Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright: Wash Post Advice on Parenting, Dyspraxia, and Anger

Warren Fried, founder of Dyspraxia USA, sent me this advice column from the Washington Post's Parenting Advice columnist, Marguerite Kelly.

As the mother of a Dyspraxic child, I know all about the frustration and anger these children feel. I am also well familiar with the mirroring instinct in kids. That's a phenomenon common to all kids, though, not just Dyspraxics. The mother who asked for advice talks about how her son mirrors her calm anger and stages sit-ins to express his displeasure. I am a yeller and a crier when I am angry. So is Brendan, much to my dismay. I want to be the calm authoritarian, but that's not what I learned growing up because... Guess what? My mom yelled. And spanked. And on at least one occasion smacked me across the face. I am thankful I don't do those things. And I am learning to show my displeasure calmly.

But, that's neither here nor there.

What struck me about Kelly's advice was how off the mark it is. The woman clearly has no idea what Dyspraxia is or how Dyspraxic kids think.

There are as many ways to expess anger as there are people and I don't think having a little boy who stages sit-ins or refuses to do something he doesn't want to do is an example of passive-aggressive behavior. Of course it can be, but defiance of authority is not always passive-aggressive. In this case, it appears to be quite a direct expression of anger and fear.

I did like her advice on how to deal with the specific issue of the child refusing to go to school. But, I think she fails to account for the fact that with Dyspraxic kids there is a lot of fear involved and they learn, very quickly, how to be stubborn and hold out for long periods of time to avoid doing things that are scary or hard for them. If nothing else, kids with Dyspraxia are persistent when it comes to getting their way. And it may be weeks before leaving him home with a sitter convinces him that going to school is a better option. It may never work because he doesn't care how much fun the kids at school are having when going to school only exacerbates or highlights the issues he has trouble with, like writing, learning, or fitting in with the other kids.

I think the first thing the mother should do is talk to her son's teacher to find out why he doesn't want to go to school. Is he struggling to do the things the kids in his class are doing? Is his speech affected by the Dyspraxia? If so, are the other kids teasing him? There are so many things that might be causing this little boy to be unhappy at school that need to be addressed before throwing down the gauntlet with him. I guarantee you, that if this child is afraid of school and having difficulty fitting in, he is the tiger in the analogy offered by Kelly. A Dyspraxic child who is resisting doing something that is frustrating to them will outlast his or her parent almost any day.

I speak from experience. Brendan hated school until he was diagnosed with Dyspraxia and we began therapy. We fought about his going to school every single day because he was miserable. Even in Kindergarten he compared himself to the other children and knew he was different because he could not do many of the things they did with ease. After eight months of occupational therapy and a year of speech therapy, things are easier for him he enjoys school much more.

Again, this article or advice column highlights one of the many reasons there needs to be more awareness of Dyspraxia.

Only through early diagnosis and treatment can a child with Dyspraxia have the hope of fitting in and adapting to the everyday challenges school offers. Merely forcing a child into the situation without offering him or her the therapies and adaptive skills necessary to do the work and fit in, is only going to increase any anger or frustration the child is already experiencing.

Then, you'll really have a tiger on your hands.


Annie said...

I definitely think your approach seems more sound. Good post!

Sarah said...

Great post!

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Visit me at www.thestrollerballet.com to pick up your award! Hope you are having a great Friday!

Dawn said...

Wow! Thanks, Sarah! My blog has never won a prize before. I am so honored!