What is Dyspraxia and how can you support students who have it?

If you need to know about what dyspraxia is, what the symptoms are and how you can effectively support students in your classroom with the condition, then look no further!

What is dyspraxia?

According to the NHS:

Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination. It causes a child to perform less well than expected in daily activities for their age, and appear to move clumsily.

What causes dyspraxia?

It is not actually known what causes dyspraxia but it is thought to be related to abnormal neural development rather than by direct brain injury.

What are the symptoms of dyspraxia?

Individuals with dyspraxia may exhibit a range of symptoms, including:

Poor gross motor coordination skills (large movements) – i.e:

  • Difficulty with balance (i.e. going up and down hills, riding a bike, walking along a beam)
  • Poor hand-eye coordination (i.e. catching a ball, throwing accurately)
  • Clumsy movements when walking/running
  • Lack of rhythm when dancing
  • Tendency to trip/fall over or walk into things more than others of same developmental age

Poor fine motor coordination skills (small movements) – i.e:

  • Lack of manual dexterity – i.e. tying shoe laces, building small models etc
  • Difficulty holding a pen and writing neatly
  • Difficulty fastening buttons, using keys

Poorly established hand dominance – i.e:

  • May switch between hands when writing, colouring, painting etc

Other difficulties noted may include:

  • Speech and language – such as repeating themselves or using inappropriate volume when speaking
  • Eye movements – i.e. difficulty tracking a moving object
  • Perception – i.e. sensitivity to noise, light. touch, smell, taste may be inhibited or exaggerated
  • Learning and memory – i.e. difficulties organising thoughts, may be messy or struggle when given more than one task at a time to complete, poor recall
  • Emotion and behaviour – i.e. may struggle to read emotions in others or may become easily emotional, distressed, angry etc. This may lead to not wanting to take part in activities or easily fall “off-task”

How can you support children with dyspraxia?

There are a number of things classroom practitioners can do to support children with the condition. Here are some top tips:

1. One thing at a time

Rather than give children a string of instructions, focus on giving just one instruction at a time. Two or more instructions can cause a dyspraxic child to get in a muddle.

2. Repeat

All children benefit from having instructions and messages repeated and dyspraxic children in particular. Constantly check that children have understood what has been said and what they need to do.

3. Tick-off

Help children with ways to remember information by using lists and diaries so they can tick off things they do as they go.

4. Avoid comparisons

Never allow a dyspraxic child to be compared to an able child as this is disastrous. Don’t compare full stop!

5. Strategic placement

Dyspraxic children shouldn’t be placed in the thick of the action but away from distractions where they can easily focus on their teacher.

6. Materials

A sloping desk or angle board will help as will pencil grips or equipment specifically designed for dyspraxic learners. 

7. Praise

Applaud every effort and every accomplishment however small. Dyspraxic children will be used to repeated doses of failure so take every opportunity to boost their self-esteem and celebrate all successes.

8. Chunk

Dyspraxic children will find it hard to absorb and interpret information so allow them plenty of time, teach in small bursts and chunk your time so they can achieve and rest.

9. One to one

When possible, try to teach on a personal one to one level and never remove them from a class for support as this will only stigmatise them. Remember that they will need extra help and supervision in practical subjects so encourage team work.

10. Prepare

Make sure children are prepared in advance for any changes to established routines as without doing so will be stressful.

The Dyspraxia Foundation also has a section dedicated to children and young people. Their site also has lots of useful articles for those looking for further information about this condition.

Are you seeking SEND work or staff?

If you’re looking for a SEND teaching or support job in England or Wales, why not register with Axcis, the SEND recruitment specialists? Or perhaps you need to recruit staff for your school or provision? If so, why not take a look at the Axcis Website, or get in touch today to find out how we can help?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.