Helping Children With Medical And Mental Health Conditions Get The Best Out Of School


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.  

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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.

Managing dyspraxia

  • 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.

Supporting students with dyspraxia

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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.

More information

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