what actually guide the way we learn and retain information. These styles have proven to change the way you internally represent experiences, the way you recall information, and even the words you choose.
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