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Hazel - my life post-11.

Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:15 pm

It was when I went to secondary school that my organisational difficulties became much more apparent - before then it was the physical issues that were noticed most.

I quickly found out that I had to sit at the front of the class in every lesson. It was impossible for me to focus if I had people in front of me, and I couldn't seem to see the board if I was too far back. I am short-sighted, but I don't think my eyes were the problem. Sitting at the front of the class in all lessons instantly marked me out to the other children as a teachers pet, a swot, an arrogant know-it-all and someone who must be squashed as soon as possible.

Another thing that became clear to me very swiftly was my slowness in everything that involved movement. Copying from the board was impossible for me - I'd only get so far and then the teacher would rub it off and start again. I protested at this a few times but was waved off with a "just leave a gap and you can come back to it". I tried to copy from my neighbour but this was never very successful. I was also very slow in getting my things out for a lesson and then putting them away again at the end. I was always the last to get settled and the last to leave a classroom. And then there was the difficulty with hardly ever having the right stuff for a lesson - wrong books, wrong pencil case, wrong everything. That's if I even had anything at all - some days I would forget my pencil case entirely, or I would have left it over the other side of the school.

I was intelligent. I really wanted to do well. Nobody saw this. Even my parents thought I couldn't be bothered, because I developed a way of acting where I would make like a wall and go entirely expressionless when I was being told off. Inside, I was hurting.

We took buses to school. The school is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by lots of small villages. I was from a small city about 13 miles away. Most of the children came to school by bus. There were many many buses, all on different routes. My bus was a public bus - the bus company had an agreement that for the school runs they would go right into the school grounds. It was easily recognisable and stood out from all the others, which was lucky for me - there were 5 different routes done by a company called Genn Coaches - I would have been in dreadful straits if I'd had one of them. They all looked the same, apart from a small number in the window, which would have been easy for me to miss.

To catch the bus, we all lined up on the tenis courts in different lines. I never got muddled up with which one was mine - again, I was lucky, it was right at the edge of the tennis courts, easy to figure out. Not that this mattered so much, because by the time I got everything into my bag after the last lesson, found my coat, got it on, gone back to the classroom to retrieve what I'd left behind and got out of the school building, most of the time the other children had already boarded the bus. If I was lucky, the bus was in a queue of other buses and I would not have to chase it. More often, I would have to run after it. Quite a lot of times, I missed it entirely.

Catching the bus in the morning was just as much of a problem, though we only lived five minutes away from the bus stop. Most of the time, I didn't have time to eat breakfast, because I was slow to dress. I was told off by my parents most mornings. I missed it many times.

Finding my way around school was hard, although I got better at this as the years passed. Science labs were easy because they were signposted. I knew vaguely where other things were so often I would be able to work things out by looking at the surrounding rooms. Far harder than locating certain rooms was remembering where I was supposed to be at a given time. I think in my last two years I managed to learn my timetable off my heart, but up until then I didn't. Things I used to do - find someone who was in the same class as me and stick to them. Ask friends what I had next. If all else failed, I'd head to reception and ask them where I was supposed to be, which happened a fair bit. I did have a timetable, but I would often not be aware that I had it, or I would have lost it, or, when I glued it into my homework diary, I'd lose the diary or have left it at home/on the bus/in school somewhere.

Homework, now there was yet another thing. I had a serious problem with this. There were several barriers that had to be overcome before I could do it. First, I had to pay attention to the teacher when we were writing it down, while simultaneously trying to pack everything into my bag in order not to be too late for the next lesson or miss the bus home. I would also have to have my homework diary in the first place - if I didn't have it, I'd have to write it on a piece of random paper, which of course I would lose. Then I would have to remember to read the homework diary and make sure I was looking at the correct page. Then I would have to actually do it, which is no easy task when everything in the world is distracting and you keep thinking of other things. This is especially true if it wasn't very interesting - why on earth would anybody answer questions from the textbook when you could be reading the textbook instead? I'd often be carried away reading about the Japanese occupation of China when I was supposed to be analysing sources on Weimar Germany. I'd also have to overcome my really bad and slow handwriting. The final hurdle was remembering to take the exercise book into school for the teacher to see. Evntually, in my last couple of years, the teachers developed a system where they would fax all my homework to my dad at work, so that my parents knew what I had. This was a great help, though the way it was portrayed to me it was a punishment. Naughty Hazel can't be bothered to do her homework and now she will be FORCED to.

There were times I just didn't do my homework because I couldn't be bothered. It was boring. I preferred reading.

Because of my lack of homework completion, and even though it should have been pretty darn clear that I was intelligent, I was moved down a set in Science, which was devastating for me, but again, I went to wall-mode. I was also put in the second set for Maths. I was in top sets for everything by the end, apart from English - they just couldn't overlook my writing speed and my lack of essay organisation. I should have got an A for everything, I have the intelligence for that, but I was not helped.

PE. My nemesis. I think I could write an entire book on how much I loathed PE with an absolute passion. I literally couldn't do ANYTHING. My most despised sport was tennis. I only ever hit the ball by accident, and when I did I couldn't get it back over the net because the ball slamming into the racket would bend my wrist back - I didn't have the necessary strength. Tennis lessons were really lessons in running after a tennis ball after failing to hit it. In hockey, I tripped over my stick. In netball, I got nosebleeds because of failing to catch the ball before it hit me. In the gym, I had no strength in my arms, couldn't pull myself up ropes, couldn't co-ordinate myself to jump over boxes and horses.

Before I went to the school, a doctor wrote them a letter. It said, that on no account should I be made to jump, because it wasn't safe. Did they listen? Of course not, don't be so silly. Hurdles was an exercise in abject humiliation. The school only had a couple of sets, which meant that two people could do the 100m hurdles at one time, while they were watched by the rest of the class. I would run to a hurdle, climb awkwardly over it, then run to the next one. I never ever jumped even one. I couldn't, I didn't know how. Yet the evil sadistic PE teachers made me engage in this hideously pointless activity, every single time. I was also made to do long jump and triple jump. Triple jump, there's a laugh. I can't even begin to fathom how people get the actions in the right order. The only thing they did not make me do was high jump. I think even they worked out that I could easily injure myself and the risk to them wasn't worth it - if I hurt myself they would have been in SO much trouble. I was a massive failure in PE and was made to feel like a massive failure in every single lesson.

I got tired so quickly, which I never understood. My family didn't have a car, or a television. I was not a couch potato. We cycled to church every weekend, we went on long cycle rides frequently. When we didn't cycle, we walked. I was fit, really fit, and my parents didn't believe in feeding us junk food (crisps and sweets were a very rare treat) so I had an amazing diet and I ate everything. I had the metabolism of a horse, ate bucketloads and never put on any weight. I looked malnourished, but in reality I was an absolute pig!

Cross-courty. I hated this. I got cold very easily and tired too - my chest would get so tight and uncomfortable very quickly, I'd be wheezing like an old person and I never had asthma.

I was probably depressed for a good portion of my school years. I learned that I was a failure in almost every conceivable way. I only felt happy when I was reading. Books were comforting, they didn't judge me or bully me. Reading was one of the rare things that I was always extremely good at, but that doesn't matter in secondary school, and a child is viewed as a weirdo if she spends every breaktime in the library.

I didn't socialise well. I didn't speak the same language as people my own age, or that's how it felt anyway. I was raised without a TV, which is a big handicap in school because there is so much that you can't talk about. My mother didn't believe in fashion, or designer labels - "comfortable", "cheap" abd "sensible" were her watchwords. This meant I couldn't talk about clothes or fashions, not that I wanted to anyway. Being raised that way gave me a healthy contempt for things like the idiocy of refusing to wear the school jumper when it was -1 degree out, because it was "not cool". I wasn't shy about telling others how stupid I thought this was. I also wasn't shy about saying stuff that was apparently not right to say - like when I was 14, the subject of female masturbation came up with the girls in my class and I admitted to doing it. Well, you'd have thought I'd just admitted to regularly torturing small mammals. There was a shocked silence and everyone looked at me in horror. Very bizarre.
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