Page last updated at 06:25 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 07:25 UK

Teen's dyspraxia hope for others

Simon Woodward
Simon Woodward was diagnosed with dyspraxia at the age of seven

Simon Woodward is like any other normal 13-year-old. He enjoys sport, spending time with his friends and getting on with his school work.

However Simon, from Barry, south Wales, also must contend with dyspraxia, a neurological problem which can make even the simplest of tasks a struggle and can damage self-esteem.

Symptoms in children with dyspraxia vary but some may be late in reaching milestones, such as learning to walk. As they reach school age they may also avoid games, be unable to tie their shoelaces and have poor handwriting.

After suffering bullying in primary school, Simon was determined to help others with the condition and now runs the children's group in the Vale Dyspraxia Support Group.

This is his story.

I was diagnosed as being dyspraxic at the age of seven. I was very young at the time and I don't really remember what I was like but my family said I kept on falling over.

Also, as a baby I didn't crawl at all and started walking very, very late.

Things were difficult for me in primary school. PE is where I had the most problems. I had difficulty with throwing and catching a ball and playing football and rugby.

Because I didn't understand why I had these problems I felt very frustrated and I also suffered quite a lot of bullying from fellow pupils. To see all my classmates playing football and enjoying it, and knowing that I couldn't join in was very difficult.

There were some really difficult times for me there because it was only a very small class size so there was no escape.

What is dyspraxia?
It can effect any or all areas of development - intellectual, social and sensory
It's said to be an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement
Physical activities are hard to learn, difficult to retain and awkward in performance
Children with dyspraxia may be late in reaching milestones like walking, talking, jumping and running
At school they may avoid games, have difficulty with maths, be poorly organised and unable to tie shoelaces
Adults with dyspraxia often find routine daily tasks such as personal grooming, driving and household chores challenging
It's not possible to cure but those affected can find ways to get round their difficulties

At my current school they are understanding about my disability and my PE teacher is really great about it. The dyspraxia still makes ball games really difficult but there are lots of other sports I love doing and am good at like running, swimming, sailing and rowing.

The new school is also a lot bigger and it is easier to make friends when their are more kids around. You can then stay away from the ones that are not so friendly.

My handwriting is completely bonkers because of the condition.

I have come to terms with my dyspraxia but it is still very annoying not being able to write properly or play ball games like my friends.

I want to raise awareness of the condition so that I might be able to help children like me not feel so bad about themselves anymore.

I am involved in running the children's group of the Vale Dyspraxia Support Group and I help the members learn how to use laptops as well as learning how to deal with bullies. We boost their confidence, help them make friends and get them involved in social activities.

Using a laptop in school has helped me a great deal because when I hand in work, my teachers can actually read what I have put down on the paper. It also helps me to work faster and learn more.

It is also very important for children to get an early diagnosis. People don't know enough about dyspraxia because it's not a condition that you can see.

I am currently planning to do a presentation for school governors so that they are more aware of what it is like for children with dyspraxia.

I want to get one of them to wear a big pair of fluffy slippers and try dribbling a marble around some cones while I shout horrible things at them so that they have some idea of what it can be like. I may also get them to write with the wrong hand in a sock with a stub of a pencil.

Dyspraxia Awareness Week runs until Friday.


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