Intervention programmes for dypraxia can have daily and long-term benefits for children. This SENCO Week looks at ways of supporting children with dyspraxia, both in school and at home, using intervention programmespdf-4868370

SENCO Week – Help Sheet 16.pdf

Dyspraxia, sometimes known as Developmental Coordination Difficulties (DCD) is now much more widely recognised, and there is a greater awareness of its impact on pupils’ achievements in school. Approximately one in 20 children have this condition, with boys affected four times more frequently than girls. Many children with generalised learning difficulties, dyslexia and ADHD also have coordination difficulties, which makes a significant impact on achievements in school, confidence and self-esteem.

Support for SENCOs
As SENCO, you will know that dyspraxia is an impairment, or an immaturity in the way the brain processes information. It affects coordination of movement, speech and thought. You will be familiar with the characteristics of this condition, however, colleagues may not be as aware of implications for teaching and learning; many people think of dyspraxia simply as ‘clumsiness’, when in fact there are other important issues to bear in mind. The notes below can be copied for passing on to teachers and TAs where appropriate, though it is of course, important to speak directly to them about an individual child with dyspraxia and his or her specific needs.

There are many schools now where intervention programmes are making a big difference to children with dyspraxia (friends can take part too!). Often run before lessons in the morning, they provide a positive start to the day and seem to help with focusing children as well as having a positive effect in the longer term, on their balance, coordination and language processing. The Help Sheet provides some ideas for this type of programme.

Information for colleagues
In some cases, dyspraxia is not identified until a child starts nursery or school, and for some children it is only when they reach secondary school that difficulties with organisation become an issue and they find they can’t cope very well. In these cases, low self-esteem can follow, often accompanied by behavioural difficulties. It is vital, therefore, that schools and early years settings are able to identify under-development in this important area and put in place appropriate interventions where necessary.

Look out for pupils who have difficulties with:

  • throwing and catching
  • dance or music and movement
  • manipulating small objects (Lego, jigsaws)
  • threading needles
  • using scissors
  • getting dressed and undressed
  • using cutlery, ruler and setsquare
  • handwriting
  • organising themselves and their work
  • sequencing
  • laterality (knowing left from right)
  • following multiple instructions.

Pupils may also have poor posture and limited body awareness, moving awkwardly and seeming clumsy; this can be especially noticeable after a growth spurt. They may also tire more easily than other children.

Teachers and TAs can help by being sensitive to a pupil’s limitations and considering how to provide the best chances of success. In PE, for example, positioning can make a big difference. In the classroom, it is often writing that presents the most obvious problems, so think about:

  • the pupil’s sitting position: both feet on the floor, table and chair height appropriate, sloping writing surface may help
  • anchoring the paper or book to the table to avoid slipping, providing a ‘cushion’ (an old magazine, used paper stapled together) to write on
  • the writing implement – the grip (try different sizes of pen and pencil and various types of grips available from LDA); avoid the use of a hard-tipped pencil or pen
  • providing opportunities for practising handwriting patterns and letter formation
  • providing guide-lines to keep writing straight
  • limiting the amount of writing required by providing ready-printed sheets or alternative means of recording
  • using overlays and Clicker grids
  • teaching keyboard skills and providing alternative keyboards.

Parents and pupils
A child who is dyspraxic, clumsy, unable to balance, run, cycle or manipulate small fastenings may have a poor sense of balance (vestibular sense). This lack of coordination can arise when a child’s innate need for movement (on all three planes) is not met. The child who spends his day in a car seat or stroller and misses out on the traditional ‘rough and tumble’ of childhood may not integrate the multi-sensory perceptions necessary for the development of coordinated movements. Good short-term memory, attention, concentration and reading and writing skills may also be adversely affected. It’s important that we help parents (and parents-to-be) to understand about the need for babies and toddlers to experience a range of movements – swinging and rocking backwards and forwards, side-to-side, up and down, circular and diagonal movements. They need to know about a variety of activity songs, games and rhymes which promote these movements.

When a child starts school, difficulties may arise which were not particularly noticeable at home, so you can support parents with a checklist of steps they can take to help. For example:

  • buy shoes with Velcro, not laces or buckles
  • choose loose clothing with large buttons and buttonholes; stretchy, easy-fit socks; t-shirts and sweatshirts with generous openings for pulling on and off over the head
  • provide clothes with a definite front and back
  • practise dressing and using fastenings at home
  • play with sorting games and jigsaws
  • play ball games (rolling to start with, progressing to throwing and catching over small distance with large ball,etc.)
  • talk about directions and positions: right and left, in front of and behind – play a game with a toy (‘put Teddy behind the chair, under the table’ etc.)
  • provide colouring pens, pencils, crayons and encourage them to draw, colour in and write.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in November 2008

About the author: Linda Evans is the author of SENCO Week. She was a teacher/SENCO/adviser/inspector, before joining the publishing world. She now works as a freelance writer, editor and part-time college tutor.