What is Dyspraxia ?

Dyspraxia is a neurologically based disorder of the process of ideation, motor planning, and execution, which may affect any or all areas of development. It is inconsistent, and affects each person in different ways, at different stages of development, and to different degrees. Dyspraxia can be acquired through damage to the brain by accident, stroke, or illness, or it can occur from an early age, thus impairing development, and from no obvious cause. It is a hidden handicap as, under normal circumstances, children with Dyspraxia may appear no different from their peers. Diagnosis can only be made by an appropriate professional.

The human brain is made up of lots of connections that are like power lines. These also connect with your body.When you have dyspraxia some of these connections are not working properly.This means your body can find it difficult to do what your brain tells it to.
In order to make your body do what your brain is telling it to, you may have to practice doing things a lot.

This is why you may find it difficult to:

  • learn new things
  • concentrate
  • handwrite
  • speak clearly
  • speak your ideas
  • get dressed
  • think fast
  • play sports
  • organise ideas

Having dyspraxia does not mean that you are not intelligent. A lot of people who have dyspraxia are very intelligent.It just means it may take you longer to learn how to do things and to remember how to do things you have already learned.

Interesting Facts About Dyspraxia

It affects everybody with Dyspraxia in different ways.
It affects more boys than girls.
Dyspraxia can occur through no obvious cause and can affect anybody.
You do not grow out of dyspraxia if you have it as a child you will have it throughout your life.
Dyspraxia is a hidden handicap. This means that you look like everybody else however you may find it harder to do things than other people can.

For Teachers.

Developmental Dyspraxia is a neurologically based impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. Associated with this may be problems of language, perception and thought. Affected children have a normal intelligence for their age but may have difficulty in both processing information and in communicating what they know or understand. It affects each child differently, therefore each child's difficulties are unique to him/her.

Problems may show in:

  • Poor writing and drawing abilities.
  • Fine and/or gross motor skills- dislikes games, Physical Education, ball activities and playing outside.
  • Messy eating and drinking.
  • Slow or poor at dressing.
  • Slow learning e.g. to ride a bike.
  • Very distractible.
  • Falls and bumps into things a lot -- bruises on legs.
  • May be disruptive in the classroom.
  • Difficulty standing on one leg, hopping or jumping.
  • Difficulty copying text from book or blackboard.
  • Sequencing, affecting most areas of development.
  • Thought; with a normal intelligence, these children may have difficulty in planning and organising thoughts.
  • Language skills, word recall, communication difficulties. Language may be impaired or slow to develop.
  • Following instructions.
  • Social skills.
  • Emotional immaturity.

What will help ?

Reading relevant material will help you gain a deeper understanding -- many of the difficulties you encounter with the individual child can be directly accounted for by relating it to the information. With this understanding you can work out the most appropriate approach to teaching the child.

  • A difficulty of recalling stored information is a difficulty of process, not of memory nor of laziness. He would if he could, but he -- sometimes -- can't and learning takes 20 times the normal effort.
  • Information learned may not be reliably recalled -- for neurological reasons.
  • Instructions may need to be broken down and simplified. Impaired sequence can affect every area of development -- spelling, writing, maths, gross and fine motor skills, following instructions, rules to games.
  • Patience and a multi-sensory approach will help.
  • Try gently repeating or leading the memory until previous learning can be recalled. A rhythmical, phonological approach to reading, writing, maths, etc., helps.
  • Self-esteem is constantly at risk.
  • Brain Gym exercises, sensory-motor exercises, and mind-mapping may all help.
  • Try to ensure that expectations are communicated to the child clearly and concisely and are understood. You may need to tactfully lower your expectations, e.g. give the child less homework, enabling him to succeed.
  • Try to give the child a predictable routine, firm guidelines. Sudden changes in routines can cause major problems for the child with Dyspraxia
  • Explain the limits simply, ensure that they are constant and that the child has understood, and be prepared to repeat yourself calmly
  • Simplify choices, and don't offer them if you do not intend to give them.
  • Inappropriate behaviour is often out of the child's control. It needs to be stopped briefly and with understanding.
  • Prepare the child with warnings of 'Time to stop in five minutes', etc. He needs clear plans of action.
  • If the child is engaged in an activity to which he has been directed, make sure he really does know what to do, how and in what sequence. He may need extra or more time at an activity in order to finish it.
  • The child may have great difficulty in waiting for adult attention. This is because his processes are in full flight; if he waits too long, the learning moment may be gone.
  • Are there too many distractions? The child with Dyspraxia may be very distractable, so a simplified environment may help. If he sits at the front of the class/mat there will be less visual distractions.
  • If you find something you don't understand, consulting the child's parents or therapist may help.

Remember -- he would if he could, but he sometimes can't.  He is not lazy, he just sometimes loses his praxis or plan!

What the teacher can do:

  • Make allowances, lower expectations in spite of child seeming bright enough.
  • Allow more time.
  • Adjust quantity of work.
  • Give gentle reminders.
  • Good teaching practices win every time.
  • Listen to parent, who knows this child better than anyone ever will.
  • Break tasks down into more manageable parts - simplify!
  • Don't assume the child has understood.
  • Give single instructions rather than a string because ...
If you treat the child the same as the others, his failure rate will be immeasurably higher than it needs to be. He knows that he is not the same; a higher failure rate means a very much lower self esteem.

The Dyspraxia Support Group of N.Z. (Inc.),
P.O.Box 20292,
Christchurch, New Zealand

Phone 03 3597072

email dyspraxia.centre@xtra.co.nz