#NeuroDiversity in Lambeth
At Dyspraxia Lambeth we engage our peers and colleagues and fellow members with lived experience in neurodiversity with a particular focus on Dyspraxia.
As an adult with autism,dyslexia,dyspraxia I share this experience as an Advocate. I find the idea of natural variation to be more appealing than the alternative – the suggestion than I am innately bad, or broken and in need of repair. I didn’t learn about my own autism until I reached middle age. All those (pre-diagnosis) years I assumed my struggles stemmed from inherent deficiencies. Asserting that I am different – not defective – is a much healthier position to take. Realising the idea is supported by science is even better.
To me, neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like Autism, ADHD,dyslexia, dyspraxia,dysgraphia are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome. This represents a new and fundamentally different way of looking at conditions and challenges that were traditionally pathologized; it’s a viewpoint that is not universally accepted though it is increasingly supported by science. That science suggests conditions like autism have a stable prevalence in human society as far back as we can measure. We are realizing that autism, ADHD,Dyslexia, dyspraxia,dysgraphia and other conditions emerge through a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental interaction; they are not the result of disease or injury. What has been your experience?
Reading and spelling
Children with dyspraxia may have difficulties with reading and spelling. Limited concentration and poor listening skills, and literal use of language may have an effect on reading and spelling ability. A child may read well, but not understand some of the concepts in the language. The child may also be reluctant to read aloud because of articulation difficulties or because they lack self-confidence.
Exercises may be beneficial for children with reading and spelling difficulties. Take Time by Mary Nash-Wortham and Jean Hunt provides a series of exercises for parents, teachers and therapists to do with children.
Computers can also help with reading and spelling: Wordshark 2 is a widely used program, available from the Dyspraxia Foundation.
Research has shown that children with developmental verbal dyspraxia whose speech difficulties persist beyond the age of 5 & 6 years are at risk of having literacy difficulties. The risk is increased if there is a family history of speech, language or specific learning difficulties.
By 3 years old
Symptoms are evident from an early age. Babies are usually irritable from birth and may exhibit significant feeding problems.
They are slow to achieve expected developmental milestones. For example, by the age of eight months they still may not sit independently.
Many children with dyspraxia fail to go through the crawling stages, preferring to ‘bottom shuffle’ and then walk. They usually avoid tasks which require good manual dexterity.
Pre-school children – 3 to 5 year olds
If dyspraxia is not identified, problems can persist and affect the childís life at school. Increasing frustration and lowering of self-esteem can result.
Children with dyspraxia may demonstrate some of these types of behaviour:
- Very high levels of motor activity, including feet swinging and tapping when seated, hand-clapping or twisting. Unable to stay still
- High levels of excitability, with a loud/shrill voice
- May be easily distressed and prone to temper tantrums
- May constantly bump into objects and fall over
- Hands flap when running
- Difficulty with pedalling a tricycle or similar toy
- Lack of any sense of danger (jumping from heights etc)
- Continued messy eating. May prefer to eat with their fingers, frequently spill drinks
- Avoidance of constructional toys, such as jigsaws or building blocks
- Poor fine motor skills. Difficulty in holding a pencil or using scissors. Drawings may appear immature
- Lack of imaginative play. May show little interest in ëdressing upí or in playing appropriately in a home corner or wendy house
- Limited creative play
- Isolation within the peer group. Rejected by peers, children may prefer adult company
- Laterality (left- or right-handedness) still not established
- Persistent language difficulties
- Sensitive to sensory stimulation, including high levels of noise, tactile defensiveness, wearing new clothes
- Limited response to verbal instruction. May be slow to respond and have problems with comprehension
- Limited concentration. Tasks are often left unfinished
By 7 years old
Problems may include:
- Difficulties in adapting to a structured school routine
- Difficulties in Physical Education lessons
- Slow at dressing. Unable to tie shoe laces
- Barely legible handwriting
- Immature drawing and copying skills
- Limited concentration and poor listening skills
- Literal use of language
- Inability to remember more than two or three instructions at once
- Slow completion of class work
- Continued high levels of motor activity
- Hand flapping or clapping when excited
- Tendency to become easily distressed and emotional
- Problems with co-ordinating a knife and fork
- Inability to form relationships with other children
- Sleeping difficulties, including wakefulness at night and nightmares
- Reporting of physical symptoms, such as migraine, headaches, feeling sick
The child with developmental verbal dyspraxia has an impaired speech processing system, which affects their ability to make sound ñ letter links and to carry out phonological awareness tasks (e.g. segmenting, blending, rhyming etc) essential for literacy acquisition. Spelling is usually more affected than reading.
- My school say my child is too young to be assessed.
- As soon as difficulties become apparent support should be put in place by the school. You do not need a diagnostic assessment in order to receive support from the school.
- Look at the School Information Report and the school SEN Policy as they will tell you the school's intervention and assessment processes.
- The BDA offers diagnostic assessments: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/services/assessments
- The Local Authority should have a list of specialist schools. Specialist independent schools supporting dyslexic/dyspraxic/autistic pupils can be found on: www.crested.org.uk.
Dyspraxia : Adults
Most adult dyslexics/dyspraxics/autistics will exhibit at least 10 of the following traits and behaviours. These characteristics are often inconsistent, and may vary depending upon the day or situation.
People who have dyspraxia often find the routine tasks of daily life such as driving, household chores, cooking and grooming difficult. They can also find coping at work is hard. People with dyspraxia usually have a combination of problems, including:
Gross motor co-ordination skills (large movements):
- Poor balance. Difficulty in riding a bicycle, going up and down hills
- Poor posture and fatigue. Difficulty in standing for a long time as a result of weak muscle tone. Floppy, unstable round the joints. Some people with dyspraxia may have flat feet
- Poor integration of the two sides of the body. Difficulty with some sports involving jumping and cycling
- Poor hand-eye co-ordination. Difficulty with team sports especially those which involve catching a ball and batting. Difficulties with driving a car
- Lack of rhythm when dancing, doing aerobics
- Clumsy gait and movement. Difficulty changing direction, stopping and starting actions
- Exaggerated 'accessory movements' such as flapping arms when running
- Tendency to fall, trip, bump into things and people
Fine motor co-ordination skills (small movements):
- Lack of manual dexterity. Poor at two-handed tasks, causing problems with using cutlery, cleaning, cooking, ironing, craft work, playing musical instruments
- Poor manipulative skills. Difficulty with typing, handwriting and drawing. May have a poor pen grip, press too hard when writing and have difficulty when writing along a line
- Inadequate grasp. Difficulty using tools and domestic implements, locks and keys
- Difficulty with dressing and grooming activities, such as putting on makeup, shaving, doing hair, fastening clothes and tying shoelaces
Poorly established hand dominance:
- May use either hand for different tasks at different times
Speech and language:
- May talk continuously and repeat themselves. Some people with dyspraxia have difficulty with organising the content and sequence of their language
- May have unclear speech and be unable to pronounce some words
- Speech may have uncontrolled pitch, volume and rate
- Tracking. Difficulty in following a moving object smoothly with eyes without moving head excessively. Tendency to lose the place while reading
- Poor relocating. Cannot look quickly and effectively from one object to another (for example, looking from a TV to a magazine)
Perception (interpretation of the different senses):
- Poor visual perception
- Over-sensitive to light
- Difficulty in distinguishing sounds from background noise. Tendency to be over-sensitive to noise
- Over- or under-sensitive to touch. Can result in dislike of being touched and/or aversion to over-loose or tight clothing - tactile defensiveness
- Over- or under-sensitive to smell and taste, temperature and pain
- Lack of awareness of body position in space and spatial relationships. Can result in bumping into and tripping over things and people, dropping and spilling things
- Little sense of time, speed, distance or weight. Leading to difficulties driving, cooking
- Inadequate sense of direction. Difficulty distinguishing right from left means map reading skills are poor
Learning, thought and memory:
- Difficulty in planning and organising thought
- Poor memory, especially short-term memory. May forget and lose things
- Unfocused and erratic. Can be messy and cluttered
- Poor sequencing causes problems with maths, reading and spelling and writing reports at work
- Accuracy problems. Difficulty with copying sounds, writing, movements, proofreading
- Difficulty in following instructions, especially more than one at a time
- Difficulty with concentration. May be easily distracted
- May do only one thing at a time properly, though may try to do many things at once
- Slow to finish a task. May daydream and wander about aimlessly
Emotion and behaviour:
- Difficulty in listening to people, especially in large groups. Can be tactless, interrupt frequently. Problems with team work
- Difficulty in picking up non-verbal signals or in judging tone or pitch of voice in themselves and or others. Tendency to take things literally. May listen but not understand
- Slow to adapt to new or unpredictable situations. Sometimes avoids them altogether
- Impulsive. Tendency to be easily frustrated, wanting immediate gratification
- Tendency to be erratic ñ have 'good and bad days'
- Tendency to opt out of things that are too difficult
Emotions as a result of difficulties experienced:
- Tend to get stressed, depressed and anxious easily
- May have difficulty sleeping
- Prone to low self-esteem, emotional outbursts, phobias, fears, obsessions, compulsions and addictive behaviour
Many of these characteristics are not unique to people with dyspraxia and not even the most severe case will have all the above characteristics. But adults with dyspraxia will tend to have more than their fair share of co-ordination and perceptual difficulties.
- Employed in job/position that will hide difficulties or not require dealing with problematic areas.
- Hides difficulties from co-workers, friends and even family.
- Becomes frustrated at “planning meetings” and sequential tasks – already has the answer and how to do it.
- Becomes frustrated or overwhelmed with long forms or sequential processes.
- Thrives in careers where visual-spatial/kinesthetic talents can be realized: For example – Entrepreneurs, Engineers, Trades (carpentry, plumbing, electrical), Artisans, Interior Decorating, Actors, Musicians, Police/Investigation, Athletes, and Business Executives (usually with staff/assistants).
- May pass up promotions or advancement opportunities that would require more administrative work.
- Has difficulty focusing and staying on task – may feel more comfortable managing many different tasks simultaneously.
- Difficulty with tests – passing standardized tests can be a barrier to career advancement.
- Highly successful/over achiever, or considered “not working up to potential.” Either way, displays extreme work ethic.
- May be a perfectionist and overreact when they make a mistake.
- Out-of-the-box thinker or operates with very strict rules for themselves.
- Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.
- Highly intuitive – known to have “street smarts.” Is often “dead on” in judging personalities of others.
- May be able to sense emotions and energy of others.
- Remembers struggling in school.
- Frequently have dyslexic children and experience guilt when seeing own child struggle. Insecurities arise while reading to own children or helping them with homework.
- Easily distracted/annoyed by noises and other things in environment.
- May appear to “zone out” and be unaware that it is happening.
- Enjoys video games.
- Misspeaks, misuses, or mispronounces words without realizing it.
- May have poor balance or is/was very athletic.
- May have excellent recall of events that were experienced or not remember at all.
- May confuse past conversations or be accused of “not listening.”
- Difficulty remembering names of people without tricks, but remembers faces.
- Difficulty remembering verbal instructions or directions.
- Poor recall of conversations or sequence of events.
Reading, Writing, and Spelling
- Difficulty reading unfamiliar fonts.
- Avoids reading out loud. May dislike public speaking.
- Will commonly perceive that they “read better silently.”
- Has adopted compensatory tricks to remember spelling and homonyms (their, there, they’re), or misuses homonyms and has poor or inconsistent/phonetic spelling.
- Reading fluency and comprehension fluctuates depending upon subject matter.
- Frequently has to re-read sentences in order to comprehend.
- Fatigues or becomes bored quickly while reading.
- Reliance on others (assistants, spouses, significant others) for written correspondence.
- Uncertainty with words, punctuation, and spelling when writing. Reliance on spell-check and grammar-check.
- Words out of context look “wrong.”
- Poor handwriting – masks spelling mistakes.
- Writes with all capital letters, or mixes capital letters within words. Abbreviates words frequently.
Math, Time Management, Directions
- May understand higher math, but can’t show it on paper.
- May excel at math, or may still rely on tricks for remembering math facts.
- Relies on calculators or finger counting. May have difficulty with making change.
- Difficulty with left/right and/or North, South, East, West.
- Gets lost easily or never forgets a place they’ve been.
- Difficulty reading maps.
- May have anxiety or stress when driving in unfamiliar places. Relies on others to drive when possible.
- May lose track of time and is frequently late – or is highly aware of it and is very rarely late.
- Finds it difficult to estimate how long a task will take to complete.
Behavior, Health, and Personality
- May have a short fuse or is easily frustrated, angered, or annoyed.
- Easily stressed and overwhelmed in certain situations.
- Low self-esteem.
- Self-conscious when speaking in a group. May have difficulty getting thoughts out – pause frequently, speak in halting phrases, or leave sentences incomplete. This may worsen with stress or distraction.
- Sticks to what they know – fear of new tasks or any situation where they are out of comfort zone.
- Extremely disorderly or compulsively orderly.
- Confusion, stress, physical health issues, time pressure, and fatigue will significantly increase symptoms.
REF:-Karen LoGiudice is a Davis Facilitator, Davis Autism Facilitator/Coach, and the parent of two dyslexic sons. Karen is the director of New England Dyslexia Solutions, based in Massachusetts. You can learn more about Karen and the services she offers at www.ne-dyslexia.com