Saturday, 19 November 2011

Sport and Dispraxia

I have just read the most inspirational article on the Apraxia-kids website. The article was about Luke Farrell, an Australian Triathlete who also has dispraxia. It is a story full of fight and hope for other suffers of dispraxia and their families. You can read Luke's story here.

One thing that really stood out about this story was that it appears that Luke did not receive the early diagnostic and intervention services that are available to children today. Despite this, Luke appears to be extremely successful in both an elite level in sport and at school. This is reminiscent of my own mother’s story, She probably had dispraxia as a child, but there were no early intervention services available. I’m not even sure if the condition was even known of then!

Fortunately my daughter, Flash (8), also diagnosed with dispraxia, received fantastic early intervention in speech therapy and language preschool (see my dispraxia family curse post). Just this week Flash presented a 2 minute speech to her class as part of the year 2 assessment. We wrote her speech together and have practiced it together for about 2-weeks. I was very anxious on the day of her talk to find out how she went. Her teacher seemed almost blasĂ© (in a good way) in telling me that Flash had done a wonderful job, she had a “lovely sing-song voice, was very clear and articulate”’. Well, I used all the self-control I had to hold back tears…tears of happiness. What Flash’s teacher does not realise, is that;

 When Flash was 3 and 4 years old, we were not sure that she would ever speak clearly in full sentences.

Now, the fluency of her speech  is just taken for granted. That makes me feel like the happiest and proudest mum in the world!

On Tuesday my son Buster (4) will go to his first assessment for speech and language intervention (after 9 months on the waiting list). I had been working with him myself using the techniques taught to me by Flash’s SLP. However, is had came to a point where he really required professional help outside the family.

 If you could imagine what it is like for Buster at his main-stream pre-pre-school. He is extremely outgoing and sociable and even though he desperately tries, he just can’t, for the life of him, make himself understood. He has great difficulty asking for a toy or a turn. He cannot tell the teachers if he has a problem. He knows that other kids laugh at him, but he just doesn’t know why. He tries to tell the teachers and the other children his own stories, but they just can’t understand and turn away. He can sometimes push the other children, or grab for toys. However the teachers assistant assures me he does this no more than many of the other children.  I know in my heart of hearts that he does not intentionally mean to hurt them. He just can’t express himself in any other way. He finds pre-school tiring and frustrating, I am tempted not to send him, but every week he so looks forward to going!

His physical activities are a completely different story. Buster participates in kindergym and swimming. You do not need to speak fluently to do well in these things. At these lessons he is just like everybody else; a level playing field. He is perfectly able to follow instructions and learn. Like my other children, Buster even seems to excel in these activities. This gives him the self confidence he so desperately needs for school. I know this was the same for Flash. I believe that her participation in sport and dance gave her the confidence and the attitude that helped her through the same  pre-preschool. From the Apraxia-kids article, it seems it was the same for Luke Farrell. His success in triathlon has helped give him the strength and self confidence to tackle the other hurdles in his life.

In the examples above, all have been good at sport. However, I suspect the same is true of any activity a child excels in. If you can find what a child is good at or enjoys, then you have a way of boosting their confidence and belief in themselves. I think this is especially important for a child with special needs who may struggle on a daily basis with activities that are taken for granted in other children. Building up confidence with activities such as sport, chess, drama, art, music lessons or building model railways, may give a sense of accomplishment and the attitude to help them succeed in other areas.

I so hope that Buster’s enjoyment of sport can make-up for his difficulties at school. The story of Luke Farrell.and my own daughter have given me hope that  Buster will finally express himself so that others can see what I can see. A special, beautiful, kind, affectionate and funny boy, who comforts others and loves to make others laugh. A boy who is loved deeply by his SportyMummy and his entire family.