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Inclusion Services

Developmental Co-ordination Disorder / Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is characterized by motor coordination difficulties that impact a child’s success in daily and academic life, recreation, and play (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Children with dyspraxia have challenges completing everyday activities such as tying laces, cutting with scissors, handwriting, skipping, throwing, and catching, despite being of average or above average intelligence.

Many children with dyspraxia will have co-occurring language-based and non-verbal learning difficulties, attention challenges, and/or difficulties with memory, planning, and organisation. Despite their difficulties, children with dyspraxia can be successfully managed in the education setting through critical changes to learning environments, and adaptations to learning tools to help them reach their full potential.

Reference: American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. 

How Dyspraxia Affects Learning

  • Children with dyspraxia appear clumsy and awkward in the school environment. They have difficulties controlling and maintaining their posture, impacting their ability to complete learning activities and tasks. As they fatigue easily, they may be observed sliding from their chairs or choosing to lie down when others are sitting during a large group activity such as reading/circle time.
  • Lacking awareness of their own body position in space and the position of objects around them, children with dyspraxia can trip on desk or chair legs or other obstacles in their path, and/or bump into other pupils while in a queue, which can cause them to appear disruptive. They may struggle to plan the movements needed to sit down on a chair, climb stairs, or learn to jump up and down. Determining appropriate force, and timing movements in a coordinated way, can be equally problematic for these children, resulting in spilled juice boxes at break time and withdrawal from participating with their peers in physical education lessons or in the playground.
  • The motor problems present in children with dyspraxia, particularly if not identified early, can lead to challenging classroom behaviours such as frequent disruptions of the class and/or interference with other pupils, avoidance of work, and attention-seeking behaviours.
  • For more information on how dyspraxia affects learning by specific phase
  • For general information on dyspraxia
  • Reference: American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from the authors: CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

DCD / Dyspraxia - Key Points

  • Dyspraxia occurs when poorly coordinated motor skills interfere with daily and academic functioning, and is observed on a continuum from mild to severe.
  • Children with dyspraxia are of average or above average intelligence. Motor skills are discrepant from other abilities.
  • Difficulties are seen when performing, but also learning new, age-appropriate motor skills.
  • Generalization of skills (catching a large ball to catching a small ball) and transfer of skills (stepping up a stair or stepping up a pavement) are challenging.
  • Children with dyspraxia are not lazy or ‘unmotivated’ – they work much harder than their peers and become exhausted due to the effort they expend. This persists even when they have practiced an activity many times, as they must continuously devote attention to tasks that never become automatic.
  • Currently there is no known cure for dyspraxia, and children do not ‘grow out of’ the condition. While they do not get worse over time, their challenges may become more apparent with increasing academic demands. They have to work harder and/or differently than their peers to achieve the same goals.
  • Despite their difficulties, pupils with dyspraxia can and do learn to perform some motor tasks quite well. They are most likely to be successful when changes are made to tasks, the environment, or others’ expectations of them.
  • Early identification, along with differentiated instructional approaches and modifications to learning activities and environments, are critical for effective long-term management.
  • Some pupils are affected by dyspraxia alone, while others have co-occurring learning, speech/language, and attention problems. Effective management will include educational strategies tailored to each child’s individual needs.
  • Focusing on children’s strengths will encourage them to stay positive, remain motivated, and persevere in the presence of challenges. This strengths-based approach will also help to diminish the impact of potential secondary consequences such as low self-worth and self-esteem and social isolation.
  • Trying out various strategies and observing how children with dyspraxia respond to those strategies can help to determine the most effective approaches to use.
  • As children with dyspraxia grow and develop, they will continue to experience difficulty when faced with the learning of new motor tasks, so it is critical that their abilities are matched to tasks and activities that will promote their success.
  • Information on dyspraxia
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from the authors: CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Dyspraxia in the Home

Signs of Dyspraxia in The Home

  • Clumsy or awkward – bumps into, spills, or knocks things over
  • Difficulty using a knife/fork, brushing teeth, doing up zips, buttoning clothing, tying shoelaces
  • Delayed tricycle/bicycle riding, difficulty cutting with scissors, catching a ball, hopping, skipping, swinging a bat, or handling a hockey stick
  • Difficulty learning new motor skills
  • Lacks interest in, avoids, or withdraws from motor-based activities
  • Fatigues easily; shows low frustration tolerance, decreased self-esteem, and a lack of motivation and may be resistant to changes in routine or environment
  • Information on signs you may see. To read more about parental questions about dyspraxia
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: 1) Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University. 2) Missiuna, C. (2003) Does your child have dyspraxia? Understanding developmental coordination disorder. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

 How to help at home

  • M.A.T.C.H. – Modify the task, Alter expectations, Teach strategies, Change the environment, Help by understanding
  • Encourage use of clothing that is easy to get on and off (t-shirts, leggings, jogging bottoms/shirts, jumpers, Velcro closures instead of buttons or shoelaces)
  • Teach how to manage fastenings when you have more time and patience (on the weekend, or over the summer holidays) rather than when you are pressured to get out of the door
  • Encourage participation in practical activities that will help to improve ability to plan/organize motor tasks (setting the table, making lunch, organising a backpack)
  • Ask questions that focus on the sequence of steps (“What do you need to do first?”); if frustrated, give specific guidance and direction
  • When teaching motor skills, ask simple questions to ensure comprehension (“What do you do when you hit the ball?”)
  • Information on how you can help. To learn specifically how to encourage your child to be more physically active
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: 1) Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University. 2) Rivard, L., & Missiuna, C. (2004). Encouraging participation in physical activities for children with developmental coordination disorder. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Dyspraxia and other difficulties

 Writing and Dyspraxia

  • Printing/handwriting difficulties are nearly always a challenge for pupils with dyspraxia
  • Pupils with dyspraxia are often slow or laboured when they print or write, and use a considerable amount of effort to produce written products
  • Their written product is often disorganized on the page and not legible, with many errors, frequent erasures and ripped pages due to too much pressure on their pen/pencil grip and on the page
  • They tend to rush through printed/written assignments, or avoid them altogether, frequently acting out
  • While their verbal language abilities may be strong, they do not produce written product that would reflect those abilities and this impacts their academic progression
  • For information on the use of a computer/keyboard to assist pupils with dyspraxia and for tips and strategies on how to help, including school accommodations
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: Pollock, N., & Missiuna, C. (2005). To write or to type – that is the question!, CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Self-Esteem

  • Choose physical activities that will ensure success for the child at least 50% of the time and reward effort, not skill
  • Give positive, encouraging feedback when children are first learning new skills to help them stay motivated
  • Make participation, not competition, the major goal. With fitness and skill-building activities, encourage children to compete with themselves, not others. Emphasize physical activity and enjoyment rather than proficiency or competition
  • Allow pupils to take on a leadership role in physical education activities (captain of the team, umpire) to promote self-esteem and encourage organizational or managerial skills
  • Encourage participation in games/sports that are interesting to the child and which provide practice in, and exposure to, motor activities
  • Help coaches, sports instructors, and community leaders understand dyspraxia strengths and challenges so they can support and encourage children to be successful
  • Encourage children to engage in activities that are non-motor based such as music, drama, clubs to promote social experiences and the benefits of social participation
  • Information on dyspraxia that can be shared with coaches and sports instructors. Information on dyspraxia that can be shared with community group leaders and instructors
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Dyspraxia - Strengths

  • Verbally adept
  • Advanced reading skills
  • Creative imagination/creativity – photography, lyrical writing, poetry
  • Sensitivity to the needs of others, empathy
  • Strong verbal communication skills
  • Persistence and determination
  • Extremely hard working
  • Good auditory skills, which may include ability to learn languages and music

How to Help in the Community

  • M.A.T.C.H. – Modify the task, Alter expectations, Teach strategies, Change the environment, Help by understanding
  • Use protective gear such as wrist guards and helmets with physical activities
  • Encourage lifestyle sports such as swimming, skating, and cycling to maintain or improve strength and overall endurance
  • Private lessons may be helpful at certain times to teach specific skills, especially as higher skill levels must be reached
  • Encourage participation in games/sports that are interesting to the child and which provide practice in, and exposure to, motor activities
  • Help coaches, sports instructors, and community leaders understand dyspraxia strengths and challenges so they can support and encourage children to be successful
  • Encourage children to engage in activities that are non-motor based such as music, drama, clubs to promote social experiences and the benefits of social participation
  • Information on dyspraxia that can be shared with coaches and sports instructors. Information on dyspraxia that can be shared with community group leaders and instructors
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Transition support

Dyspraxia - Parent Transition Support

Resources for Parents / Carers

Useful Websites

CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research:

Movement Matters UK Dyspraxia

National Health Service UK (Choices):

European Academy of Childhood Disability (EACD):

The Dyspraxia Foundation

Webinars

Dyspraxia Symptoms & Signs

Understanding DCD (Developmental Coordination Disorder)

Dyspraxia Stories 

I can - Siana's Story

I can - Jack's Story

 

ID: 7871, revised 14/10/2021