Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Go play in the sand, John

For the past two weeks I have been reading the book; “Go play in the sand, John: A life disabled by dyslexia, reclaimed through love.” By John Tipping (with Frances Kavanagh). I chose to read this book after spotting it in the library and thinking to myself –“how much do I actually know about the effects of dyslexia?”. I studied dyslexia whilst at university and so I would say that I have a pretty good base of knowledge but we only focussed on the effects on children and their development. It never occurred to me to wonder how it would continue to effect individuals as they grew up.

I always find that either talking to individuals who have conditions/disabilities/difficulties etc. or reading first hand their story helps me to understand the realities a lot easier.  I also think that this is an important part of OT as well, actually listening to individuals and discovering their story and how dyslexia or whatever is effecting them actually impacts on their everyday lives – its all part of holistic and client centred care.

The book (which I recommend everybody reads) depicts the journey which John has taken; from a child struggling at school, to a young man swamped with difficulties and low self-esteem to now, when John is a happy, inspirational, entrepreneur. The book really awakened me to the realities of dyslexia.
So often when people think of dyslexia they just think of people struggling to read and write. But it is so much more than this.
According to Dyslexia Internationals dyslexia defined as:
“..a neurological condition, which is often hereditary. Dyslexia means a difficulty with language - words and letters - so that the most obvious and persistent difficulties you will see will be with reading and writing, and very intractable difficulties with spelling, also with memory, especially sequences such as days of the week and months of the year: memory will be poor; personal organisation will be poor in almost every circumstance."
John describes how it affects him as follows:
“My brain does not work in the normal way. I have to select information coming in at me more consciously than the average person, and I’ve had to train my brain everyday over the years just to cope with everyday life. (...) It’s like someone being picked up from this country (the UK) and put down in the middle of China; they have never spoken Chinese in their life, but they’re expected to talk Chinese straight away, go out and work, make a living, have a family and so on.”
I had never really considered how dyslexia would affect adults beyond reading and writing and this book has really opened my eyes to the difficulties and also the prejudice which people with dyslexia have to face.
The most important aspect of this book is that it is about a champion, a fighter. John is described as being “the most dyslexic man imaginable” yet with love, self confidence and constant support he has learnt to grow and develop as a person and is now a successful business man. 

Being dyslexic does not make you stupid. You are still as wonderful and as worth it as everyone else in the world. If you are dyslexic I would 110% recommend you read this book and become inspired by Johns’ story.
As well as this book I have been learning a bit more about two other individuals, this time both in the public eye, and how dyslexia effects them and how they are overcoming their own difficulties whilst inspiring others to overcome their battles with dyslexia also.
First off - Henry Winkler. Most people will know him as the Fonz in Happy Days. The actor who has dyslexia has just been awarded an honorary OBE for this work on dyslexia in the UK. Winkler has toured schools in the UK over the last two years to talk about the learning difficulty.
He has also written books for children about Hank Zipzer, a boy with dyslexia, whose experiences are based on the actor's own childhood.
Secondly – Kara Tointon. Most people will either know her from playing Dawn in Eastenders and/or from participating on Strictly Come Dancing. The BBC recently aired a show about Kara, her struggle with dyslexia and how she has worked hard and become the successful actress (and I guess dancer) who she is now.
Linking this to OT:
I can only see a perfect match between dyslexia and OT. Firstly OT is all for empowerment and this, I feel, is a massive benefit for those with dyslexia. Having the belief and the knowledge and support that they can achieve is going to be nothing but beneficial. Also practical skills and occupations can be addressed and developed through OT with a particular focus on meaningful and fulfilling occupations to the individuals.
OTs also focus on each individual and in a holistic manner – this, I feel, is particularly important when considering individuals with dyslexia as everyone is different and has varying levels of the condition. Interventions should not be viewed as being “one size fits all” and should be graded and adapted to suit each individuals varying needs.  
If anything can be learnt from these individuals’ stories and indeed from this blog then I hope it is that having dyslexia is hard BUT it is not the end of your dreams or your hopes. With hard work and the rights support you can achieve great things.
For more information on dyslexia and one both Henry Winkler and Kara Tointon please see the links below:
Information links:
Media stories:

Happy OTuesday everybody,


Monday, 19 September 2011

Citation du jour.

Tonight I have just finished reading a book about the challenges one man faces with Dyslexia: 'Go play in the sand John' by John Tipping (with Frances Kavanagh). Its such a good book and has been a really interesting and inspiring read. A more detailed blog will be appearing shortly.
BUT..for now here is a snippet of the book which I particularly liked:

You have to take everything you can out of life because the better you feel about yourself, the more you give back. It becomes infectious in the end, which I think would be quite nice for the world. The majority of people just exist; a small minority live. Shouldn't that be the other way round?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bake the blues away..

If any of you know me personally then you will know that I am a BIG lover of cooking, in particular Baking. My mind is full of memories of spending time in the kitchen helping my mum bake all kinds of lovely treats and over the years my love for it has grown. Baking for me now is my own kind of therapy. I bake not only when I want to take something to a friend’s gathering or as a special present but also as a way to de-stress and detach myself from the world and its problems.

Since finishing uni, job hunting and having to face the reality that due to the current economic climate finding an OT job isn’t going to be as easy as originally thought when I started my training has led to a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. I decided to channel this into something positive – and so the baking marathon began.
Flour was sifted, pastry was rolled, cream was whipped and cupcakes were frosted...some of the results were as follows:

 All this baking got me thinking, the process of baking for me is really therapeutic, the way that it has this ability to transport me to a place far away from my worries and problems, the feelings of pride and joy that I get when giving people something I have made and them enjoying it and complimenting. This got me thinking, if baking can affect me in these ways then surely it must affect other people as well.

This led me to think about the benefits of utilising baking within OT.
Food preparation and baking is used within OT for a number of reasons, mainly in my experience as a way of increasing skill development and promoting independent living skills. But it can also be used for building social interaction skills when performed in a group environment, as a means of increasing self confidence, self belief and also to provide a productive leisure activity.

I found a really interesting article in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy which relates to this post:
“‘Baking Gives You Confidence’: Users’ Views of Engaging in the Occupation of Baking.” By Lesley Haley and Elizabeth Anne McKay – BJOT March 2004 67(3).
This study shows the responses gained after 12 Mental Health service users engaged in Baking.
The report showed that the benefits received by the service users included:
·         Provided a meaningful occupation, a purposeful use of their time.
·         Engaging in baking also improved concentration, increased coordination and built confidence, leading to an increased feeling of self-esteem.
·         Baking offers a therapeutic encounter that can provide experiences of success and promote improved functioning.
·         The experience of achievement had personal meaning for the participants. They talked about what they had made, expressed pride in their workmanship and described feelings of personal satisfaction. The discovery of previously unknown skills through engagement in baking was also a source of great satisfaction for some.

On my Learning Disabilities placement I worked with a lot of service users who had problems with sensory integration. One service user in particular who had both complex learning disabilities and sensory integration dysfunction. It was decided at the time by myself and my supervising OT that we would try some simple sensory baking utilising The Social Integration model (Fisher et al. 1991) to try and gradually increase positive responses to sensory interaction. The task which we graded and adapted was making Angel Delight (not necessarily baking but was a start and an activity which was suitable and achievable for the service user at the time.) Over a number of weeks the benefits of engaging this service user in ‘baking’ were evident. Not only did we see an increase in their skills and tolerance to different sensory inputs but there was also a definite improvement in their attitude and behaviour. The intervention was working and they were growing closer to achieving their goals.

It is obvious that there are many benefits to baking and when used with the right client, one who would find this occupation both meaningful and purposeful, I feel it could be a really positive and effective addition to their therapy.

I was surprised to find that when I was looking into writing this post there was little evidence or articles which I could find concerning the utilisation of Baking within Occupational Therapy – perhaps this is an area of growth which Occupational Therapist should begin developing.