I haven’t written too much this Summer.
I’ve been tired, emotionally tired.
I’ve been busy too with my youngest child who has just turned thirteen.
Yasmin was diagnosed with Dyspraxia at age five. It’s not an obvious physical disability, although when the consultant in Drogheda hospital was explaining the condition to her interns, she said, ‘Initially on examination, it can look like Cerebral Palsy because of the poor muscle tone and reflex, but the distended joints are what differentiate it.’ Dyspraxia is a developmental disorder that effects Yasmin’s muscle tone and strength, concentration and planning, her learning ability, her comprehension, her speech, language and her maturity. She also has a very severe sensory condition, where washing and general hygiene was torture for her; And ADHD behaviour, which causes her to be very hyper active. These things don’t ever go away, we just learn to manage them.
In the early years of Yasmin’s difficulties, we were very fortunate to be able to pay for lots of necessary early educational intervention. I was also an older and wiser mother, I knew I needed help and I asked for it early. I listened to the experts on how to deal with Yasmin and how to help her. It wasn’t easy for Yasmin to learn to read, to write or to add and subtract, but she learned. She had about a two minute concentration level, so doing homework was a struggle for both of us! She would complain of pain in her neck and shoulders and itchiness within her skin. I would send her into the back garden for ten minute jumping breaks on our trampoline and I would make myself a cup of coffee and have a bar of chocolate to keep me going or sane!
Yasmin was very impulsive and if I took my eyes off her for one second in a shop, she would be gone or she would hurt herself. She never sat and watched TV, she would be active the whole time while at home. Most nights before bedtime, my husband would have to walk her around the village just to tire her out. She kept us all skinny! I remember one time when she was about six and she had just quietened down from a huge tantrum, (She had begun having really scary tantrums from about age one. They were from frustration and her lack of comprehension of the world around her. I had learned how to manage Yasmin’s tantrums at age four. I would sit her on the bottom stair of our house for time-out. When she had calmed down, I would explain that her behaviour was unacceptable and that there was always a consequence. This was to be a great benefit for Yasmin’s social interaction with her peers.) She was lying on the sofa and she said, ‘Mammy, my legs and arms feel funny, it’s like they are sleepy.’ So although Yasmin was mentally hyper active, her muscles had poor strength because of the Dyspraxia.
If I knew nothing at all about difficulties in children, I knew exercise and activities was going to be good for them, so I had joined Yasmin in swimming from age one, which was a huge benefit. She didn’t master swimming easily and it took her many years to learn, but she learned!
And when she insisted on doing pony lessons at age five because she had been brought to all her big sister’s pony events, we reluctantly gave in. She fell off many, many times. But she kept on wanting to get back on and do it again!
What Dyspraxia doesn’t effect in Yasmin is her motivation or her dreams. She has become a really good rider, capable of riding any pony! She will try any event to do with a pony!
I watched Yasmin all of this year train with her team mates from The Ward Union Pony Club, in preparation for the Tetrathlon Championships in Tipperary. This is a sport ran by The Irish Pony Club. It involves running, swimming, shooting and cross country eventing. It is a very challenging event for over twelve year olds. She was so excited about it. There was a smile in her eyes all Summer waiting for the weekend at the end of August to come. We had a few obstacles to start with in June with a fractured collar bone, but she was back on the pony in super quick time after three weeks, fully healed! And she was back to the training. Not a lover of running or swimming as you can imagine it takes a lot of muscle strength, she got up at the crack of dawn each morning, ready to train.
Yasmin is pretty good socially and loves being part of a team. We have a huge family so she is used to people. She has been with the same kids in school since montessori, so she feels very comfortable and can communicate well with them. But most of the time, Yasmin uses food as a social connection. When she is with her peers or at parties or occasions, she will just eat and eat. She replaces the eating with conversation that she can’t have. She’s pretty good at talking about ponies and horses and funny things that make her laugh, but that only lasts a short time with her friends. Although she’s thirteen in age, she’s a few years behind in maturity. I’m a health food advocate, so, there’s only healthy food in my fridge, but I do allow her to eat the same as her friends when she’s out. She is very active which keeps her weight under control and when I talk to her about food, I focus on the damage salt can do to the kidney’s and what bad fats do to the heart, so as to help her make the right choices when she’s older.
We had a beautiful week’s holiday in the West of Ireland in August, where we cycled around The Arran Island and climbed the hills in Connemara in keeping with our fitness program for the Tetrathlon! Then our pony was off in August, so we had to look fast for a new pony!
Luckily, we found a lovely fella, a fifteen year old bay Connemara gelding, called Jack. We were good to go!
There’s a lot of preparation in packing off a pony and child to a different county. It’s a big task. I’m a stay at home Mam now, with only Yasmin to take care of! I commend working mother’s everywhere who can manage their children in sports and work!
I checked the team times earlier that morning with my cup of coffee. My heart fell. Yasmin hadn’t been placed on any of the four teams. I was sad for Yasmin. You see, Yasmin hasn’t won anything in cross country this year. She hasn’t had a clear either. But she has had some very good hunter trials. She has jumped fences and ditches and trunks of trees of 90 and 1m heights.
Her planning and organisation sometimes lets her down in the decision making as she approaches a fence. She knows when she comes back in where she went wrong and she is so hard on herself. Of course I tell her, you did an amazing job and what a great ride and Look how you did that this time! And she’s really good, she picks herself up quickly and tries again the next time.
Now I was wondering how I would tell her this news.
On the drive down, it was just me and Yasmin, her Dad was following in his own car. After a bit, I mentioned to Yasmin that she didn’t get picked to be on one of the teams, so she had to go as an individual. She was so upset. I explained to her, ‘It’s the same all over the world Yasmin.’ I said gently. ‘You kind of have to get your clears to be put on a team; Get all your dance routines right to try out for cheer leading; Or other sports; That doesn’t mean that you’ll never make a team. This is your first year, you’ve the whole season again in January. You’ve got showjumping season in September, your really good at that because you’re doing that much longer!’ So, she picked herself up again and took it on the chin.
Yasmin gave it her all in the swimming event in Kilkenny’s Watershed Leisure centre and did great in the shooting too! She compared just below average to her peers and she was happy with her result. It was a decent result.
And the next morning was the cross country and Yasmin woke up with vomiting and temperatures. I gave her medicine and tried to reassure her that she would be feeling better soon, to her cries and knowing sobs. It wasn’t looking good. We went to the course and Yasmin could only sleep in the back of the jeep between vomiting.
So there you go, there’s only one man who knows the plan of the day and it’s himself above!
When it was all over and the girls were packing up their ponies, what did my little team player do? She got up out of the jeep and went over to all her teammates individually and asked ‘How did it go? and Well Done! to the clear rounds and ‘That’s great! to their achievements.
I was never more proud of her.
She has been a little bit sad since though. And she asked me the other night, ‘Do I have Autism?’ Although I have explained to her over the years in ways that she can comprehend, that everybody has different talents or difficulties, this is the first time that she has wondered out loud, ‘well, what is my difference?’
So I explained to her, ‘No, your difficulty is not Autism, it’s Dyspraxia and that is the reason you have to work that bit harder to achieve things that others might find that bit easier.’
‘OK.’ She said.
And she started to giggle at a funny video on U-tube.