Friday, 11 November 2011

Dyspraxia: Assessment Day

    Assessing people for dyspraxia and other DCD and autistic-spectrum disorders is a very specialised art - OT's and psychologists need specialised training in order to do the assessment effectively. Occupational Therapists (OT's) need effective training - and I was more than pleased to take part in this training, especially as it meant I could get an assessment out of it as well.

    I've taken part in a research study at Oxford Brookes University ( back in May 2011. I was glad to take part in it, but I had to be clear when I did that I had no formal diagnosis - merely an observed set of issues that my teachers thought added up to dyspraxia.

    However, this was a perfect opportunity to change that - Frances Beaumont, co-founder of the Kent Dyspraxia Association and a qualified and experienced OT herself had arranged a training day for OT's to be able to diagnose the condition, but of course needed volunteers for the OT's to assess.

    I wasn't likely to turn that opportunity down!

    I genuinely didn't know what to expect from the assessment; I know people who have been assessed - indeed, a very good friend of mine is dyspraxia and had a full assessment some time ago - but I deliberately avoided asking too many questions, because I didn't want to influence my own thoughts and responses when I was assessed.

    The assessment day was in Faversham, only a 40 minute train journey from where I live - and I was picked up from (and returned to) the station ... which I am grateful for. Not knowing Faversham AT ALL, it would have been a dead cert that I would have got lost. As it was, I felt a certain amount of anxiety about going to an unfamiliar place and with no advanced plan of action - it's an unsettling sensation for someone who likes to be in control of his day, but also good ... as it helped to explain to the OT what it felt like.

    There were six OT's to six volunteers, and I was "paired" with a Welsh-born, Birmingham resident called Laura, who had been an OT for some years and was looking to expand her knowledge. You always worry about getting on, but thankfully, that wasn't the case here - Laura and I got on famously.

    Frances led some interesting discussions in the morning, geared towards to OT's, but was fascinating to listen to, and then we began individual assessments in our pairs. I mentioned previously that I had to complete and two questionnaires; one being a Sensory Profile, about my reaction to different situations and circumstances, and the second being a more open questionnaire about my past, my life in general, etc. We spent a good couple of hours in discussion around these questionnaires, and it was fascinating to work through the forms and see how my Sensory Profile really does fit into a model of dyspraxia.

    The session was broken by lunch, and it was fascinating to mingle with the OT's ... and the other dspraxics. We had some brilliantly fascinating - and funny - conversations over lunch, and it was great to know that I wasn't the only one worried about missing my mouth whilst eating.

    After lunch - and more discussion - I did some manual tasks; walking on the balls and heels of my feet, finger dexterity and perception tests, and the old favourite ... balance tests. Oh how I love them! It was interesting to get feedback from Laura; clearly, I have terrible balance, but she noted how my body tried to compensate - by putting a hand into a pocket, for example. It seems my subconscious is already trying to help out a bit ... reassuring!

    It was a long day of discussion and testing - I got home about 5.30, but it felt later, and I felt exhausted. It was incredibly worth it, though; it gave me a deeper understanding of dyspraxia, intellectually, physically and emotionally. Having to concentrate on physical actions to a great depth than neurotypical people can be exhausting, and it certainly was that during the testing, because it was very focused - but don't think I'm complaining, because it was worthwhile for the end result.

    The OT's had a second day of training today, then are going off to write the report, so I should get the first draft within the next couple of weeks - and then we shall know the outcome. I'm very much treating it as a new chapter in my life, because I can choose what I want to do with the report - and if there are any changes I want to take on as a result.

    Whatever else, this year has been an incredibly interesting one - and this report will cap it very nicely!


  1. Thank you for your wonderful insight. We have a 9 year boy with dyspraxia and ASD. Reading your blogs helps us to understand his world a little better.

  2. How are things going now - I too am Dyspraxic from the next county.

    best wishes