Childhood dyspraxia explained
The Dyspraxia Foundation says the condition “is generally recognised as an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement.” A child's coordination skills are affected and learning in school can prove more of a challenge.
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Dyspraxia is thought to affect up to six out of 10 people and tends to be more common in boys than girls. Children with dyspraxia often have difficulties with the following:
- Speech and language
- Following instructions
- Organising themselves
- Coping with school life
Recognising dyspraxia in children
A pre-school child with dyspraxia might:
- be late to roll over, sit, walk and talk
- be unable to run or hop
- find jigsaws or sorting games hard
- misunderstand words such as ‘in', ‘on', ‘behind' and ‘in front of'
- lose interest easily
A child of school age with dyspraxia might:
- be unable to speak clearly
- have trouble with reading and maths
- have difficulty copying from the board
- find PE lessons very difficult
- have great difficulty organising themself
- have a short concentration span.
Help at school
If your child's teacher thinks your child is dyspraxic, they will probably ask for advice from the school's special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) and maybe also consult an educational psychologist. A class teacher might draw up a SEN support plan for your child with targets for them. They might also:
- make sure that your child is sitting near to them so that they can give help more often
- break your child's work down into smaller, more manageable tasks
- sit your child away from any possible distractions, such as class pets or the computer
- allow your child extra time when getting changed for PE lessons
Your child might be helped by an occupational therapist or a speech and language therapist, probably at a local clinic.
If the help provided by your child's school and the therapists isn't enough, your child might be formally assessed. Reports will be written by your child's teachers, an educational psychologist and anyone else who has been working with them. You will also be asked about what your child is like at home. This can lead to the Local Education Authority drawing up an Educational, Health and Care (EHC) Needs Plan.
This EHC Plan will describe your child's difficulties and what will be done to help them. Your child might, for instance, be given a non-teaching assistant to work with them for part of the time at school.
How you can help your dyspraxic child at home
- Encourage your child to organise themself when getting dressed or undressed.
- Keep tasks short - if your child can only concentrate for five minutes, stop after that time and come back to the job later.
- Make sure there are no distractions when your child is trying to do any homework.
- Give your child lots of praise and encouragement.
You can get advice from the Dyspraxia Foundation, a charity which supports children and their families. Visit www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk for more information.