Dyspraxia is a specific learning difficulty. Children with dyspraxia have problems with motor coordination and often appear clumsy when moving around the classroom. They have perceptual – motor problems and find writing difficult. They may also have pronunciation difficulties, caused by problems in controlling the movements of the mouth and the tongue. Developmental dyspraxia is suspected when it is obvious that the difficulties are not due to a medical condition. Approximately one child in 20 suffers from this condition, which affects 4 times as many boys as girls.
- Appear clumsy, bumping into people and objects.
- Have difficulty in judging distances and the position of objects in space, so find ball games particularly hard.
- Be unable to change speed and direction without overbalancing.
- Need to be watched carefully when climbing on playground equipment because they have no sense of danger.
- Appear to be uncoordinated, particularly when running, jumping, hopping or riding a bike.
- Be unsure of which hand to use and may change hands in the middle of an activity.
- Have immature use of pencils, crayons, scissors, puzzles and simple construction toys.
- Have difficulty in copying shapes and pictures.
- Have difficulty producing speech sounds and unable to communicate their ideas easily.
- Find it confusing if they are given too much verbal information at a time because they take longer to process it and rarely able to make immediate responses.
- Find it hard to sequence information and reproduce it verbally, which affects their ability to answer questions in the classroom.
- Find it difficult to adapt to a structured school routine.
- Have limited concentration and poor listening skills.
- Be easily upset and have temper tantrums – which annoys other children.
- Have poor social interactions and difficulty making friends.
- Be rough aggressive because they have difficulty controlling their movements.
- Encourage the child to participate in games and sports that are interesting to him/her and which provide practice in, and exposure to, motor activities. Physical activity and enjoyment should be emphasized rather than proficiency or competition.
- Try to introduce the child to new sports activities or a new playground on an individual basis, before he/she is required to manage the activity in a group. Try to review any rules and routines that are associated with the activity (e.g., baseball rules, soccer plays) at a time when the child is not concentrating on the motor aspects. Ask the child simple questions to ensure comprehension (e.g., “What do you do when you hit the ball?”).
- The child may exhibit a preference for, and perform better at, individual sports (e.g., swimming, running, bicycling, skiing) rather than team sports. If this is the case, then try to encourage the child to interact with peers through other activities that are likely to be successful (e.g. cubs, music, drama, or art).
- Encourage the child to wear clothing that is easy to get on and off. For example, sweat pants, sweat shirts, t-shirts, leggings, sweaters, and Velcro shoes. When possible, use Velcro closures instead of buttons, snaps or shoelaces. Teach the child how to manage difficult fasteners when you have more time and patience (e.g., on the weekend, or over the summer) rather than when you are pressured to get out the door.
- Encourage the child to participate in practical activities that will help improve his/her ability to plan and organize motor tasks. For example, setting the table, making lunch, or organizing a backpack. Ask questions that help the child focus on the sequence of steps (e.g., “What do you need to do first?”). Recognize that, if your child is becoming frustrated, it may be time to help or to give specific guidance and direction.
- Recognize and reinforce the child’s strengths. Many children with DCD demonstrate strong abilities in other areas – they may have advanced reading skills, a creative imagination, sensitivity to the needs of others, and/or strong oral communication skills.
Draw small circles in chalk as stepping-stones (alternatively pieces of string) Pretend they are stepping-stones and get your child to jump from one to another to get across the stream without falling in the water!
Listen to a lively piece of music and clap along to the rhythm to help listening and coordination skills. Alternatively play ‘Pass the Rhythm:’ get into a circle and person 1 claps a short pattern, person 2 copies, person 3 copies and so on round the circle (you could try using a tambourine, wooden blocks or any percussion instrument).
Write the days of the week on separate pieces of card from an old cereal packet. Muddle them up and get your child to put them in the right order. (Try numbers /letters of the alphabet / months of the year) You could also choose a sentence together from their school reading book. Write it out on a slip of paper, chop up the words and then ask them to put the sentence back together and read it out. Let them have ago at copying it too (older children could have a go at sequencing paragraphs).
Patterns and letters
Do some pencil and paper activities, to practice handwriting skills. Buy a cheap dot to dot or colouring book, draw patterns, trace pictures or make scrap books by cutting and sticking their favourite animal or football team. Practice alphabet letters by forming them in a tray of sand or drawing them with a finger on a sister or brother’s back. Can they guess the letter? Try giving them a washing up liquid bottle full of water to squirt letter shapes in the drive.
Play-dough has been a childhood favorite for decades. Not only is it downright fun, but handling play-dough also develops some important skills. Squeezing and stretching it helps strengthen finger muscles, and touching it is a valuable sensory experience.
Using finger paint can strengthen your child’s hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. All you need is an easel or a thick piece of paper, some finger paints and a space—like the yard or garage—where your child can get messy.
Squeeze out a sponge.
Set up two separate bowls, one filled with water and the other empty. Give your child a sponge and have them soak it in one bowl. Then have them squeeze the water out of the sponge into the other bowl. They can transfer water back and forth between bowls, . This simple game can strengthen hands and forearms. It’s especially fun if you throw in some bubbles or some food dye.
Make bathroom murals.
Show your child how to safely cut thin pieces of craft foam into whatever shapes they want. Then they can use them to create murals during bath.time. Simply wet them so they stick to the wall or to the side of the bath. It’s a fun way to improve cutting skills and manual dexterity.
Colour with broken crayons.
Difficulties with fine motor skills can make it tough to grip a pencil. Colouring with small, broken crayons encourages your child to hold the crayon correctly—between her thumb and forefinger. Pencils used on crazy-golf courses and small pieces of chalk work well, too. No matter what you use, this activity a fun way to challenge your child.
Play string games.
Another low-tech activity that can provide hours of fun is string games, like Cat’s Cradle. String games help improve finger strength and hand-eye coordination. All you need is some wool/string and a little time to teach your child.
Make macaroni necklaces.
Stringing together necklaces is a great way for your child to be creative while working on her hand-eye coordination and developing her ability to manipulate objects. To start, give her thick string and big beads or large pieces of dry pasta. Over time, she can work on more complex designs using smaller pieces.