Dyspraxia Awareness

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Key pointers to an understanding of this little known condition

What exactly is dyspraxia and how does it affect teenagers?
Dyspraxia, sometimes called developmental co-ordination disorder, is surprisingly common, with up to six per cent of the population being affected. Yet it is a hidden condition which is still poorly understood. Dyspraxia is an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. This can affect small and large muscle movements and generally results in a lack of body co-ordination and awareness of the body in space. This can lead to lots of accidents which, in turn, can cause feelings of failure and low self-esteem. Teenagers with dyspraxia can easily become targets for bullying because of their slowness and clumsiness.

School can present serious issues for teenagers with Dyspraxia who may struggle with concentration, physical and sporting skills, handwriting, handling equipment, organisation, homework, social skills, lunch and break times and personal presentation.

What does research show about teaching and learning for teenagers with dyspraxia?
While more research is needed, what evidence there is suggests that teachers who see the inclusion of pupils with dyspraxia as part of their role are more likely to have effective, on-task interactions and appreciate the need for sufficient planning, preparation and collaboration in the development of curriculum activities.

Peer group interactive approaches can be effective, as can “communities of practice” involving   teaching staff, teacher educators and academics. Teachers are more likely to be effective if they use language, rather than report writing, to draw out pupils’ understandings and encourage further questioning.

Meeting the needs of pupils with dyspraxia presents a demanding brief for an unsupported classroom teacher. A school ethos and support structures which allow teachers to reflect on and develop their practice are essential, as are opportunities to explore pedagogic approaches and dyspraxia-specific knowledge.

What are the implications for teaching teenagers with dyspraxia?
Teachers must:

  • embrace their central responsibility for pupils with dyspraxia
  • engage with others in the pupils’ teaching community
  • see other adults within the school community as both teachers and learners about dyspraxia
  • develop a shared class philosophy of respect for everyone in the class
  • recognise that student participation and interaction is how student knowledge is developed
  • plan group work carefully, delineating the roles of group members
  • explore pupils’ understandings, encouraging questioning and the making sure that pupils build securely on what they already know and can do
  • work on basic and independence skills in an holistic way
  • draw on pupils own skills, knowledge and understanding as resources for learning
  • use purposeful activities which pupils find meaningful
  • use hands-on activities frequently
  • offer diverse ways to engage with concepts and with others’ understandings of those concepts.

(Adapted from Rix, J et al. Journal Compilation, Support for Learning Vol. 24, NASEN 2009.)

Dyspraxia Awareness Week, 10 – 17 October 2009
Dyspraxia Awareness Week is an annual event which aims to place Dyspraxia centre-stage and encourage good teaching and learning practice. This year, the Dyspraxia Foundation is conducting a teens and young adults survey, and all young people with dyspraxia are invited to take part. Results of the survey will be released during Dyspraxia Awareness Week, and the information will be used to prepare action plans to address the issues identified. The closing date for submissions is Friday 11 September 2009 and the survey can be accessed on the Dyspraxia Foundation website (see below).

Further information
Wendy Barbara Fidler is an independent education consultant specialising in education law, education negligence and special needs and disabilities. Wendy also chairs the Dyspraxia Foundation’s Education Panel. www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk
Helpline: 01462 454986 (Monday – Friday, 10.00am – 2.00pm)

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