Vigilantes-a-go!

Chat with others about dyspraxia and share your experiences.

Vigilantes-a-go!

Postby parnassus » Thu Aug 04, 2005 7:36 pm

Right, team, the blood is boiling. Have a read of this:

http://www.brianmicklethwait.com/educat ... 001451.htm

Warning to those of you with coronary problems - you may suffer a heart attack if you read that article in full, given that it begins with the following paragraph.

My thanks to Arts & Letters Daily for picking up on this article from my local evening paper about dyspraxia, which is partly a reason for academic failure, but mostly an excuse for bad teaching.


Well, I naturally could not let this stunning piece of wisdom pass without commenting on it. I sent the man an e-mail, which I have posted below, but I am not sure that he got it - I received an automated message saying 'We cannot accept mail from an unverified source'. Does this mean that hordes of dyspraxic vigilantes have been pouring into his inbox? I can only hope so.

Dear Brian,

I expect (I hope) that you have had numerous e-mails regarding the blog
entry you wrote about dyspraxia, in which you defined it as an excuse
for academic failure. This comes as further proof to me that even
educators with the best of intentions are not infallible.

According to my educational psychologist, my IQ places me in the top 1%
of the population. I published a book at the age of sixteen and took
the twice the usual number of A-Levels. Yet for a long time I lived with
the stigma of being 'retarded' - or, worst of all, 'gifted but lazy' -
because of my extremely severe dyspraxia. This is why I am
understandably hurt whenever I come across an article that belittles the
difficulties I face. I can't even be trusted to cross a road on my own, as my spatial perception is so poor that I can't tell how far away cars are or
how fast they are travelling. Handwriting is a nightmare for me. At the
age of seventeen, I still can't tie my own shoelaces because of my
extreme clumsiness. I have to use special cutlery and have an adapted chair in the classroom; if my seat doesn't have arms, I lose my balance and end up on the floor. Yet co-ordination and perceptual problems are only the thin edge of the dyspraxic wedge - the condition also affects
short-term memory, social skills, and a whole host of other things.
For more information, please visit my page at
www.freewebs.co.uk/parnassus/whatisdyspraxia.htm (my personal site) or www.matts-hideout.co.uk

Misdiagnosis does happen, that I will admit - just as a doctor might
misdiagnose an appendicitis suffer with a digestive complaint. Medical
opinion isn't watertight. However, I would like you to realise that many
dyspraxic people are highly gifted. Dyspraxia doesn't impact on
intelligence; it simply colours the way that intelligence is displayed. We
aren't all academic failures who can't bear to accept our weaknesses. This
is a prejudice that I have encountered far too often. I should be
immune to it now, but I'm not. Please do me the courtesy of visiting mine and Matt's website and trying to digest the information there. I don't mean to be rude or offensive in any way; I would just like as many people as possible to take a walk in dyspraxic shoes.

Yours sincerely,
Vicky
"This above all, to thine own self be true." - Polonius, Hamlet.
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Postby monkey » Fri Aug 05, 2005 2:34 am

thank you very much for sending that e-mail. i hope it gets through.
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Postby C » Fri Aug 05, 2005 4:47 pm

Well, after reading it I tried to send this:

I am saddened to read of this boy being wrongly diagnosed with dyspraxia when his real problems were bad teachers, but as a genuine sufferer of this disability I feel I must make clear that dyspraxia is NOT 'a reason but academic failure, but mostly an excuse for bad teaching' as you stated.

I suffer problems with spatial awareness, sequencing, sense of direction and cluminess although my reading and memory skills are fantastic for my age. Genuine dyspraxics can be of average or above intelligence, some are even gifted. Nor is dyspraxia the result of poor teaching, I have had some poor teachers in my time but I have had some good ones too. If you really want to know what causes dyspraxia, one popular theory is that it is due to the neurones in the brain not forming adequate connections while the embryo is growing in the womb. This means that the brain takes longer to process information from the body. Another theory about dyspraxia is that it is the result of not outgrowing reflexes. No one knows for sure what causes it though.

I am currently at college achieving excellent results. I have a reputation for being someone quite intelligent, although in the past when amoung people who didn't fully understand dyspraxia, I was thought of as being stupid or, equally bad, clever but lazy.

It is not easy having dyspraxia, especially with the stigma that goes with it. I am not the result of bad teaching or stupidity as anybody who knows me will tell you.

If you wish to find out about dyspraxia from people who know what they're talking about, visit here:

www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk

or here:

www.matts-hideout.co.uk

or simply type 'dyspraxia' into any search engine and it will give you lots of websites about the disability.

People may be misdiagnosed with dyspraxia just as someone with meningitus may be misdiagnosed with a sickness bug. However some people suffer their whole life with dyspraxia being told they are lazy or stupid when really they are far from it. To me, that is a tragedy.


in the space for comments at the end of the article but for some reason it wouldn't send. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Vicky and I hope your e-mail got through.

Did everybody see the other dyspraxia article? It can be found by clicking on the word 'dyspraxia' in green, the first time it appears in Vicky's link. This article does at least say that 'clearly a proportion (of people with dyspraxia) are genuine sufferers.' I'll copy and paste it here, just in case some people didn't read it:

The dyspraxia myth
By Michael Weber, Evening Standard
16 July 2004
Forget about an academic education for your son," announced the form teacher. "He's not clever enough." Unexpectedly, the annual parents' evening at the private school in north London, charging £3,500 a term, had become a nightmare.

"Send him to a low-grade secondary school and take him to an educational psychologist," directed the teacher about my nine-year-old son.

"Why?" I asked, staggered by the startling directive. "Don't you know? He's dyspraxic." Bewildered by the middle-aged teacher's judgment, I wanted to ask a dozen questions, but the annual session was terminated. "I haven't any more time," she declared. After barely three minutes, I was dismissed from the room.

That abrupt exchange started four years of misery and the progressive humiliation of a boy convinced by psychologists and his teachers that he was suffering a brain defect which permanently impaired his intelligence.

As I was to learn, dyspraxia is the new dyslexia, a medical term now bandied about by both parents and teachers who sometimes use it as an excuse for academic underachievers.

Technically, it is a condition affecting a person's judgment of space, and manifests itself in the child's inability to understand how to juxtapose shapes such as triangles and squares, or by their hapless failure to co-ordinate their physical movements. There is no cure, say the experts, but treatment and conditioning allegedly help.

Clearly, a proportion are genuine sufferers - but others are children who have been categorised for a brutal reason. Namely, that private schools prefer to blame the child than admit to teaching inadequacies in their schools. To protect second-rate teachers, private schools prefer to label those casualties of inadequate teaching as "dyspraxic".

Yet far from being dyspraxic, by the end of four years, my son was declared to be completely healthy and academically excellent. In the meantime, his self-confidence had been undermined, his education had been damaged and I had spent nearly £20,000 on a small army of private teachers and educational psychologists.

Just how the educated parents of four children, paying huge fees to a London private school, could believe the "classification" of their child as dyspraxic is a woeful tale, and my experience is not unique.

Parents in London paying to extricate their children from poor state education have also become the victims of incompetent teachers and self-interested psychologists. Fearful of challenging the headmasters and teachers, parents are quietly accepting bogus diagnoses rather than risk the expulsion of their children from school.

Not surprisingly, the form teacher's diagnosis of my child was alarming. Nevertheless, her conclusion appeared initially to be justified. Indeed, his educational performance was lacklustre. Compared to others of his age, his reading, arithmetic and retention of knowledge was poor. Unlike his two older siblings who would all be accepted at prestigious Oxford colleges with outstanding A-levels, his attainment at eight years old had been considerably lower than required. Indeed, I had been puzzled by his failure to develop but was not overly worried.

After all, I reassured myself, children develop different skills at different rates, and he was a very gregarious boy, a great raconteur.

The teacher's prognosis seemed decisive. "His IQ," she declared "is very low." Yet I still harboured doubts. Rather than make an appointment with the educational psychologist nominated by the school, I consulted personal friends who are shrinks. On their recommendation, I took my son to his first educational psychologist in Finchley. I returned, as ordered, 90 minutes later. She appeared flustered. "I need another 40 minutes," she said. Then she explained her confusion. "Orally, his IQ is very high, but his written IQ is low." She could not explain the discrepancy.

Another friendly shrink was visited with the same puzzling result. Finally, I succumbed to the school's educational psychologist. She was stern and emphatic. "Dyspraxia," she pronounced. There was no cure but there were lessons to teach the boy how to cope. I was referred to another expert.

So began 18 months of after-school sessions with puzzles and videos, complemented by special teaching from two other psychologists to teach reading. In addition, most evenings a tutor came to the house to help my son with his homework - the cost was phenomenal. By the end of the second year, the situation was probably worse. He was in the bottom set at school and scored miserable marks in exams. He was below the border line to pass the common entrance. Then came enlightenment.

"Your son," announced one educational psychologist suddenly, "is not dyspraxic." "What?" I exclaimed. "He just hasn't been taught maths," she continued. "It has undermined his self-confidence to learn everything else at school." The revelation was astounding. She recommended a maths tutor.

"Most of my work," the maths tutor told me "is with pupils from your son's school. They can't teach maths." Neither could he.

Desperate, I was told about a maths tutor who it was said could perform miracles, at £90 per hour. To save my son, there was no choice.

"No one has taught him maths," announced the miracle worker, "and he's got no self-confidence." Teachers at the school, he discovered, regularly humiliated my son because of his poor results. "Can you do anything?" I pleaded. "Oh, yes," he said. It was October. The exams were in June.

Over the following eight months I witnessed the most astonishing transformation. A cowed child became a confident student. Understanding maths transformed his mastery of every other subject. His common entrance mark in maths was 83 per cent and he achieved five A grades (over 75 per cent) with the rest Bs (over 65 per cent).

When I cautiously raised with one or two other parents the rather sensitive subject of poor teaching in the school, I was amazed by the response. Oh didn't you know, 75 per cent of the boys doing Common Entrance have private tuition at home? Nobody had declared their hand until after the exams. And when I told my story to an old friend, Anne Alvarez, a well known child psychologist, she told me: "Dyspraxia and other labels put on children are often too loosely used. Many diagnostic labels are used as wastebaskets."

Our son's headmaster recently announced the appointment of a new maths teacher. We later learned that this new teacher had not even passed A-level maths.
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Postby parnassus » Fri Aug 05, 2005 6:23 pm

That article is intended to be an honest account of one parent's experiences. As such, I found it an interesting and thought-provoking read. I agree that labels such as dyspraxia are all too often used as wastebaskets by teachers who can't be bothered to trace the exact cause of a child's difficulties or provide enough support. However, I think that the author should have interviewed at least one genuinely dyspraxic person in order to highlight the differences between his misdiagnosed son and a child who really does have these inherent difficulties. As it is, the dyspraxia-doesn't-exist brigade have hijacked that article and used it to support their own cynical viewpoint. They apply the author's experiences to all of us, and that just isn't fair.

As the man who wrote off dyspraxia as an 'excuse' is a teacher, I think he decided to dismiss dyspraxia as a way to make his own methods look good. "Children who are labelled 'dyspraxic' have poor teachers. Ergo, if I refuse to believe in this so-called disability, I must be a good teacher."

Dream on, my friend. Good teachers have open minds. And they do their research before scrawling their opinions all over the Net.
"This above all, to thine own self be true." - Polonius, Hamlet.
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Postby C » Sat Aug 06, 2005 6:47 pm

I agree, Vicky. It must be frustrating to have your child wrongly diagnosed, but plenty of children who really do have dyspraxia are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all due to the ignorance of people like that 'educated' teacher who wrote off dyspraxia as an excuse.

I too think there should have been an example of a genuine dyspraxia sufferer in the parent's article, and their difficulties constrasted with that of the authors son.

Some people seem to think that because dyspraxia cannot be seen, it is not there. This is backed up by articles such as those the teacher wrote, by people who obviously have had no experience of dyspraxia themselves.
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Postby fuzzy » Sat Aug 06, 2005 7:56 pm

Im angered by the fact that ppl could make out dyspraxia doesnt exist- neither does the wind, but I dont see anyone trying to make out that that is made up!

I do think that sometimes terms such a dyspraxia and dyslexia are overused in schools, I think there are some children whose difficulties are misinterpretted to be dyspraxic traits. However, what this article is doing is generalising dyspraxics. This is one boy; it does not mean that every person with dyspraxia has been the victim of poor teaching and some cover up consipicy- this aint the X Files. It makes me sad to think that this is undermining dyspraxia and dyspraxics- I try my hardest and I get ppl like this telling me that theres nothing wrong with me but low confidnce and a low IQ?! If that was the case, how come half of us are at uni, if we are that thick and depressed???
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Postby Thirteen-thirty-seven » Sun Aug 07, 2005 2:39 pm

I have one thing to say:
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
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Postby medrich11 » Sun Aug 07, 2005 6:08 pm

thirteen-thirty-seven I embrace your scream of anger and send it back a hundredfold (I will not type it here as it would be a waste of your redaing time, but you get the picture)
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Postby medrich11 » Sun Aug 07, 2005 6:16 pm

I just read the post on the site fully, and I have decided to say this:
THAT PERSON IS AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!! THEY OBVIOUSLY HAVE NO IDEA OF WHAT DYSPRAXIA REALLY IS, NEITHER HAVE THEY EVER MET A DYSPRAXIC PERSON, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT DYSPRAXIA IS MAINLY A PHYSICAL HANDICAP WHICH HAS NO IMPAIRMENT OF THE INTELLECT IN ANY WAY, SHAPE OR FORM. as parnassus said,

According to my educational psychologist, my IQ places me in the top 1%
of the population.


thie persons child may have had dyscalcula, but not dyspraxia.
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Postby parnassus » Sun Aug 07, 2005 9:21 pm

I even doubt he had dyscalculia. Tutoring can help a dyscalculic person, but it doesn't make them suddenly become a confident mathematical maestro - they have a neurological disorder than won't go away. I am dyscalculic, and although my special education paid off, I have no miracles to report.
"This above all, to thine own self be true." - Polonius, Hamlet.
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Postby Thirteen-thirty-seven » Mon Aug 08, 2005 9:11 pm

C, if your comment at the end of the article wouldn't send, copy and paste it and try to send it again.
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Postby parnassus » Mon Aug 08, 2005 9:22 pm

I've found the man's real e-mail address!! The 'unverified mail cannot get through' message was not sent from the first e-mail address I tried, but from the one below. On a whim, I tried sending my e-mail here:

brian@libertarian.co.uk

I have had no Delivery Failure messages, so I assume it got through. Now you can all make your displeasure known. But let us save our screams for here and be polite in our messages. This forum has a good reputation; let's keep it that way.
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