Ask the expert: What should we tell our son about his dyspraxia?
Tell him about some famous people he might know who have dyspraxia such as Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, as they can be role models for how people don’t let dyspraxia hold them back in any way.
An ongoing conversation
Remember, talking to a child about dyspraxia or other special needs is an ongoing conversation. Usually when first told, children feel a sense of relief but will also need other information at later points and at different life stages.
Check in with your son periodically as to whether he has any further questions. It might be helpful for the two of you to meet the professional who made the diagnosis and to encourage him to ask any questions he has then. As he gets older, you might find it useful to seek out resources and books online that you can read together to understand the condition and the best way to respond.
In discussing dyspraxia with him, be careful not to make it too central in his life. Emphasise all the things he loves and is good at (such as his knowledge of nature) that have nothing to do with dyspraxia. Build his self-esteem and encourage him to participate in activities around these strengths and interests.
The diagnosis of a child’s difficulties should be revealed to people on a “need- to-know” basis. His teachers should be told as they need to make an appropriate educational plan for your child and to adapt the learning environment accordingly and it is important to tell childminders and close family members who care for your son so they will know how to respond to his needs.
Most people take their time to come to terms with a diagnosis before they tell others and you should do this only if and when you and your son are ready. Help your son think of when and how he might explain dyspraxia to others in a positive and clear way but remember, he chooses who he tells and he can keep the information private if he wants.
There are great resources online for parents of and children with dyspraxia and many helpful books for parents and teachers. Dyspraxia Ireland has a great website, dyspraxia.ie, which has a list of informational seminars and parent support groups throughout Ireland as well as details of special classes and extra curricular activities specifically for children with dyspraxia.
One of the advantages of getting a diagnosis is the access to a community of support and advice – you and your son are not alone and you can learn and get support from others.
Dr John Sharry is a director of the Parents Plus charity.
His new book, Parenting Teenagers, is now out. See solutiontalk.ie