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Why recognising special needs in schools is important

Dyspraxia is a specific learning disability This means it is a disability in learning in specific areas and specific ways. When people hear the words ”learning disability” they immediately think.of academic difficulty.  Having dyspraxia does put you at a disadvantage to other students. However children  can and do achieve good academic grades if they are just given a little understanding and support in their areas of difficulty. Most people with dyspraxia are of average or above average intelligence so we are not stupid. The problem is many teachers I have spoken to don’t even know what dyspraxia is, so how can they understand and support the needs of students with this condition. It is my hope with this blog to raise awareness so that students in the future may receive the understanding and help they need.

When I was at school there was no recognition or understanding of special needs , you simply got on with things the best you could. I was fortunate in high school to have a very good social studies teacher.He noticed that I was losing a lot of marks due to the presentation of my work. My handwriting was always untidy due to my problems with fine motor skills. There wasn’t enough time during class for me to write as slowly as I would need to in order to make my writing legible. His suggestion was that I could take notes in class and then in my own time I could copy them neatly into another book and hand this in for assessment.He also gave me slightly longer to hand the work in .
My grade went from a C to an A. In order to achieve this grade I was effectively doing twice as much work as the other students. I then started to do this in my other classes although none of the other teachers gave me extra time.My grades improved in english, and science as well. Today students can type on a computer in order to make their work neater but when I was young computers where not readily available. If it had not been for this teacher who ahead of his time recognised that some students have special needs, I would not have grades that reflected my true ability.

Today some schools and teachers do allow for special needs. The problem with dyspraxia is most people haven’t heard of it so they have no idea what is needed to help a child . Untidy hand writing is the biggest problem as anything that can’t be read is marked wrong. Young children need to write  and not just use a computer or they will never learn how to write. Special shaped pencil grips can help to hold the pencil correctly. Giving them extra time in exams to allow for them having to write much slower can also help. Special scissors are also available that only need to be pressed down to work. They really do make it easier and I use them myself where I possibly can. Unfortunately as they are primarily aimed at children they only cut paper. It would be great if someone was to make them for adults also as we still have difficulty cutting out and I am sure they would also help people with arthritis that have reduced dexterity.A ruler with a raised ridge in the centre makes holding it in place easier.

Copying from the board can be difficult as  looking away and then back again can often lose your place. Facing front on to the board makes this a little easier. a quiet classroom is also helpful with concentration as the mis-wiring of the brain makes it difficult to filter out distractions.This can be very frustrating for the child as completing tasks often require them to concentrate much harder then other students.Please remember that being organised can be very difficult and the child will often lose or forget equipment. While you might find this very frustrating believe me the child is more frustrated then you will ever be. I would suggest that rather then sending pens and pencils etc home, one set is kept at school and one at home. This avoids them either being left at school or home.  I have suggested this in the past to several teachers because my son loses everything but so far none have listened.

Packing their school bag can be difficult as well. The easiest way to make things fit may be obvious to you but it isn’t always when you have dyspraxia. Please try to be tactful when correcting the child for doing something wrong. We can be very emotional people and are easily hurt. Tears are common as emotions are felt deeply and often disproportionately. Sometimes a task can be completed correctly one day and difficult to do the next.

Children with special needs just want to be like everyone else. They want to belong and be accepted for who they are. They are already very aware of what they can’t do they don’t need to  be reminded  all the time. We need to give them the support they need to learn and achieve the best they are capable of. Every achievement builds their self esteem  and helps them to deal with the things that are difficult to do. What they achieve now will effect the rest of their lives  so it is important that all children have the best chance they can to learn. School can be a very frustrating place at times. We need to make the experience as positive for them as we possibly can.

 

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.

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