Dyspraxia

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Introduction

  1. The word “dyspraxia” comes from the Greek words dys meaning bad and praxis, meaning action or deed. Dyspraxia is also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).
  2. It has been described as a “difficulty getting our bodies to do what we want when we want them to do it”, a difficulty that can be considered significant when it interferes with the normal range of activities expected of a child of their age. Dyspraxia can adversely affect speech and language, fine motor control and gross motor coordination.
  3. Students with an official diagnosis of dyspraxia qualify for extra time in public examinations.

Symptoms

Gross Motor Control

  1. Poor balance. Difficulty in riding a bicycle, going up and down hills
  2. Poor posture and fatigue.
  3. Difficulty in standing for a long time as a result of weak muscle tone.
  4. Floppy, unstable round the joints.
  5. Some people with dyspraxia may have flat feet
  6. Poor integration of the two sides of the body.
  7. Difficulty with some sports involving jumping and cycling
  8. Poor hand-eye co-ordination.
  9. Difficulty with team sports especially those which involve catching a ball and batting.
  10. Difficulties with driving a car
  11. Lack of rhythm when dancing, doing aerobics
  12. Clumsy gait and movement. Difficulty changing direction, stopping and starting actions
  13. Exaggerated 'accessory movements' such as flapping arms when running
  14. Tendency to fall, trip, bump into things and people

Fine Motor Control

  1. Lack of manual dexterity.
  2. Poor at two-handed tasks, causing problems with using cutlery, cleaning, cooking, ironing, craft work, playing musical instruments
  3. Poor manipulative skills. Difficulty with typing, handwriting and drawing. May have a poor pen grip, press too hard when writing and have difficulty when writing along a line
  4. Inadequate grasp. Difficulty using tools and domestic implements, locks and keys
  5. Difficulty with dressing and grooming activities, such as putting on makeup, shaving, doing hair, fastening clothes and tying shoelaces
  6. In the context of a school, the student may encounter difficulties...
    1. with playground activities such as hopping, jumping, running, and catching or kicking a ball – they often avoid joining in because of their lack of co-ordination and may find physical education difficult
    2. walking up and down stairs
    3. writing, drawing and using scissors – their handwriting and drawings may appear scribbled and more childish than other children their age
    4. getting dressed, doing up buttons and tying shoelaces
    5. keeping still – they may swing or move their arms and legs a lot
    6. A child with DCD may appear awkward and clumsy as they may bump into objects, drop things and fall over a lot.

Speech and Language

  1. May talk continuously and repeat themselves. Some people with dyspraxia have difficulty with organising the content and sequence of their language
  2. May have unclear speech and be unable to pronounce some words
  3. Speech may have uncontrolled pitch, volume and rate

Eye movements

  1. Tracking. Difficulty in following a moving object smoothly with eyes without moving head excessively.
  2. Tendency to lose the place while reading
  3. Poor relocating.
  4. Cannot look quickly and effectively from one object to another (for example, looking from a TV to a magazine)

Perception (interpretation of the different senses)

  1. Poor visual perception
  2. Over-sensitive to light
  3. Difficulty in distinguishing sounds from background noise. Tendency to be over-sensitive to noise
  4. Over- or under-sensitive to touch. Can result in dislike of being touched and/or aversion to over-loose or tight clothing - tactile defensiveness
  5. Over- or under-sensitive to smell and taste, temperature and pain
  6. Lack of awareness of body position in space and spatial relationships. Can result in bumping into and tripping over things and people, dropping and spilling things
  7. Little sense of time, speed, distance or weight. Leading to difficulties driving, cooking
  8. Inadequate sense of direction. Difficulty distinguishing right from left means map reading skills are poor

Learning, thought and memory

  1. Difficulty in planning and organising thought
  2. Poor memory, especially short-term memory. May forget and lose things
  3. Unfocused and erratic. Can be messy and cluttered
  4. Poor sequencing causes problems with maths, reading and spelling and writing reports at work
  5. Accuracy problems. Difficulty with copying sounds, writing, movements, proofreading
  6. Difficulty in following instructions, especially more than one at a time
  7. Difficulty with concentration. May be easily distracted
  8. May do only one thing at a time properly, though may try to do many things at once
  9. Slow to finish a task. May daydream and wander about aimlessly

Emotion and behaviour

  1. Difficulty in listening to people, especially in large groups. Can be tactless, interrupt frequently. Problems with team work
  2. Difficulty in picking up non-verbal signals or in judging tone or pitch of voice in themselves and or others. Tendency to take things literally. May listen but not understand
  3. Slow to adapt to new or unpredictable situations. Sometimes avoids them altogether
  4. Impulsive. Tendency to be easily frustrated, wanting immediate gratification
  5. Tendency to be erratic ñ have 'good and bad days'
  6. Tendency to opt out of things that are too difficult

Emotions as a result of difficulties experienced

  1. Tend to get stressed, depressed and anxious easily
  2. May have difficulty sleeping
  3. Prone to low self-esteem, emotional outbursts, phobias, fears, obsessions, compulsions and addictive behaviour

Classroom Strategies

General Strategies

  1. Give the student as much encouragement as possible.
  2. Be aware that protracted handwritten work may cause frustration.
  3. Allow extra time to complete tasks.
  4. Do not provide too many verbal or visual instructions at once.
  5. Give step by step instructions and check they are understood.
  6. If necessary, place simple written instructions on the student’s desk.
  7. Sit the student near the board.
  8. Use checklists and story planners.
  9. Allow access to computer technology.
  10. Use lined paper with margins.
  11. In Mathematics, use squared paper.
  12. In Physical Education, a new skill may have to be fully demonstrated before the student can perform the task.

Strategies to support handwriting

  1. Position of whole body: Needs to be in a stable position for writing with feet on the ground. The writing surface should allow elbows to be supported sitting squarely at the table.
  2. Position of arm: Arms must be able to move freely (the use of a hand is dependent on the stability and movement of an arm).
  3. Ensure that the student’s pen and pencil grip is comfortable.
  4. Position of hand: A tripod grip is the most efficient way of holding a pencil, with thumb and first finger holding the pencil and the middle finger behind, supporting the pencil.
  5. Experimenting with different types of paper and writing instruments will allow the student to experience different ‘feel’. It is easier to write on a softer surface such as layers of paper rather than directly on a desk or table. Lined paper will help someone who is having difficulty in keeping their writing level. Squared paper may assist a student who is having difficulty in spacing their words and letters.
  6. It may help to use a writing slope. An A4 folder would be a cheaper alternative. You can cut Dycem matting to fit your slope to stop paper moving around on folder.

Sources / Further Reading