Focusing on Dyspraxia: Reading and Writing (Part 2)
In this series of articles I will be focusing on certain areas in which Dyspraxia can cause problems with. The first of these is reading and writing. In the first part we looked at my childhood and how I found handwriting, spelling and comprehension challenging and how I would rarely spend time reading books. In this second part I will be focusing on secondary school and touching upon the start of my university degree programme in English Literature and Creative Writing.
When I first joined secondary school at the age of eleven I found many areas of reading and writing challenging. Reading aloud in class was scary and writing complete grammatical sentences was a nightmare. My teachers thankfully noticed my difficulties and so for the first three years I was given ‘Learning Support’ instead of studying French.
Learning Support was a department of excellent support staff whose role was to help students who needed that extra bit of help. As part of this myself and a small group of others in my year had fifty minute lessons, usually three times a week, were we spent time improving our English skills. Learning Support was fantastic. The encouragement the department gave us was overwhelming. During lessons we worked on our spellings, handwriting, reading, comprehension and even our presentation skills. This happened in a stress-free, judgemental-free and social-building environment. I would come out each day having learnt something new and more importantly having the self-confidence in myself to continue.
The self-esteem I gained through Learning Support shined through in my English lessons. I had the courage to put my hand up in class and even attempt to read aloud. The feedback I received in school reports was pleasing and even my grades rose from D/E to B/C level. There were occasional knocks in my confidence but the doors were always open at the Learning Support Department.
Please note that ‘Learning Support’ was marked on my school record so teachers were aware I was getting supervision but anything we discussed was confidential without agreement. After informing the Head of Year Nine of my Crohn’s Disease diagnosis in 2007 I was given a Study Needs Agreement. Study Needs Agreements are records for anyone who has a disability. The forms state the nature of your disability and any specialist arrangements you have because of this.
One of my arrangements concerned examinations. For my GCSEs I was given 25% Extra Time and Toilet Breaks, but I handwrote my responses. This was before I was officially diagnosed with Dyspraxia at the age of eighteen. Naturally though I used my Extra Time to finish my answers.
When it came to my Financial Studies examination at AS Level in Year Twelve I ran out of time answering the long essay question, even with my Extra Time. I was slightly disappointed with myself but after a detailed conversation and some tests with the Learning Support Department we agreed I would complete all my future examinations on a laptop. This was put on my Study Needs Agreement. This change was brilliant as it gave me the focus I needed during examinations without worrying about if my hand ached for writing for long durations or if my handwriting became illegible. So thank you to the Learning Support Department for all your support.
|A very kind message I received from the Learning Support staff...Copyright © 2015- Jake Borrett. All rights reserved.|
The encouragement I received from them combined with enthusiastic English teachers got me interested in the world of literature. Yes, to the extent I studied English Language and Literature at A-Level and now study ‘English Literature and Creative Writing’ at University of Hertfordshire.
Even at degree level I struggle with some areas of reading and writing. During my first year I often found myself listening to audio books as there was so much reading to complete. Also the feedback I received from writing assignments was that my ideas were excellent but my ‘structure’ and ‘proofreading’ let me down.
As with my secondary school, I have a Study Needs Agreement in place at University of Hertfordshire although with a few changes. One of these changes is that I have a Study Skills Tutor. During my second year I spent weekly or fortnightly one-hour lessons improving my essay writing and examination planning. This will continue into my final year from September 2015 onwards. I cannot thank the Disability Services at University of Hertfordshire enough for their support. I am sure to go into more detail about them in future articles.
To conclude though, Dyspraxia can have an impact on various areas associated with reading and writing. Encouragement given from educational staff, friends and family can improve self-esteem to the point it gives us the confidence to try and overcome any difficulty we may be having because our disability. Do not be afraid to except this help. Excepting help does not mean you are weak but shows you have the strength to try and succeed. Thank you for reading this article and until next time I hope you have a brilliant week.