As well as going back to school, we’ve also had M’s referral appointment for Occupational Therapy to support him with his dyslexia and dyspraxia. We had been warned that we might have to wait up to 9 months for the referral to be made, so you can imagine my delight to be offered an appointment just 3 months into the process. The therapist, D was fantastic and a lot of the health professionals we’ve seen along the way could learn a great deal from her approach to helping M.
Unsurprisingly, she had not come across EGID before, so had spent some time researching the condition and understanding how this might impact on M before we got to the appointment. She had read thoroughly the reports completed by the Dyslexia Centre, school and us, but then spent more time clarifying points with me, taking into consideration the change of schools and asking what we were hoping to achieve through OT. As we chatted, D observed M as he played with the various activities she had set out in the room, including a bat and ball, foam football and low-level balance beam. Her conclusion was that he most needs the support in improving his fine motor skills, which will directly impact his academic prowess and that working on those will then lead to an improvement in his gross motor skills and balance.
She then switched to assess his writing, cutting and cutlery-holding skills, all of which I had mentioned as areas that I felt needed some work. M showed his reluctance to write by insisting on discussing each task she set him, obviously in the hope that he could browbeat her into leaving them untouched, but he had met his match. D listened to his comments, acknowledged them and then prompted him to get on with what she had asked. He may have grumbled each and every step of the way, but he did them all and enabled D to assess as she needed.
D suggested a number of games using everyday items – clothes pegs, marbles and paperclips – and explained how these would help build his finger strength. She set him challenges and played the games with him, so that he could understand what was required and she could check that he was doing them correctly. What impressed me the most was that D gauged accurately how many games to introduce and how long to play each one such that she didn’t overwhelm him with suggestions. Playing these games at home several times a week will bring about improvement and I foresee a number of family challenges to see who can perform the best.
D also agreed that using a writing slope at school will make a massive difference to his writing ability. As it is highly unlikely the school will have one lying around, the OT department will arrange to lend one to the school for 3 weeks, which will allow the teachers to assess the difference it makes to his work. This will be followed up by a written recommendation and a school visit, where D will be able to observe M in the classroom setting and see what else might be done to support M and help him achieve, before meeting with the SENCo and suggesting how some funding from their SEN budget will help.
This school visit will then be followed up by a return appointment with M himself, whereby she can see if the daily activities she has suggested have helped and whether school have followed her recommendations and funded the special equipment he needs. I have already invested in a set of “caring cutlery” to help him at meal-times:
Whilst we continue to struggle with his gastro health, it is a huge encouragement that there is something useful that we can actively do to improve M’s school-work and performance. He is a bright and articulate child and it will be both fascinating and exciting to see how things develop over the coming months.