It sometimes seems that there is a constant stream of meetings, assessments and appointments for one or other of our children. The latest of these was Luis’s occupational therapy assessment last month. He has had OT before, through the NHS, and they did identify problems with his motor skills. We never received many details though and there wasn’t much advice given, so we were very grateful when his school arranged for him to have a comprehensive private OT assessment.
I received the report today and it didn’t make for easy reading. The tests of Luis’s motor skills (which included sections on manual dexterity, aiming and catching and balance skills) place him in the bottom 0.1st percentile – which means that only one out of a thousand children of Luis’s age would have the same score as him or lower. Of these skills, balance was the one he struggled with most.
The next part of the assessment involved visual perceptual skills – which means the ability of the eye to take in information and interpret it. In this section Luis scored very low, with the score that would be expected of an average five year old. What this means in practical terms is that he has great difficulty transferring what he perceives visually onto paper, and helps to explain some of his problems in the classroom (for example he would find the process of copying work from the board very difficult).
Sensory issues were also looked at, and Luis was found to have problems in many of those areas, which again has implications for how he is able to learn in the classroom. He becomes distracted by any background noise, as well as being distressed by intense sounds. He has problems with his vestibular processing (to do with balance) and proprioceptive processing (the sense of your own body and how to use it, for example knowing how much pressure to apply when using a pencil to write).
So having identified the extent of Luis’s problems, what are we able to do about it? We have known about some of these problems for a while (though they are a bit worse than we realised) so he has already had sessions of physio at his previous school – he took part in a programme of structured exercises that included throwing and catching, jumping etc. He has also had extensive support with his handwriting over the years, which has improved it to some degree but hasn’t really made it any easier for him (his hypermobility makes writing difficult as his hands bend so much). Luis has taken part in many different sports and activities over the years, with varying degrees of success (he did an after-school football club for a while, but was asked to leave as he wasn’t able to join in with it at all). He had swimming lessons for quite a long time and is able to swim unaided, albeit in his own unique style as he finds the coordination required very difficult. He can now ride a bike, and even though it is very difficult for him and he can only ride a short way in a wobbly fashion, this is an amazing achievement considering the difficulties he has with balance. He goes out to activities such as trampolining, rock climbing and bouldering on a weekly basis with school, and does a variety of sports in PE, as well as the Crawley Capers football club that we sometimes go to. From a young age we have always given him plenty of chances for physical activity in places like playgrounds, soft play centres or just playing outside the house and general daily activities (he has strong legs and can walk for miles without getting tired). The occupational therapist will now be giving Luis weekly OT sessions, and various strategies will be used in class and in his PE lessons. Hopefully these will make some difference, but the extent of his problems means that there is no easy “fix” for these issues – we will just continue to encourage him and get him to try as many different activities as possible.
A couple of weeks ago in half term we went to Crawley Capers football club which we hadn’t been to for a while. ITV was there filming a follow-up feature about how the club has used the funding they received just over a year ago. I think our children were in the background of some of the shots, but we haven’t been able to see it yet as it was shown on Meridian – and in Crawley we receive the London news. Luis, Beatrice and Ella all enjoyed kicking the ball around and trying to get it in the goal, Luis and Beatrice aren’t capable of taking part in proper games with some of the other children but the option is there for when they feel more able in the future. That’s the great thing about this club – there is no pressure to have to do anything they’re not able to and they can just go at their own pace with no expectations of what they “should” be doing.
This week was World Book Day at school. Luis went as Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I had trouble thinking up an outfit for Beatrice as she doesn’t like fiction so there were no obvious characters she wanted to dress up as. So I looked on Google for inspiration and saw someone who had written words all over a t-shirt so their child could go as a dictionary. This was a perfect solution for Beatrice and she was very happy with the idea! She has sometimes started to read fiction books but quickly gets bored, and is much happier with something like her medical book or an instruction manual, or some of the factual videos she watches online. I know some people have the view that children spend too much time on electronic devices now, but for children with inquisitive minds the internet opens up a whole world of knowledge which I think is fantastic – and as long as they are still getting plenty of exercise and doing other activities as well I don’t think there is anything wrong with it. Luis has been researching mobile phones a lot recently and is fully up to date with the latest technology available, although we’re not letting him have any of the expensive phones he would really like!