Dyspraxia is a form of developmental coordination disorder (DCD) causing difficulties with gross and fine motor skills. It can also affect speech, perception and thought.
Causes of dyspraxia
- Dyspraxia is a lifelong condition.
- Immaturity of neurone development in the brain may be responsible for DCD.
- There is a higher risk of developing dyspraxia when a baby is born prematurely, born with a low birth weight, where there is a history of dyspraxia in the family or where an expectant mother drinks alcohol or takes illegal drugs.
Symptoms of dyspraxia
- Poor co-ordination makes it difficult to jump, hop, catch or kick a ball.
- Students may find using scissors, writing neatly, threading beads or tying shoelaces difficult.
- Students may find walking up and down stairs difficult.
- Some students may find it difficult to concentrate.
- Some students may find it difficult to organise themselves.
- Some students may become frustrated and develop low self-esteem and behavioural problems.
- Older students may try to avoid having to write in lessons or taking part in physical education classes.
- Dyspraxia cannot be cured, but students can be helped to overcome the challenges they face.
- A small number of children may see symptoms diminish as they get older
- Most children will need professional help to reach their full potential.
- Making an early assessment is crucial to providing appropriate help.
- The most common intervention is a task-orientated approach. This involves working on specific tasks that cause difficulties and finding ways to overcome the difficulty.
- Tasks are generally broken down into small steps, teaching specific movements and practising regularly.
Early identification and assessment
- Medical diagnosis via a GP with referral to a Paediatrician & Occupational Therapist (OT) will help a child access the help they need.
- A cognitive assessment by an educational psychologist or specialist teacher may highlight weaknesses in working memory and speed of processing.
Help with organisation
- Target support to identify an individual student’s strengths and weaknesses.
- A clear and predictable daily routine can help develop independence.
- Print out homework tasks or give out homework at the start of the lesson and allow time for students to seek clarification.
- Prompts to remember appropriate resources and help in organising work and notes are helpful.
Help in class
- Build in opportunities for students to practice task-oriented skills.
- When teaching writing skills use a multi-sensory letter formation, use sandpaper, rice trays and air writing.
- In PE help develop co-ordination with beanbag throwing, walking on a line and provide balance or wobble boards.
- Make eye contact before giving instructions, use straightforward language and give one or two-step instructions.
- Give time for processing and wait for a response.
- Give visual clues as well as oral instructions.
- A low stimulus learning environment will help if a student is easily distracted.