What is Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is surprisingly common, affecting approximately 10% of children to some degree (i.e. 1-3 children in every classroom in the UK). It is the result of an immaturity in the development of the nervous system. This means that nerve signals are not sent smoothly from the brain to muscles so movements appear awkward and take a lot of effort. Someone with dyspraxia has difficulty planning and organising their thought processes. They may also have associated problems with language.
Symptoms in childhood can include a delay in reaching developmental milestones such as sitting up, standing or walking. Early diagnosis in a child's life means that treatment can be started as early as possible which may improve outlook.
Children with dyspraxia may experience difficulties with some or all of; following instructions, getting dressed, fine & gross motor skills (writing, drawing, ball skills, running, hopping, jumping). They may find changes to routine difficult to plan for and suffer low self-esteem and varying degrees of frustrations.
Sadly there are no quick fixes. However, with appropriate help and understanding, your child can develop coping rather than avoidance strategies and have a better chance of later success in life.
Dyspraxia & School
Patience, tolerance, praise and understanding goes a long way with dyspraxia. Schools are able to achieve a great deal if there is a supportive approach.
There are a number of simple measures that can be introduced at school to help a child with dyspraxia
Reduce the number of tasks and allow additional time for their completion. Break down tasks into more manageable parts
Provide extra supervision and encouragement if required
Give single instructions and reinforce with repetition
Talk through with the child what is expected of them so they can see what the plan of action is and check they have understood - ask them to tell you what you have said rather than accept a nod for yes
Place the child away from distractions and where they can easily see the teacher
Teach the child strategies to help remember and assist themselves, by use of lists and diaries or use a to-do list so the child can tick off as they go
Ensure the child is well prepared for any changes to routine which can be distressing. Extra visits to a new school, a map of the school and the names and pictures of the teachers may make starting a new school less stressful
Children with dyspraxia often have difficulties with reading and spelling. Limited concentration and poor listening skills, and literal use of language can have an effect on reading and spelling ability. A child may read well, but not understand some of the concepts in the language. The child may also be reluctant to read aloud because of articulation difficulties or because they lack self-confidence.
Does your child read single words well but struggles with lines of text? They may have some eye-tracking difficulty, common in children with dyspraxia. There are some simple exercises that your child can do to exercise their cerebellum. e.g.
Stand on one foot, while throwing a ball from hand to hand.
Stand on one foot and raise your arms to the ceiling and look up, then drop them down again.
Sit on a chair, keep your head still and then move a pencil to and fro in front of you while following it steadily with your eyes
The last one in particular can help your child's eye control for reading. Studies have shown that by working the neurons regularly, there will be improvement. Do the exercises for just 60-90 seconds in each session, but 5-10 times a day.