Dyspraxia and its effect on Adolescents in secondary school

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I am an SEN teacher with over 20 years experience in UK secondary mainstream schools. I have worked closely with several dyspraxics, some statemented, some at school action plus. i have noticed considerable difficulties and similarities in their responses to puberty and the demands of the national curriculum. In boys the principle problems revolve around frustration, this manifests itself as temper outbursts, often completely draining the sufferer leading to crying or dislocation from their situation. Boys are easily influenced by peers and dyspraxic boys are often scapegoats for others behaviour or led into situations which they cannot foresee the outcomes of. Dyspraxic boys tend to be untidy and their presentation of work is very poor. Concentration can be variable, they are often thought of as lazy because on some days they can be better than on others. Items of uniform are another bone of contention as is homework. The opposite sex cause problems for dyspraxic boys. Being generally more immature and timid in this respect they, sometimes by their natures, they can be manipulated by girls then dropped like stones, something they cannot rationalize easily leading to great frustration and hurt. Some boys with dyspraxia have a problem with the notion of personal space, invading it without knowing ,leading to unfair and cruel labelling by girls as perverts or similar. Some dyspraxic boys also seem to have more than average issues around their gender, exploring masturbation more obviously than their peers. Probably because subtlety is alien to the condition not that they are any more fascinated by sex than any other adolescent.

Dyspraxic girls seem to have similar problems with adolescence around the issues that ordinary teenagers struggle with. Again the personal space issues, often losing friends because they cannot keep up with the newly acquired language and status around adolescent behaviour. They struggle with the obsession with fashion and looking good which becomes paramount with their peers. Poor personal hygiene is often a feature of adolescent dyspraxic girls. Periods and body odour combine to make these vulnerable girls even more repellent to their peers at a time when they need most to feel accepted. Dyspraxic girls also seem to struggle with gender/sexual issues. Some seem to become tomboys as a way to put off the issues they so struggle with. Others go out of their way to try and attract the opposite sex, often in inappropriate and alarming ways which can lead to a precocious and inappropriate interest in the sexual act. These girls, particularly, need careful contraception advice and one to one support to lead them towards more appropriate and acceptable sexual behaviour. This category of dyspraxic girls are very vulnerable indeed.

Parents of dyspraxic boys and girls need to engage support around sexual health early. Connexions advisers, teaching assistants and family support in schools should be engaged along with support from GPs.

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  • Posted

    I found this a very interesting description of dyspraxia in adolescents. I have just had to acknowledge that my son (16 nearly 17) has struggled with the syndrome, unrecognised for all his school career. I think that some of the issues you relate to one gender or another are not gender specific, for instance my son struggles with personal hygiene - he showers, when reminded, but often forgets to use soap or shampoo. I think he has attracted the attention of bullies and thugs because he looks 'gay' and can appear a bit 'camp' which only further confuses his sense of self. Relationships with girls confuse him all the more and re-inforce the inner struggle he has trying to understand who he is.

    We are on the road to getting a diagnosis which will be the point we engage support from the school. I have found the school and the teachers completely ignorant - not able to recognise any sort of learning difficulty or of showing a response other than frustration. All the teachers, those he likes and those he has issues with, respond to his obvious learning difficulties in the same way, with poor grades, unhelpfully harsh words and punishments. Now doubt believing this lazy / too easily distracted / superficial / untidy boy will need to learn the hard way !

    At home I recognise after all this time that cause and effect as a means of learning is not effective. If he loses things and I don't replace them to demonstrate the importance of looking after one's own property he accepts the loss but doesn't make any further connections. This is also evident in his attitude to earning pocket money. I insist he works around the house for pocket money but he never wants to until the minute he wants some spending money. I now insist that I do not pay in advance but he still doesn't understand the need to plan in advance ie working and putting money aside for when you need it.

    We have developed some strategies such as always keeping his keys on a chain, money on a card not cash, cheap second hand phones and ipods. I would like to know if there are more strategies and techniques which he could learn to help him cope with adult life. I leave him for a day or two to cope on his own. Although he eats, he scavenges food, eats bowls of cereal when hungry even if there are ready-made-meals which only need heating up. Even with a dish washer he will partially stack it but forget to put it on. He tells me he likes being on his own but the

    Impression I get is that it is not good for his self-esteem. If he can't get his friends to hang out with him when he is on his own he feels very lonely and depressed. When he is a bit older and wants to share a flat with other young people he will need to have found ways of dealing with domestic routines as well as personal and work related ones. It would be interesting to hear other people's experiences.

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    • Posted

      I can relate to this so much! I also have one who showers but is so engrossed with the 'feel' of the water that nothing gets done haha. Too many similar things to mention. She was diagnosed at 6 (we pushed the nhs as school kept saying she was 'fine, they only recognised she went to medical after falling a lot) She also is Dyslexic (again private diagnosis from Dyslexia Action) has sensory problems, hypermobility and when at home anger flares but apparently school dont see this. How are things now for you lad?

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  • Posted

    You are spot on! Im a dyspraxic mum to a dyspraxic 12 year old and I nodded so much to this article I thought my head may fall off!
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  • Posted

    Very interesting read! Is there any source of aide to assist parents with teaching children whom have ADHD and Dyspraxia and severe anxiety and short term memory.

    I just had my sons Eval, and they gave me a list of disabilities however not much on the best way to help teach him. So he can grow and function as an adult later in life.

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  • Posted

    Some good points raised here.

    I am a siuxty nine year old dyspraxic - checking the website for references to the condition due to some wrong information being given el;sehwere.

    In the UK the best place to go fior information and mutual support is the Dyspraxia foundation - who coincidentally are having their main national event in London in a few weeks time - there are lots of Internet Forums, particularly via Facebook and some run by the DF for Adults and Young adults (13-25 year olds I think)


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