Dyspraxia is a problem with coordination and movement that can also affect the way a
child learns in school. It is more common in boys than in girls and it may involve
clumsiness, problems in organising work and following instructions, and language
difficulties. This sheet looks at some of the symptoms and discusses ways you can help
your child to overcome his problems. (You will see that we have used 'he' for children and
'she' for adults - this is just to make it easier to read.)
What causes dyspraxia?
No-one is sure. It is probably the result of certain parts of the brain not
developing properly. It can affect up to six out of 10 people and is much more common in
boys. It is not linked to ability. Many dyspraxics are very bright although they appear
Your child might be dyspraxic if he has difficulties with
- speech and language
- following instructions
- organising himself
- coping with school life
- learning to read and write.
Recognising dyspraxia in a child
A pre-school child with dyspraxia might
- be late to roll over, sit, walk and talk
- have difficulties with feeding
- be unable to run or hop
- have difficulty getting dressed/undressed
- hold a pencil awkwardly
- find jigsaws or sorting games hard
- have difficulty drawing
- misunderstand words such as 'in', 'on', 'behind' and 'in-front of'
- be unable to catch or kick a ball
- lose interest easily
- not know how to behave in company
- find it difficult to keep friends.
A dyspraxic child at school might
- be unable to speak clearly
- write slowly and awkwardly
- have difficulty following or remembering instructions
- have trouble with reading and maths
- have difficulty copying from the board
- find PE lessons very difficult
- have great difficulty organising himself
- have a short concentration span.
Some dyspraxic children only have some of
the problems described, but others have all of them.
Robert is eight. Although he is bright, he is behind with his reading and writing at
school. He can't write clearly or quickly. He has difficulty getting changed for PE, can't
run without falling over and can't catch a ball. In class, he is always fidgeting and
dropping things. He finds it difficult to concentrate and needs lots of reminders about
what to do next. He has problems making and keeping friends and is often told off for
Help at school
If your child's teacher thinks your child is dyspraxic, she will probably ask for
advice from the school's special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) and maybe from an
She might draw up an individual education plan (IEP) for your child with targets for
him to achieve. Your child's teacher might
- make sure that he is sitting near to her so that she can help him more often
- give him clear and simple instructions and make sure that he understands what to do
- break his work down into smaller more manageable tasks
- help him to remember instructions
- work towards longer periods of concentration
- sit him away from any possible distractions, such as class pets or the computer
- allow him extra time when getting changed for PE lessons
- give him a desk tidy or pencil pot to stop him from fiddling with or dropping his
- encourage a positive and sympathetic attitude from the other children in the class by
explaining his difficulties to his classmates
- ensure the rest of the school staff understand his difficulties.
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 his school and the therapists isn't enough, your child might
be formally assessed. Reports will be written by his teachers, an educational pyschologist
and anyone else who has been working with him.
You will also be asked about how your child is at home.
This can all lead to the local education authority drawing up something called a
Statement of Special Educational Needs.
This Statement will describe your child's difficulties and what will be done to help
him. He might, for instance, be given a non-teaching assistant to work with him for part
of the time at school.
Robert was recently diagnosed as dyspraxic. He now has a Statement of Special
Educational Needs and extra help from a non-teaching assistant. Every morning, Robert goes
out of class to practise his exercises with her. He enjoys these activities which include
walking between two lines, standing on one leg with his eyes closed and hopping. Sometimes
he runs or walks through hoops on the floor - this helps his sense of direction and
coordination. Robert is beginning to enjoy his PE lessons now. In class, his handwriting
is improving and he can concentrate for longer periods. The other children understand his
problems and help him.
How you can help at home
- Encourage your child to organise himself when getting dressed or undressed (for
example, 'the last item you take off is the first one that you put back on').
- Have a pinboard with notes to remind him what has to be done and in what order.
- Keep tasks short - if he can only concentrate for five minutes, stop after five
minutes and come back to it later.
- Make sure there are no distractions (for example his favourite TV programme or the
dog playing nearby) when he is trying to do any homework.
- Give him lots of praise and encouragement.
If you think your child might be dyspraxic, talk about it with his teacher and with
your family doctor. They will be able to tell you whether they also have concerns. You can
get advice from the Dyspraxia Foundation, a charity which supports children and their
families. You can contact the Foundation at 8 West Alley, Hitchin, Herts SG5 1EG, England,
Tel: 0044 1462 454986.
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