Derry mum’s new children’s book brings awareness to dyspraxia
Terri Lamberton’s 13 years old son Ethan was diagnosed with dyspraxia when he was seven. He has had many struggles in life because there is so little understanding of dyspraxia and what it means for him.
Terri’s youngest child, four year old Daniel, is in the process of been diagnosed with dyspraxia so Terri has written a children’s book, from Ethan’s perspective, to explain what it means to him. The book, titled ‘Me is Awesome’ will be officially launched in the Central Library on Monday, April 11.
Terri said: “Ethan was there every step of the way. When I told him that I was going to write a book about his experience as a child going through dyspraxia, I asked whether he wanted his name in it or not but he said he did. He went through such a hard time when he was younger and he thought that if there was a boy of six years of age that could read this and release they are not alone. He is really proud of it.
“The whole book is completely personalised to Ethan. The text was made from Ethan’s handwriting, we made it into a font. People with dyspraxia find it quite difficult to write. The toys that are used were Ethan’s favourite when he was a child and it’s done in orange, which is his favourite colour. The whole book is completely personalised to him. Although it is personalised to Ethan, I think it will still resonate with other parents and children.
“Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder that would affect fine and gross motor skills, coordination, planning, thought, it can affect speech, there can be sensory issues with it; an adversion to loud noises, light, touch, this sort of thing. It leaves people really unstable on their feet. There is absolutely no awareness of it in our schools or anywhere else really. Ethan was diagnosed at seven and that was it, we were left on our own.
“My youngest was displaying the same difficulties when he started nursery so we were pretty sure he was dyspraxic too. We shared our concerns with the school and the health visitors and it was still the same questions; ‘what is dyspraxia?’ There could be two children in every class who have dyspraxia but unless the child is severely disabled with it, then it’s really not recognised by educational psychologists. We knew we had to raise some awareness of what it was and that’s why I wrote this book.
“With Daniel, we have a better understanding as parents and with the support and assistance from Daniels School, Nazerath House Primary School, have been able to put Daniel through the diagnosis process at an earlier age. Nazareth House PS and their nursery unit have been instrumental in Daniels development and we as parents are so grateful to them.”
Terri said: “We kept telling the school that Ethan couldn’t kick or catch a ball. He still walks down the stairs two feet at a time but the school were telling us that he’s okay. It doesn’t affect intelligence but it affects processing, so in turn it affects their school work because they are not given the time to process so they are left behind. Because there was no awareness, Ethan developed other hidden disabilities. He has severe anxiety and he finds it really hard to mix socially. All of these came from people not having an understanding and empathy for him as a child.
“Ethan is in secondary school now. He goes to St Brigid’s College in Carnhill and he is doing amazingly well. It took a very long time to get to this point because we had to get Ethan counselling when he was younger to try and help him deal with anxiety and frustrations and to help him manage with his emotions. He still has his wobbles and there are still many things that he finds really difficult to do but he has become so independent and has found new ways to cope. I have to give credit to St Brigid’s too, they have been amazing with him and so understanding, they cannot do enough to help. They have such a great autism unit there so they are so aware of students with additional needs. Autism and dyspraxia go hand in hand and there’s a lot of crossover between the two.
“I think if we had support at the start, a lot of things that happened to Ethan in his formative primary school years would not have happened. A lot of the things that happened to him then have left mental scars on him but St Brigid’s have brought him together with other students and they have really worked on his confidence. The teachers are empathetic and understanding. Academically, Ethan is very bright so they have brought his social skills along with it. We didn’t know he was as academic as he is because he had no support in primary school but now that he does have it, he’s top of his year in some subjects. He just keeps moving on.
“We’re so proud of him. All of the adversities he has come through, we’re so proud of. Things that we take for granted are a struggle for him daily. I have four children and they all have an understanding and the older three look after Daniel so well so I’m so proud of them all.”
Terri’s book will be launched in the Central Library on Monday, April 11 at 1.30pm. There will be goodie bags for children and special guests on the day. Terri is also hoping that Ethan will be able to read the book on the day to tell the experience from his own point of view.
Copies of the book will be available to buy on the day and they are also available online.