My boys have Dyspraxia. (info clicky) They have it severely and it affects every single part of them. For instance, they have good eyesight but their visual tracking is poor. They had speech therapy for many years because their tongues could not co-ordinate to the right positions to make sounds. They can't cut with a knife. Handwriting is difficult because the fine motor skills needed to manipulate the pen/pencil is hard for them to achieve. They have little spatial awareness, they walk down the street and tumble into the road, they bump into people, they fall over A LOT! This is a problem that impacts on every aspect of their lives. It's a fucker, to be honest. An invisible disability that a lot of people just don't understand.
Dyspraxic children often avoid sports, understandably. The Dyspraxia foundation says:
Focus on the development of physical skills rather than on team sports. Young people with dyspraxia find it very difficult to plan their movements while at the same time responding to an ever-changing environment with lots of distractions.
Keep the environment as predictable as possible while teaching new skills.
Sports involving ball skills or the manipulation of objects are often more difficult for young people with dyspraxia. Provide opportunities for participation in alternative sport activities that will still help the young person to develop strength, stamina and physical fitness.
Non-competitive sports such as golf, climbing, rowing, cycling, martial arts, yoga and swimming are often more appropriate for young people with dyspraxia. They are also “life-style” sports that can be continued into adulthood.
Difficulties with motor co-ordination often affect children's participation in physical activities both at school and at home. Frequent failures mean that children may not be motivated to join in or to try new activities and their physical difficulties can make them feel isolated from their friends. If children continue to avoid physical games and activities, over time this will affect their overall level of fitness and well-being. With support and guidance however, children with dyspraxia/DCD can be encouraged to participate in physical activities which will help them to be healthy throughout their lives.
When Ted and Dylan were 4 they started at a main stream nursery school that had a speech and language unit attached. In the playground was a toy basketball hoop, and the speech therapist told me that she watched Ted go out every day and get a ball, stare up at the hoop, and fling the ball backwards over his head. It would roll away and he would go and fetch the ball and try again. Sometimes other children would play and then Ted would just wait for them to finish or for the ball to bounce his way. Dylan meanwhile was off mixing with other kids despite his lack of speech and didn't pay Ted any attention. The speech therapist told me this went on for weeks and weeks, the ball got closer to the hoop, and then one day went in.
We bought him a hoop for home, and he spent ages in the garden bouncing and shooting the ball. I don't know why he was so keen on it but Ted just responded to it.
Both my boys have low muscle tone, and in the past we did a lot of physiotherapy to try to strengthen them. Their arms are weak, they can't do press ups at all, there's not much strength in their ball passing or kicking. They joined a local football club, but were made to feel unwelcome. They are very conscious of the gap between what they can do and what others can, and they hate how things that take an enormous amount of effort on their parts seem to come effortlessly to some others.
When we moved from London the boys were due to start Junior school. Ted said he wanted to go to this particular school because on the web site it said they had a basketball team. Righto. He joined the local team and practices once a week. He has an indoor hoop in his small bedroom and sounds like a wee elephant when he plays. He is too big for the hoop in the garden, the ball always flies over the fence. I took him to a couple of local games (Brighton Bears, when they still existed, and Worthing Thunder.) Ted told me that one day he'd like to win a medal for basketball, and I gave him a big cuddle.
Ted is a dyspraxic boy who didn't let that fact stop him from doing what he wanted to do, and he has got better and better at it. When I watch him play I can see that he's not the best player on the court, but you know what, he's not the worst either, and the others don't have developmental co-ordination disorders. About a year ago Dylan started going along to the weekly sessions too. Dylan has a crazy erratic style of gangling around the court, wincing when the ball comes near him, and then sometimes scoring baskets in a bizarre how-the-fuck-did-he-do-that kinda way. It's cool.
Ted is way more dependable, reliable, hard working. He tries so hard, and he so wants to be good. He has learnt to pass to the boys who are most likely to score, he's learnt not to hog the ball and go for glory at the expense of the team. They ran two Sussex schools tournaments recently. His school got a team together for the first one and made Dylan captain. They made it to the finals and won. Ted scored a few baskets along the way, I stood and watched and cried most of the time. I was enormously proud of both my boys. For the second tournament they made Ted captain, and they too made it to the finals.
The final took place today at the Worthing Thunder arena. Dylan scored a beautifully nuts basket! Ted was solid and worked his skinny little butt off. Their team won (they are lucky to have a phenomenally great player on their side who is so fast, tough and talented that he seriously is the best player I have ever seen apart from the pros.) Ted and Dylan were the joint team captains, and here's a pic of my amazing boys proving that hard work and dedication can make your dreams come true, which is relevant to all of us, eh?
The thing that I find so brilliant about all this is that Ted and Dylan kinda don't pay attention to what they are supposed to be able to do. They throw themselves into all sorts of activities. Both put themselves forward for speaking roles in the school play (not giving a shit that they both have "bumpy" speech.) They are also in a dance group too, they didn't care that the majority of lads in their classes wouldn't dream of dancing, or that you really should be co-ordinated to dance. They sung a song in a talent show (and they really can't sing!). And they just captained the school basketball team to victory. Oh, and joined a judo class. Ok, they can't ride a bike, swim, or cross a road properly (yet) but wow, my boys rock, and I am the proudest mum in the world.
EDIT: Just wanted to say that when I told Ted for the umpteenth time how proud I am of him he asked me if I would blog about it (he knows that I write this blog) and Dylan asked if he could be in the post as well, I would never have written this otherwise. They were both happy for me to publish the photo of them. There are some great pics of them with the trophy but their team mates are in the photos too and I don't think it fair to put their faces online.