New survey looks at whether opinions have changed over the past 6 years

Thousands of children and adults living with the condition – dyspraxia – are still facing a future of being misunderstood and unfairly labelled, according to the results of a new survey, launched today (Monday 14 October, Dyspraxia Awareness Week).

Whilst general understanding has improved since the same poll was first run in 2007 by the charity, the Dyspraxia Foundation [when three quarters (74%) of people admitted that they thought behavioural, social and learning problems were simply an excuse for naughty or disruptive children], 6 years on that figure had fallen to just 70%.

Awareness has also slightly improved with over half (51%) saying they had heard of dyspraxia (compared to just under half, 49%, in 2007).

This level of awareness was lower still among men, with just 40% admitting they had heard of the condition (a fall of 2% since 2007). However, encouragingly awareness rose to 62% (almost two thirds) among women who were questioned in the survey.

Once often referred to as ‘clumsy child’ syndrome, dyspraxia, a form of developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination, in both children and adults.

While DCD is often regarded as an umbrella term to cover motor coordination difficulties, dyspraxia refers to those people who have additional problems planning, organising and carrying out movements in the right order in everyday situations. Dyspraxia can also affect articulation and speech, perception and thought.*

Dyspraxia affects around 5% of the population (2%, severely) and males are up to three times more likely to be affected than females. Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families – and there are believed to be one to two children affected in every class of 30 children.

*Dyspraxia Foundation, 2013

Chartered Physiotherapist and Chair of the Dyspraxia Foundation, Michele Lee, says; “Whilst there are some encouraging signs in terms of our messages penetrating the public’s perception of dyspraxia what this survey highlights is that there is still much work to be done in educating parents, teachers and employers about the difficulties faced by people living with the condition.

“All too often we hear anecdotal reports of young people with dyspraxia struggling at school – in the playground as well as in the classroom. Further or higher education presents additional problems, which frequently prevent teenagers and young adults completing courses or training programmes. And, from the many calls and inquiries we receive at the Dyspraxia Foundation, there is little doubt that a serious lack of understanding of the condition leading, in some cases, to a prejudice towards those affected, can have a serious impact on an individual’s employment prospects.

She adds; “As an organisation, representing the voice of the dyspraxic people, we feel we have a duty to redress this balance and challenge the myths and misunderstandings that surround the condition.”

This year the charity is focussing on raising awareness of dyspraxia for 5 – 11 year olds and has added a new leaflet to its range of useful factsheets ‘Dyspraxia: Early Years Guidelines‘.

As part of the campaign, the Dyspraxia Foundation – the only national charity in the UK dedicated to raising awareness of dyspraxia and championing the needs of people living with the condition – has also produced new, practical materials to help employees recognise and understand the condition and take steps to ensure that appropriate support is provided in the workplace.

The charity – thanks to a £166,265 grant from the Big Lottery Fund – has also been able to re-launch its helpline (which was forced to temporarily close in 2011 due to lack of funding) and employ an information officer.

Another aim of this significant funding will be to help reduce educational exclusion and increase the employability of people with the condition. A series of workshops will take place in Manchester and Birmingham and will be run in association with local disability groups. The workshops will be filmed and highlights will be made available online to widen the reach of the project.

India Carmody, a teenager who is affected by dyspraxia, says; “I know there’s still no cure for dyspraxia but it doesn’t have to limit your horizons! With my family and friends I have worked out some simple coping techniques which do make things easier.

“Now people are more aware of dyspraxia I hope that teachers and future employers will understand that that people like me are not being deliberately difficult, stupid or clumsy – we’re just a bit different and we need to tackle the tasks that others take for granted in a slightly different way.”