I came to the Dyscovery Centre for an assessment for dyspraxia/DCD.
I went through school, university and work with a lot of struggles! I have always had terrible problems with my balance and coordination, and sequencing movement tasks. I’ve had lots of falls, and fractured my ankles several times. I also find organisation and planning my day quite tricky. As a result I’ve always relied a lot on lists and routines, so I get very anxious when plans change. I find keeping track of conversations in groups tricky, and can get quite overwhelmed in social situations. I have no sense of direction at all, and can get lost in buildings I have worked in for a long time.
I took a year out of work (I was working as a hospital doctor) as I was finding it really stressful to manage. I couldn’t understand why I was finding it so much more difficult than everyone else. During that year I worked in a school for children with special needs, and some of them had dyspraxia in amongst their other difficulties. I recognised a lot of their traits in myself. My mum has severe dyslexia and was only diagnosed a few years ago, and has recently managed to do her GCSEs, so I was inspired by her 'better late than never’ approach to get an assessment.
Getting an assessment is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I was nervous that it was going to be a repeat of school PE lessons or that I wouldn’t be able to explain myself, or that they’d think it was daft for someone who was an adult to wonder if they had an undiagnosed problem, despite making it through 30 years without a diagnosis. All my worries were unfounded. I thought the assessment was thorough and everything I could have hoped for. The staff were kind and helpful. I had my assessment with the occupational therapist, and took my husband along for reassurance! I felt she really understood me. She listened and encouraged me in a calm and reflective way.
The physical tests were fun, and had a purpose. I do have DCD and I felt for the first time that I was being helped to understand what that meant for me and how that it explained the difficulties I’d had in the past. Finding out felt like a positive experience because of the occupational therapist, and the Dyscovery Centre. It took a while to sink in but it’s helped me enormously to know. I have a different job now, back in medicine, and I work part time as that helps me manage my DCD better. I told my supervisor at the beginning of my job and that’s been helpful to me. I am aware that in times of stress I will have more accidents, and know what to do to make sure that I have fewer injuries in the future. I have all sorts of gadgets to help me do practical tasks and remember sequences better. I also joined the adult support group on Facebook and it helps to exchange tips and support from others who are in the same boat.
Having been diagnosed with DCD as an adult has been such a positive experience. It hasn’t taken away the things that I struggle with, but it has given me the information to be able to work around those things to make my life less stressful and full of accidents. It’s also actually increased my confidence in myself – I know that my difficulties have a name, and I can explain them to another person; when I have a difficult day I can just say 'it’s just my dyspraxia playing up’ rather than blaming myself.
“Mr and Mrs Robson, today Jack has fallen into the bin!” We realised a while ago when Jack was still in primary school that he just wasn’t growing out of his clumsiness. His teacher was very accommodating but we were all puzzled and concerned as to how this bright young boy who had the most incredible eye for spotting detail failed to notice he had started writing a paragraph half way down a page in his school book – that is if you could even read his handwriting, or find which page he had chosen to randomly complete that day.
Secondary school was a whole new world. Suddenly there were multiple classrooms and corridors to coordinate, timetables to follow and noises and smells that got in the way of being able to concentrate in class or assembly. Lunchtime was a juggling act of trying to hold a dinner tray; carry a schoolbag, PE kit and coat whilst avoiding bumping into other pupils whilst finding a way to a vacant table. Add to that the constant noise of excited, hungry children; the ringing of the school bell and the smell of school dinners and Jack found himself in a totally overwhelming sensory environment. Life was becoming more and more stressful and confusing for him as he grew up and tasks that others undertook with ease, like copying down homework and following sequences of instructions were just too much for him to cope with. Jack’s self-confidence rapidly deteriorated.
We had always noticed that Jack had very heightened senses, for example, as a toddler he couldn’t stand the noise of hand driers in public toilets and he absolutely went to pieces in busy department stores. He is also amazing at spotting wildlife that other people pass by – he says the colours really stand out and look different to him so whereas we wouldn’t see the lizard hiding behind a leaf as they both looked green to us, Jack would pick it out with ease. We came to understand that Jack senses the world in a non-discriminating way – everything is of equal intensity to him.
We reached a point where all three of us realised that life is more of a struggle for Jack than it is for a lot of his peers. Various difficulties were being highlighted at school and despite all our best efforts, things just weren’t settling down. Other people misinterpreted his lack of eye contact, inability to follow more than one instruction at a time and distractibility as signs of an attitude or behaviour issue but we knew it was more complex than that. We decided to approach the Dyscovery Centre.
We spent a full day at the Centre with the occupational therapist. She listened to our experiences and assessed and observed Jack in a range of activities such as using cutlery, ball skills, balance, writing and typing. In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to explore Jack’s senses in more depth and the occupational therapist explained to us how some were over-sensitive, and some were not very responsive at all. Jack also got to try out a range of sensory equipment and we will never forget the look of relief and relaxation that came over his face when he tried on a compression jacket and used a vibrating neck pillow. We also noticed a marked difference in his engagement with the assessment when he was able to move around.
The outcome of our day at the Dyscovery Centre has been extremely positive. Jack was diagnosed with Dyspraxia/DCD and his sensory issues were explored in depth and explained to us in a way we could understand and accommodate more easily on a day to day basis. We feel less frustrated and impatient now that we have more understanding of why Jack acts the way he does. We’re going to start putting some of the Centre’s recommendations in place and will consider further exploration/assessment of Jack’s autistic traits in the future if we feel this would benefit him.
It’s now a few weeks on from our visit to the Dyscovery Centre and armed with the assessment report, we approached the school and had a meeting to explore how we could make things better for Jack moving forwards. The report contained information that helped explain how and why Jack experiences the world the way he does and practical advice on how to support him. In some areas, the school is able to adapt to meet his needs which is wonderful as his previous attempts to adapt to fit in with them just didn’t work. We’re starting to work together to write a support plan for him and he will be using a laptop to record his work, he’ll have additional staff support and he can eat his lunch somewhere quieter but most importantly of all, the school has a better understanding of why he is like he is and can help him get the most out of his education and future.
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