Over the last 18 months since we received a diagnosis of dyspraxia and visual dyslexia for M, he’s been making some progress and it was good to have a review this week with his Occupational Therapist to see just how far he’s come and what he should be aiming to achieve next. When he was first assessed, it was noted that he had significant issues with his upper body strength, which was leading to weaknesses with his fine and gross motor skills. He struggled to hold his cutlery or pencils correctly, couldn’t tie his shoelaces, wouldn’t tackle riding his bike and had handwriting that, at best, bore a passing resemblance to ancient hieroglyphics, assuming they’d been scrawled out by a spider meandering meaninglessly across the page.
Shoes tied by M
Meal-times have become easier, thanks to the sets of caring cutlery I invested in soon after we met his OT for the first time. M has grown in confidence as he’s mastered the co-ordination needed to cut up his food himself, although constant reminders to actually use his cutlery are still a main feature at our dinner table! After a year of having to ask for help to tie the laces on his football boots, M decided he was going to crack that challenge over the summer and having so determined, succeeded quicker than any of us expected, himself included, and was rewarded by 2 new pairs of trainers – with laces – whilst we were out in Florida. As for the bike, well it’s still something of a no-go area for M right now, but the draw of being able to cycle to his godmother’s house along our local cycle-path, may be all the impetus for learning that we’re going to need this autumn.
However, the one skill that still needs a lot of work is that of his handwriting and was the key area for my discussion with his OT yesterday. Over the last few weeks, I have been trying to track down some additional support with his literacy skills as we have become increasingly concerned that his school-work will start to suffer if an improvement isn’t made soon. I contacted both our local Dyslexia Centre and the local branch of Dyslexia Action, to find out what support might be available to M and similar answers came back from both. There was an opportunity for weekly, 1 hour small group sessions to develop his writing and literacy skills, but although it sounded good, there inevitably was a downside. The sessions are only run during the day, Monday to Thursday, which would mean that he would need to miss around 2 hours of school a week, by the time you allowed for pick-up and travel. As the helpful Dyslexia Action representative warned me, “You’ll have to get the school on board first, as they may be reluctant to allow him to miss that much school each week.”
I mused over the decision and discussed it at length with Mike. Whilst we both know that the time is critical for M right now and he really needs that support, we are also waiting for an admission to GOSH, which will mean at least a week off school. On top of all his other regular appointments, I felt that it was just too much time absent from his friends and his learning and so decided to put this plan on a back-burner for the time being until we have some more information about the admission.
At this point, like some sort of guardian angel, his OT expressed her own increasing concerns about his handwriting skills and suggested the perfect solution to our dilemma. She has offered to visit M in school for an hour a week for 6 weeks and will work with him and a member of staff, teaching him how to properly form cursive handwriting and write in a size that makes his writing legible. She will make sure he is sitting correctly, holding his pencil in the right way and knows how each letter should be formed. His class teacher has said that M is reluctant to use cursive writing, believing that he needs to print instead, so the OT will show him some examples of work from other children she has worked with to convince him that this is the way to go.
I am so delighted that this is being offered by an OT who is as concerned about M’s handwriting and the impact on his learning as we are and, what’s more, wants to actively do something about it. As well as teaching M the skills he needs, she will also be teaching the member of staff about what he needs to be doing in class and how they can encourage him to continue the good work once her 6 weeks are up. M’s SENCo, who also just happens to be his class teacher this year, has already agreed that the school are happy to accommodate the OT’s visits and now I’m just waiting for confirmation of when the sessions will start.