Friday 27 June 2008

New School, New Start

The wait is finally over , Theo is starting a new school in September that will finally give him the help that he needs. It's called More House , or heaven in our house. If you'd like to know what it's like to have dyspraxia then read this...
Theo's Day at School
(With apologies to Danny for copying his idea !)
Social Skills
The school bell sounds and the children make their way to their various classrooms, find a seat and drop their bags to the floor, ready with their books and pencil cases to begin work. But where is Theo? Eventually he comes in 10 minutes late because he has been trying to download yesterdays DT assignment onto his laptop from the shared area having forgotten the day before. He is already upset by someone’s comment in the tutor room which he took very literally and personally. This isn’t the first time it’s happened. He is questioned about his lateness: he can't remember the exact reason but doesn’t want to let on that he had forgotten to do something and risk getting into more trouble. His eye contact is poor but not as poor as it used to be as we’ve been working on that at home and yet he stares past the teacher wondering what is for lunch. He is accused of not listening and instructed to go to his seat.
Gross motor skills
While trying to listen intently to the next set of instructions he is distracted by a friend sitting behind him in class who asks him a question. When he turns around to answer him the teacher sees his back and publicly rebukes him in front of the rest of the class for being disruptive and talking. Theo’s 'behaviour' is becoming increasingly concerning for the class teacher. It’s not a good start to the day. Unfortunately it is also PE today. Theo used to enjoy sport in junior school but he hates PE now. He is often made fun of and the teacher has made references to his lack of stamina and lack of co-ordination. He has been accused of being a ‘disgrace’ and an ‘embarrassment’ to both himself and the school . He feels as if he is letting the side down .... again. This particular teacher often makes sarcastic comments to the less athletically able children many of whom have become used to it but Theo is unable to take his ‘humour’ in his stride , seeing it as a personal attack. They are given instructions to divide into groups . When Theo joins a group, his arrival is met with a groan from the more sporting pupils. He feels demoralised and resentful. They are given a series of instructions to make their way to the athletics track , warm up by run 800m anti-clockwise round the track and when completed to gather by the cricket pitch . Theo only hears the last instruction and begins to make his way to the cricket pitch . He is publicly rebuked by the PE teacher , the other pupils laugh at him. He sets off around the track but in the wrong direction bumping into another runner on the track who swears at him. The teacher doesn’t hear this boy swear and so he gets away with it whilst Theo is shouted at again for disrupting the lesson.
800 metres is a tall order for a child who struggles with sport. His asthma takes its toll and by the end of the second lap he is wheezing badly and resentful. The teacher takes this as a sign of weakness and rather than encourage him to complete the lap, accuses him of sitting around at home watching TV all day and playing on his playstation. Theo doesn’t watch a great deal of TV , most of his evening is taken up with trying to catch up on classwork and homework. Theo is doubly resentful now and protests that he isn’t a couch potato and that Nintendo have made a game called Nintendo Wii Fit which helps children to get fit. This is taken as insubordination and he is told by the teacher to run another lap . Theo says he can’t so the teacher tells him he must run another 2 laps whne Theo says he can’t he is sent to the Headmaster’s office. He knows this will mean another letter home. He hates to disappoint his parents. He doesn’t feel as if he can do anything right.
The children are then divided into pairs. It is to be a simple catching game, throwing a cricket ball from one child to another. Theo can't judge the ball's position in space or speed. He stands with an awkward stance and worries anxiously as the ball is thrown to him. The ball arrives and his arms cross somewhere in the region of his chest and he drops the catch. Neither the teacher nor his throwing partner are pleased.
Fine Motor Skills
Theo is pleased to change out of his PE strip. He ties his jumper round his waist rather than try to put it on even though he knows he’s risking another rebuke.
Back in the classroom, it’s time for maths. Theo dreads this subject as it is by far his weakest. He is in the bottom set. He picks up his pencil to continue his unfinished maths from the day before. He always seems to be behind. He thought he knew how to draw a scattergram but can’t remember the instructions from the previous day’s class. He looks up the definition of scattergram and reads ‘a two-dimensional graph in rectangular coordinates consisting of points whose coordinates represent values of two variables under study’. He reads the sentence again slowly but is none the wiser. Fortunately his maths teacher is very patient with him and encourages him to ask questions if he doesn’t understand but he is reluctant to ask again as he has already asked for help once and worries that it will make him look stupid. He has a weekly lesson with a maths teacher at a school on a one to one basis. He seems to be able to understand concepts when she explains them to him but has forgotten by the next lesson.
His hand aches because he grips the pencil so tightly. He prefers to work in pencil as his handwriting using a pen is particularly messy. Fortunately he can get away with this in maths which is a relief as he doesn’t want to stand out from the rest of the class. His work always looks messy with smudge marks and lots of crossing out. Sometimes he gets so angry with his work that he rips it up or scribbles over it before anyone can see it. The lesson is almost half way through and he still hasn’t managed to draw the graph in his book . He can see that others have nearly finished and attempts to get something down on paper. As he is concentrating the teacher reads out the homework for that evening ; section 12 page 11. Theo writes quickly on the back of his hand section 11 page 12. He knows he will get into trouble for writing on his hand but he can’t find his prep book and thinks he may have left it in his last class. The last time he left his prep book in the previous class, he went to retrieve it but in doing so was late for his next class and received a referral and a detention. He worries that the same thing will happen again. He always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He often tells himself that he can’t do anything right.
Thank goodness it is time for lunch. He is supposed to be on an additive free diet which is supposed to help with his concentration in school but he craves all of the foods which he knows aren’t good for him and feels envious watching other children tucking into the sort of snacks which he’s forbidden. He often chooses a baguette for lunch as it’s less of an embarrassment to eat in front of others. His eating skills are poor and he tends to make a mess at the table and knock over his water for which he is frequently criticised. The sandwich option is less troublesome that dealing with a knife and fork but often leaves him feeling hungry. He would like to eat an orange but peeling them is a nightmare for him so he leaves without eating any fruit.

Language skills
Theo's verbal skills are adequate for his age group but he prefers to play the rough and tumble type of games at break-times as he finds it difficult to always find the right word for conversations. He strives to be popular and is - this is very important to him but it comes with a price. In order to attract and keep friends he has found that the best strategy is to be daring and take risks. He knows that there are certain areas of the school grounds where they are discouraged from playing but in order to appear ‘cool’ to his classmates will occasionally risk playing there. He seems to be the one who always gets caught.
He avoids any playground football games rather than risk humiliation in front of his peers. His break-times are extremely important to him as they enable him to mix with his friends whom he doesn’t always see during class times.
He is in the bottom set for most of his lessons except those divided into school house groups, apart from English. He enjoys English enormously and has great respect for his English teacher who has recognised the effort he has made in her lessons despite his spelling and grammar difficulties. Last year she moved him from the third up to the second set and he is keen to show her that he can keep up but he worries that he may be put back down into the third set as he seems unable turn in consistent work and his recent exam result was poor according to his end of term grade card. He dreads the arrival of his grade card at home as it will reflect all of his recent exam results.
Despite the many extra curricular activities on offer during lunch breaks he prefers not to participate as he is particularly pre-occupied at present with appearing ’cool’ to his peers. and he is not an accomplished sportsman. Most of the lunchtime activities for boys involve sport. To join the choir or orchestra would be considered seriously ‘uncool’ and so he prefers to retain their friendship rather than take part although he has recently joined the school orchestra playing the drums - he prefers to keep this a secret. Friendships are both difficult and important for him. He often gets the wrong end of the stick when talking to his friends and interprets their comments very literally taking everything very much to heart and often re-acting excessively to the slightest criticism or sarcasm.

Reasoning Ability/Cognitive Skills
His teachers have , in the past, accused him of not making sufficient effort in class. Theo believes that they think he’s lazy. Anything requiring written work requires an enormous amount of effort and so he tries to get away with doing the absolute bare minimum.
Written work is rarely completed in the allotted time and his concentration span at best is only 5 or 10 minutes and his attention constantly wanders in the classroom. The slightest noise will distract him. Although he gives good verbal responses in class his ability is mostly measured by his responses on paper. He has great difficulty in setting out his work appropriately and will often misinterpret the teacher’s instructions . His writing is quite poor and his pencil grip also which makes his arm ache. After the recent week of exams his fingers were blistered from holding his pen so tightly.
Things have improved since he started using a laptop the previous year but this also brings with it a raft of different difficulties. Classwork and homework assignments tend to be downloaded onto something called the shared area however this is not accessible out of school . If he forgets or runs out of time when copying this information to his laptop during class time he finds himself unable to complete the homework at home. However he has taught himself to be disciplined in ensuring that his laptop is always fully charged at the start of each day. Pupils are also unable to print anything from home as their laptops are not enabled to do so. They have to copy documents onto a memory stick and from there can print via a home computer. He has to remember to either upload these the following day at school or print them off in his tutor room ready to hand in or upload then to a memory stick. However that is a lot of options for him to remember and he often loses his memory stick. He finds it very difficult to keep track of so many assignments for so many different classes that are on different formats ( either in file form on his laptop or printed onto paper as a hard copy).
He can sort this problem by taking his laptop to the IT department so that they can enable home printing but he’s always worried about going there. Last time he went he saw his name written on their notice board and assumed it was because he was in trouble. It had been written there because his mum had phoned the IT department and asked if he could bring in his laptop to have 2 broken keys replaced and they had made a note to expect him. Theo often gets the wrong end of the stick or assumes he must be in trouble.
His biggest challenge is remembering what he has to hand in and when. His homework diary is extremely messy and often incomplete. He will often complete a piece of homework but still receive a referral or detention for not remembering to hand it in.

Behaviour out of School
Theo was always relieved to get home. He travelled by school bus and had been bullied the previous year on the bus for the choice of music he chose to listen to on his ipod. These were banned from school but he risked taking it in for the bus journey as it enabled him to escape into his own world and avoid confrontation with older boys. One particular group of older boys would corner him at school and be verbally abusive to him. It alarmed him that they knew his name. When raised with the school it was explained that Theo probably would become known in school and subjected to taunts as he was ‘that sort of boy that stands out’. He was often terrified of reporting any incidents of bullying for fear of repercussions.
On some days Theo feels completely ‘wiped out’ by the tensions of the day and will come home and lie on his bed incapable of tackling anything. He has recently discovered drumming as an excellent way of releasing these tensions and takes out his frustrations on his drum kit. He doesn’t like to read as he finds it demands too much concentration at the end of an exhausting day.
Every evening is dominated by homework and catching up with work he has been unable to finish in class. He will rarely tell me if he has received a referral or a detention for a missed piece of work , often letting the situation escalate out of hand , rather than tacking it at the outset. Homework is not posted on the school website as the pupils are expected to take responsibility for writing it down themselves.
He often rebukes himself for being ‘useless at everything’ and has recently experimented with self harming. If offered a treat he will often turn it down by saying he doesn’t deserve it.
His room is his haven although is particularly chaotic but we don’t attempt to tidy it apart from ensuring that his school materials are organised enough for him to find. He finds it difficult to get to sleep at night and has to have a very set routine which involves having a fan on and his radio all night as distractions. If something has bothered him at school that day he will lay awake worrying about the next day and whatever it might hold.

Sunday 22 June 2008

Gone Scrapping

I spent the whole day at a scrapbooking event yesterday. Should have know better , there's always a price to pay. He's usually able to button it for at least a week but it took my husband less than 24 hours to come out with ' well you had a whole day off yesterday'. Yes doing something like scrapbooking , which I love and restores my sanity at the end of a long hard week counts as .... wait for it.... a day off. And to think I used to be a grown responsible adult with a life and now I'm reduced to someone else's property accused of taking a day off ... as if I have to be accountable to him.