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Mult-Tasking

Ever since I can remember I have watched people multi-tasking and wished that I could do it. I couldn’t understand why everyone else could do it so easily. Doing more then one thing at a time usually resulted in me messing them both up. It made me feel stupid. Women are supposed to be able to multi-task but I couldn’t. People would get angry with me because they were doing several things and I wasn’t. It was really frustrating for me. They would pressure me into doing several things and I would mess them both up. They would get angrier and I would get upset.

A couple of years ago I was doing some research for a assignment for TAFE on dyspraxia. I read several books as the Internet has only the most basic information. Suddenly the words jumped off the page at me. People with dyspraxia have difficulty with multi-tasking. It was like a light bulb went on in my head. That was why I couldn’t do it. I still couldn’t multi-task but it wasn’t because I was stupid.

People with dyspraxia have a miss wiring in their brain. Every task they do must be consciously thought about. If they want to pick up a cup, they must think I am going to pick up that cup. If they want to sit on a chair, they must think I am going to sit on the chair. When you have to think about everything you do it is difficult , and sometimes impossible to do 2 things at once. If you do neither of them will be done properly. People often pick up a cup of coffee and sit down on a chair at the same time. Someone with dyspraxia would not be able to do this. Thinking about  both picking up the coffee and sitting down at the same time would probably result in the coffee being spilt. Also because many of us have problems with spatial awareness ,we would need to physically check where the chair is. The chair is most likely not where we think it is , so sitting down without checking will often result in us missing the chair altogether. This can be very embarrassing. I would put the coffee down on a nearby surface, check where the chair is and then sit down.

Sometimes people have said ”but you must have known you had to think about everything before you did it.” Yes of course I did. But I thought everybody did. For me that is normal. I can’t see inside anyone else’s head any more then they can see inside mine. I presumed that your brain worked like mine, just as I am sure you presumed that mine worked like yours. When you cannot see something how do you know what you do is not normal unless someone tells you?I will never be able to multi-task however knowing that there is a medical reason that I cannot do so makes it far less damaging to my self esteem.

Having to think about every movement means having to concentrate harder to complete tasks.When I was doing my practical assessment for the EA course I did at TAFE the teacher asked me to cut out koala’s for 46 children. I had to concentrate so hard my head was hurting. Even then I took longer than most people would and because of my fine motor skill problems they were not to normal adult standard. I have seen people sit and carry out a conversation while cutting out. I had to just concentrate on what I was doing. It was a little frustrating because I could help the children easily with their Maths or spelling but most E. A’s are used in younger classes to help with the preparation of activities. The guillotine was also a problem for me. It became clear that this was not a good career for me. I did have one success though I managed with the help of an overhead projector to paint a rhino on the classroom window. For me that is an achievement I am proud of.

Children ( and adults) with dyspraxia are often accused of being lazy and not trying. Their handwriting is messy, they take along time completing tasks like cutting out or threading and their colouring in always goes out the lines. The sad thing is these children are trying harder than the other children. If you watch a classroom of children cutting out a picture, the concentration can be seen on the face of the child with dyspraxia. He/she will not be chatting and laughing while doing it like the other children.

It is extremely frustrating for these children to be constantly told they are not trying. It is damaging enough to their self esteem to not be able to cut and colour as well as the other children. On top of that to be told off for not trying just makes you want to give up.I know because I have lived this.I remember when I was 11 or 12 my sewing teacher kept making me pull my sewing out because it was not straight. She made me pull it out time and time again and told me I needed to try harder. I was already trying as hard as I could. Then she yelled at me because I wasn’t finished when the other girls where. Of course I wasn’t . I had had to redo it so many times I had lost count.

If you are a teacher you will come across children with messy handwriting or having difficulty completing tasks. Before yelling at them for time wasting or not trying ,observe for a while.Some children are wasting time talking or just can’t be bothered . But some children are trying their best and just can’t do it. These children need encouragement to keep trying to achieve the best they can. Teachers are often in the best position to first notice a child may have a problem. They have more experience with children of a certain age, especially if a child is the eldest in the family.

Sadly talking to the teachers of my children over the years I have come to realise that most of them still have not heard of dyspraxia .They cannot possibly understand a child who has dyspraxia if they don’t know what it is. This is true of any disability. This is not the fault of teachers. Perhaps some of the staff development days teachers have could be used to educate teachers about dealing with the various learning difficulties they may come across. One thing I know for sure a understanding and encouraging teacher can make a huge difference to a child. Not just in what they achieve academically but also in their self esteem.

Sharon Beaumont

I am a single mother of 4 who has lived with dyspraxia for several decades. My hope is that by sharing my experiences I can help to raise awareness of dyspraxia. I trained as an Education Assistant but found some areas of this to be a difficult career if you have dyspraxia. Currently I am an Information Technology Student and am trying to teach my self to speak French. I love travel, writing and anything French.

  • Thanks for the article, you just described my boy perfectly, I can’t tell you the number of times he’s said to me “they keep saying I’m not trying but I’m trying really hard”. I too have worked as an EA and the number of kids slipping through the cracks because dyspraxia isn’t recognised by the Australian school system is heart breaking. I’m always astounded that my time as an EA is so often wasted cutting things out for the whole class instead of assisting the kids who need that extra 1 on 1 help.

    Brooke

    June 17, 2014

  • Hi Brooke,
    It makes me sad that your son and other children are still going through what I did at school. Until there is more understanding of dyspraxia this is going to keep happening. The main reason I started this blog is that I hope to raise some awareness and understanding of dyspraxia. Perhaps then future generations of children will not be told they are not trying. I agree your time as an EA would be much better spent one on one with the children who need it. Someone said to me a couple of months ago that it is a pity I couldn’t get a job just helping the kids that need it on a one on one basis because I would have an understanding of how they feel. Sadly this isn’t how the education system works here. I don’t know about the rest of Australia but the state government in Western Australia has drastically cut EA and teaching jobs. It seems to me that we are going backwards.

    Sharon Beaumont

    June 18, 2014

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