Many are aware of how cerebral palsy and strokes can affect motor coordination – but what is dyspraxia, the condition that can affect a whole range of intellectual abilities?
Dyspraxia is a developmental coordination disorder which affects fine and/or gross motor coordination, and can also affect speech.
It occurs in both children and adults, and is a lifelong condition.
The difficulties can present in a variety of ways, and can change over time depending on factors such as life experience and environment.
Gill Dixon, a trustee at the Dyspraxia Foundation, said: ‘dyspraxia may affect an individual’s physical movement (the poorly co-ordinated, accident prone person with handwriting difficulties), his speech and language (difficulties in articulation, processing, volume control, listening and understanding), his thoughts (difficulty in planning, sequencing, and organising), his perception (the sense he makes of the world) and his vision (visual related learning difficulties).’
Other issues that can have a significant impact on daily life include issues with planning and time management – which can affect an adult’s education.
Elliott Cramer, a history graduate and bartender from Worcestershire, told metro.co.uk: ‘At school I would often forget things like homework and be generally very poor at revision due to a lack of organisation.
‘This is probably why I did so poorly at A-Level because I just couldn’t concentrate for long enough for anything to soak in – and I couldn’t learn exam technique as quickly as everyone else.
Dyspraxia can also affect daily life at work. Elliott told us: ‘At work I often turn up late and also forget to do certain things – part of my role involves being in charge of ordering ales in and sometimes I forget to submit the list to the manager on shift, resulting in another manager having to order in ales.’
What causes dyspraxia?
The exact causes of dyspraxia aren’t known, but it’s thought to be caused by a disruption in the way messages are transmitted from the brain to the body.
As a result, people can have trouble with performing movements in a smooth, coordinated way.
What help is out there for children and adults with dyspraxia?
Elliott believes greater understanding is key. ‘I don’t think many people know about dyspraxia – the more people know about it, the more people can be helped, particularly kids in school.
‘I know I struggled with homework and essay deadlines in particular, and it’s hugely important for people to recognise that dyspraxia isn’t just an excuse for general clumsiness or being late to work.’
How can teachers support a child with dyspraxia?
Allow the child to visit the school several times and give them a plan of its layout. They can then study this at home to allow them to become familiar with it.
It may be a good idea to invite the parent on one visit: they may be able to identify problem areas that you may not have been aware of.
Give them two timetables as soon as possible, one for their bag and another for their bedroom wall. They can then plan for the next day.
Comparison is disastrous. Never allow a child with dyspraxia to be compared to an able child. Not by teachers or peers.
Praise every effort and every small accomplishment. A dyspraxic child has been used to failure repeatedly: every effort must be made to raise their self-esteem.
When they feel better about themselves they are more likely to relax and learn. This is the obvious situation to strive towards.
Remember that they have difficulty in taking on board information during lessons. Allow them extra time: teach in small bursts, allowing opportunities to rest, if necessary. You will soon become aware when each child requires a rest. However, this will alter from day to day and from child to child.
Ensure that the child has understood what is being taught, repeat if needed. Check that they are not falling behind because they cannot copy form the blackboard, for example (difficulties with re-positioning gaze from one object to another can cause issues).
Teach on a one to one level, with few distractions, when appropriate. If there is a learning support worker available, allow them to assist the child so they are taught at the same pace alongside their peers.
Try to avoid removing the child from the lesson as this stigmatises them, although in some circumstances this may prove unavoidable – during tests, for example.
Children with dyspraxia do better in a relaxed environment with one to one support.
Source: Dyspraxia Foundation