Labels That Stick

I have been sticking labels on my kids forever:

not a good sleeper
bottle fed
potty trained

After 6 years we discovered a new one; Sensory Issues. Now eight and a half years in we get a big one. Dyspraxia.

We’ve had countless run ins with the ADD, ADHD labels. Nothing really stuck, though. I’ve found more labels come off than stick to my eight year old. Today we found one the psychologist tested for and it seems to be permanent. It’s a life long issue, but nothing debilitating. It’s sort of an official diagnosis to never have an easy time at school, however.


This is a new term to me, and one that i’ll be likely incorporating into my vocabulary. It’s something that fits. It works. It makes sense. It just is. It is my son and I can certainly live with it. I’m hoping we all learn to teach him how to cope and manage it. I will include an official $3 word definition for anyone who is curious because I certainly cannot do the explanation justice after an hour of marinating on it.

(from Dyspraxia info )

What is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia isn’t a sign of muscle weakness or of low intelligence. It’s a brain-based condition that makes it hard to plan and coordinate physical movement. Children with dyspraxia tend to struggle with balance and posture. They may appear clumsy or “out of sync” with their environment.[1]

Dyspraxia goes by many names: developmental coordination disorder, motor learning difficulty, motor planning difficulty and apraxia of speech. It can affect the development of gross motor skills like walking or jumping. It can also affect fine motor skills. These include things like the hand movements needed to write clearly and the mouth and tongue movements needed to pronounce words correctly.

Dyspraxia can affect social skills too. Children with dyspraxia may behave immaturely even though they typically have average or above-average intelligence.

Kids don’t outgrow dyspraxia. But occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and other tools and strategies can help. Kids can learn to work around areas of weakness and build on their strengths.

So that’s the clinical side of it. Now we get to figure out what this means for our family and our kid. The Doc said some very interesting things to us and most of it made it to my brain. This is by far a very livable thing. It’s nothing that will throw our world upside down. He is the same kid now with a label than he was yesterday with a generic label of “frustration”. We’ve been living with a kid with dyspraxia for eight and a half years, now it just has a name. The fact he does not do his morning routine without me pulling all my hair out just like our neighbors isn’t going to change. It just means we have a tangible reason for him being hard-headed. This is actually a neurological disorder. His synapses aren’t all firing together. I could have told you that when he walked out the door without his backpack.

This is going to be a two-sided development for us. A lot of the signs are in fact just typical 8 year old boy ‘things’. They don’t sit well in a class room. They do not do well when you give multi step directions. They don’t always ‘get’ the emotion in a conversation. The difference with my kid is that he’ll have to learn it all. It’s not intuitive. It’s not a passive skill. He wont eventually learn any of this through osmosis. He has to actually physically work out steps in understanding and doing all of this.

Compounded with the difficulty of all of the processing his brain does with every day tasks, we found out he is bordering on gifted for cognitive functions. He’s great at literal ideas. He’s really good at puzzles and maps and legos and building. He can figure things out with minimal effort. The other hints of issues that lie on the outskirts of his dyspraxia is depression and some limited ADHD. Unfortunately the converse of the gifted stuff is for him particularly if something doesn’t register as “valuable information”, he absolutely tunes it out. (math, writing, morning monotony, calendar time, directions, announcements, etc etc etc) He doesn’t have another option at this time. His brain has to learn the steps to actively pay attention and function. Because of the big split between his cognitive and nonverbal functioning, he ends up being frustrated a lot of the time. Imagine being able to be so good in one area that you are gifted, but having other things make no sense whatsoever, and these things are expected of you And you are graded on them. But you have no way to bridge the gap between understanding and total disinterest. You have no tools to link the two.

… as i’m writing this, i completely hear the ‘snake-oil-salesman’ explanation it can sound like.

The other thing this label does for us is allow me to no longer feel the need to justify who my kid is. Do other kids have these issues? Yes. I will just say the degree of effort and difficulty in doing this day in and day out is greatly compounded for my kid, neurologically.

And that’s that. So he’s officially a difficult kid. I’m officially a super parent, I guess. I have officially earned these grey hairs. I can say with nothing but confidence I will take all of these issues over some of the other debilitating, life-altering, soul-crushing, heartbreaking irreversible conditions we could have been handed. Those parents deserve so much more than a cape. They deserve monuments. They deserve an hour out of each day for effortless happiness and joy with their kid.

As for me, I’ll take that diagnosis and place it beside intelligent, charming, bright, thoughtful, imaginative, creative, and loving and move right along.

If Harry Potter can live with this diagnosis, so can my kiddo.

Harry Potter is Dyspraxic

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