In many ways dyspraxia and dyslexia overlap and often co-exist in the same person. Dyspraxia is an impairment of the organisation of movement that is often accompanied by problems with language, perception and thought. Dyslexia is primarily a difficulty with learning to read, write and spell and is also generally accompanied by other problems such as poor organisational abilities. The pattern of difficulties in dyspraxia (or Developmental Co-ordination Disorder) may vary widely from person to person as with dyslexia.
A dyspraxic student may have difficulties with:-
Planning their movements and being aware of the space around them: They frequently bump into and trip over things. They may have a clumsy posture and poor muscle tone.
Perception: They find it difficult to judge heights and distances: making them appear to be more clumsy.
Co-ordinating different parts of the body: They may find it hard to catch, throw and balance as well as moving the different parts of their body without looking. Sport and dancing can cause acute problems.
Laterality: It may be difficult to work out right from left without a reminder.
Manual and practical work: They may find it difficult to handle keyboards, tools, cars, bandages, laboratory and cooking equipment etc. safely and easily and tend to knock over and spill things often.
Hand-writing: They tend to write laboriously slowly and/or untidily and illegibly. Accurate copying can be difficult.
Language: They may find it difficult to pronounce some words and some may stutter.
Concentration: They may take a long time to complete a task and find it difficult to do more than one thing at a time.
Short term memory and sequencing tasks: They may find it hard to make sense of information when listening or reading instructions, taking notes from books and lecturers, and dealing with maps and charts. They may keep forgetting and losing things as well as finding it difficult to spell.
Organisation and thought: They may operate in a muddled way, having little sense of direction, time or weight. They may constantly miss appointments and hand in assignments late because they find it difficult to organise themselves and their work. They may find it difficult to express themselves easily.
Response to external stimulation: They may be over or under sensitive to noise, touch, light and taste.
All of the difficulties mentioned above can lead to Emotional Problems, making them easily depressed, angry, frustrated and anxious. Many dyspraxic students have low self-esteem. They can find it difficult to relate to others especially in groups and read social cues correctly. These difficulties will become more apparent in times of stress such as during and before exams and when embarking on a new project. They also tend to be erratic have ‘good and bad days’ in normal circumstances. Strategies that can be adopted by the college.
- Special guidance with regard to both their capability of successfully completing the course of study and the suitability of a particular course to lead to further study and employment should be provided.
- Formal tuition in the planning and organisation of work, both practical and academic. Give examples of essays, reports and projects. Break down processes to steps with an opportunity for feedback to check understanding.
- Strategies to compensate for poor memory and organisational skills, e.g. the use of mnemonics, work timetables, flow charts and mind maps, hand-outs, word processors.
- Training in relaxation techniques, assertiveness and confidence building.
- Strategies should be in place to see that students can handle cooking and laboratory equipment safely. Items that can be secured should be – in order to stop spillage and breakage.
They should be entitled to extra time for their course work and exams and have access to either a word processor or somebody to take their notes and write for them if necessary. If the student needs to apply for these concessions, they should seek a cognitive assessment from a clinical or educational psychologist.
Dyspraxic students in higher education can also claim a Disabled Students Allowance – a lump sum which the student can pay for equipment or services e.g. to buy a tape recorder and/or for photocopying.
Further Reading Living with Dyspraxia , A guide for adults with Developmental Dyspraxia by Mary Colley and the Dyspraxia Foundation Adult Support Group, 2000
Further information available from:
SKILL (National Bureau for Students with Disabilities) Tel: 0800 3285050
Adult Dyspraxia Helpline (can refer you to your local adult contact)
Tel: 0207 435 7891
Adult computer list – firstname.lastname@example.org