Will & Grace alum and Good Luck Charlie star Leigh-Allyn Baker opens up about motherhood and her son’s daily battle with dyspraxia in an exclusive five-part PEOPLE series. (Read part 1 here.)
It’s been four years since Leigh-Allyn Baker‘s son Griffin Samuel was first diagnosed with the developmental disorder dyspraxia. And while occupational, behavioral and educational therapy have done wonders for the 8-year-old, he still gets “frustrated.”
“Can you imagine sitting in school and someone is standing up there talking, asking you to pay attention and do your work, and you’ve got to focus on sitting upright, not falling over. You’re exhausted holding a pencil in your hand while it’s shaking and trying to write. ‘Now what was it she said?’ ” the actress tells PEOPLE in an interview ahead of her August Facebook Live chat with Dyspraxia Foundation USA.
Dyspraxia typically affects coordination, among other things. For Griffin, it also has a co-morbidity of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.
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“His brain has so many things to think about, it bounces around and he loses track of what he was talking about,” shares Baker, 45.
“We tell him to go downstairs and brush his teeth and go to school,” she explains. “By the time he gets downstairs, he has to grab the rail, walk down step by step, don’t fall, and he gets downstairs and he’s like, ‘What was I supposed to be doing?’ As a child, he’s distracted enough as it is.”
Still, the actress – who also shares 4½-year-old Baker James with husband Keith Kauffman – says it was important that Griffin went to a mainstream school. In his Independent Education Plan (IEP), Baker has requested her son sit with accelerated learners, whom he can model throughout the day.
Yes, Griffin has Dyspraxia… just like Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). It doesn't mean he can't cast spells. It just means his spells take more focus. Neuro-diversity has many strengths… strengths that the average brain would love to possess! 1 in 10 people have this. Let's spread the word. #dyspraxia #neurodiversity #noOneBrainIsLikeAnother
“They almost didn’t want to give him an IEP because they said, ‘He’s not a behavioral problem and he reads well. So we’re done here,’ ” reveals Baker. “And I was like, ‘Oh, but we’re not done here. We’re just getting started.’ ”
With therapy, Griffin has improved his physical coordination, but now struggles more with auditory commands. “So actually, in school now, that is more my concern,” says Baker.
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The mother of two worries that because Griffin is a quiet child, he might not get attention because his problems are not as outwardly obvious.
“They don’t believe me, because he is such a perfect angel at school – he’s kind to people, he’s so sweet and he doesn’t throw any temper tantrums or get upset,” says Baker.
“He saves that for when he gets home because he’s internalized it and kept it in — his frustrations — all day long and tried his hardest all day long. Then when he gets home, he’s exhausted. He’s spent.”
But Griffin has felt better since his parents explained why he struggles in some areas where other children don’t. Recalls Baker, “I had to explain to him what’s going on, and once I did, he just felt so relieved.”