Tag Archives: Visual dyslexia

School – the hospital way

One of my favourite memories of our pre-admission waiting time is when I asked M to tell my Mum what was going to happen once he was in hospital.  I had, of course, expected him to explain, in depth, all he knew about the NG-tube and the pellet study, but roared with laughter when he said, in a small voice lacking in any great enthusiasm, “…hospital school…”

indexThe first few days of our stay were dominated by the administration of  the huge amounts of powerful laxatives and M felt so unwell that he refused to move from his bed.  By the end of that first Sunday, however, the tedium of not being allowed off hospital premises had taken its toll and he was keen to head off to school on Monday morning.  The hospital school accepts that the children may not be able to attend a “full” day there and is happy for any child to be there for as long as they are able to manage.  Each day is split into 2 sessions:  10am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 3.30pm.  They cover the basics of maths, literacy and science, but also throw in other subjects such as IT, art and even PE.

indexI discussed with the teacher there all of M’s needs concerning his dyspraxia and dyslexia and we talked about all he’d been learning so far at his home school.  He was one of just 4 children in the Key Stage 2 group during his admission and was able to have a huge amount of one-to-one teaching as there were 4 teachers able to work with the group.  They tackled his lack of enthusiasm for literacy by signing him on to the “Bug Club“, an on-line learning resource which tested his reading comprehension skills.  Each time he was able to read a new passage and answer the questions correctly about what he had read, he received a virtual sticker and was moved on to the next text.  He was set up with his own username and password to monitor the development he was making in class and what’s even better is that they have given us all the details needed for continuing with it at home.

M's amazing chocolate Christmas creation

M’s amazing chocolate Christmas creation

Every morning, M was keen to get up, get ready and get down to the classroom for the start of the school day.  I have never seen him so keen to arrive at school and start working! He had a busy week there and he enjoyed every single moment of it.  From History with the Victoria and Albert Museum to Cookery with the Executive Head Chef of the Hilton Hotel, it was a school week unlike any other.  He even took part in the school’s carol concert in the GOSH chapel, where he read part of the Christmas story.  It proved to be a great distraction from everything else that was going on medically and an amazing opportunity for those children who have to stay in hospital.

Time for a Dyspraxia update

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.  handwritingShe 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.

Another day..

…and another challenge.


Today has been a different kind of challenge for us.  We have long been aware that as well as his dietary difficulties, M has also struggled in the classroom.  He’s a bright lad, articulate and with an imagination that many would envy, but he has struggled to learn to read and write.  He loves to be creative, to perform and can sometimes answer mental arithmetic faster than G, but he struggles to spell and put his creativity down on paper as the written word.

Having finally found the diagnosis for his health issues, Mike and I decided we needed to seek an answer to the academic ones.  M completed 12 weeks of fairly intensive speech therapy at Easter which enabled him to say his “s” sounds clearly and we have seen his confidence grow.  Now it’s time to see if we can give him a pair of metaphorical wings and watch him soar.

So, this morning, instead of heading off to school and work with our packed lunches in tow, M and I made our trek to the Dyslexia Centre for an assessment.  M met with a lovely Educational Psychologist for just over 2 hours, where she put him through his paces.  The answer came back with a resounding “yes”; they could identify the problem and there is something we can do to help.  M has dyspraxia and possibly also visual dyslexia.  This is going to be a steep learning curve for us, but in a nutshell, he is going to struggle with processing the messages his brain sends as they are not properly or fully transmitted.

We came away with 2 coloured acetates, one yellow and the other “celery” (I kid you not), which will help him track lines when reading text or numbers – this is the visual dyslexia part.  We now need to research the options for an occupational therapist to help with the dyspraxia, an optician who specialises in the diagnosis of visual dyslexia and the processes we can put in place and can ask school to do to help him.  Whilst this seems, and feels, like yet another set of labels for M, I am relieved to have an answer to his academic struggles and a resource to be able to find some fixes for it.

On the dietary front, both Mike and I have managed okay and, as I type this blog, Mike is putting the final touches to tonight’s dinner.  My biggest struggle today has been hunger pangs, I have found that I don’t feel as full on M’s diet as I usually do, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  Mike’s is the continued avoidance of the cakes and cookies at work, which is definitely not a bad thing. The hardest thing for tonight’s dinner?  No mayonnaise, which I love to eat with Corn fritters and sausages normally.




  • A handful of raisins
  •  Sliced apple
Bowl of:

  • Cornflakes
  • Raisins
  • Rice milk
  • Crispbreads x2
  • Ham
  • Cucumber (3 slices)
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Crisps (Plain)
  • Bear’s Fruit yo-yo
  • Crispbreads x4
  • Ham
  • Salt & Vinegar Mini rice-cakes
  • Leftover cooked rice and Chicken Korma
  • Apple
  • 2 Tesco Free-from sausages
  • 3/4 Corn fritter (home-made using my pancake recipe)
  • Carrot (1 stick)
  • Cucumber (3 slices)


  • 2 Tesco Free-from sausages
  • Tomato
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Corn Fritters with added chilli flakes
  • 2 Tesco Free-from sausages
  • Tomato
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Corn Fritters with added chilli flakes
  • Nkd Cocoa Mint date bar
  • Fruit Factory Fruit stars
  • Doves Farm Fig and Quinoa cookies (2)
  • Banana


  • Peppermint tea
  •  Banana
  • Apple