Dyspraxia - Advice For Parents
Dyspraxia or Development Co-ordination Disorder
If you are concerned that your child has dyspraxia, talk to your GP. He or she might be able to give advice or suggest a referral to a pediatrician, local child development unit or hospital. Further assessments may provide a diagnosis and determine whether a programme of intervention is necessary.
You may wish to discuss your child’s difficulties with his or her teachers. The school’s special needs co-ordinator (SENCo) can be a useful contact with whom you can share your concerns.
Behaviour which might suggest dyspraxia:
In pre-school children:
- Late in reaching milestones such as standing, walking, and speaking.
- Poor gross motor skills: difficulties running, hopping, jumping, throwing and catching. Appears less able than their peers.
- Moves awkwardly, often bumps into things, flaps arms.
- Poor at dressing, messy eater.
- Poor fine motor skills: pencil grip, drawing, construction play
- Has difficulty in keeping friends; or judging how to behave in company
In school age children:
- Has many of the difficulties experienced by the pre-school child with dyspraxia. The gap between the child and his peers becomes wider.
- Has difficulties with the daily routine of school.
- Has some speech and/or language difficulties.
- Has poor attention span and struggles with noisy classrooms.
- Writes immaturely and struggles to copy text and drawings.
- Unable to remember and /or follow instructions.
- Is generally poorly organized.
- Dislikes PE.
- Appears more emotional and anxious than other children.
What parents can do to help their child
- Find out more about the condition of dyspraxia.
- Talk to other parents of children with dyspraxia
- Ask for help; there may be a Local Dyspraxia Support Group.
- Encourage your child to come and talk to you when things are going badly.
- Talk to your child’s teachers.
- Help your child to play.
Children with dyspraxia often struggle with playing. They don’t know how to play, who to play with and what to play. Parents can help a great deal by engaging in different types of play with their child.
Suggestions for physical play:
Ball games: work up towards using balls of different sizes, weights and textures but generally start with soft, slow moving and easy-to-catch large balls. If your child really struggles to catch – try pushing a Puffa or Koosh ball off the edge of a table for him to catch. As a progression ask your child to toss the ball directly upwards into the air then catch it. Next, position yourself a short distance away from your child, then throw and catch the ball to each other. Gradually increase the distance between you both to encourage slightly harder throwing / catching. As confidence grows change the type of ball used. Try throws slightly to the left or right of target so that your child has to move to catch the ball.
Encourage your child to use a bean-bag or soft ball to throw towards a target. Aim to get the ball into the waste paper bin or hoop. Aim at teddy. Knock over skittles or plastic bottles. Use one hand then the other.
Try using short handled bats to direct the ball towards a target.
Hand-eye coordination can be further developed using oversized bats and bats with a ball attached by elastic. Using the latter saves your child from the frustration of having to constantly retrieve the ball. It is possible to buy big plastic rackets to practise tossing and hitting a soft ball. Whatever game is played the important thing to remember is that your child needs to feel successful and find the experience enjoyable.
Eye/Foot Co-ordination is often an area which needs to be developed in children with dyspraxia.
Ask your child to try walking on lines or between parallel lines on the floor with a heel-to-toe action (the toes of the back foot almost touching the heels of the front foot). Initially your child may wobble and use a lot of arm actions. Gradually, over a period of time encourage him to eliminate all unnecessary movements. Next ask your child to repeat the exercise above but taking sideways steps.
To further develop eye/foot co-ordination encourage ball kicking towards a target, and to another person.
Balance is often poor in children with dyspraxia and can lead to poor posture whilst sitting and standing.
To improve balance ask your child to balance on each foot separately. Allow support initially using the wall or the back or a chair.
As above but using a variety of surfaces: cushion, yoga mat, sand.
Wobble-boards, trampolines and bouncy castles are all valuable in helping to improve balance.