Signs of Dyspraxia in The Home

  • Clumsy or awkward – bumps into, spills, or knocks things over
  • Difficulty using a knife/fork, brushing teeth, doing up zips, buttoning clothing, tying shoelaces
  • Delayed tricycle/bicycle riding, difficulty cutting with scissors, catching a ball, hopping, skipping, swinging a bat, or handling a hockey stick
  • Difficulty learning new motor skills
  • Lacks interest in, avoids, or withdraws from motor-based activities
  • Fatigues easily; shows low frustration tolerance, decreased self-esteem, and a lack of motivation and may be resistant to changes in routine or environment
  • For more information on signs you may see, click here and here. To read more about parental questions about dyspraxia, click here. To access an online module for parents of children with dyspraxia, click here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: 1) Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University. 2) Missiuna, C. (2003) Does your child have dyspraxia? Understanding developmental coordination disorder. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

How to Help at Home

  • M.A.T.C.H. – Modify the task, Alter expectations, Teach strategies, Change the environment, Help by understanding
  • Encourage use of clothing that is easy to get on and off (t-shirts, leggings, jogging bottoms/shirts, jumpers, Velcro closures instead of buttons or shoelaces)
  • Teach how to manage fastenings when you have more time and patience (on the weekend, or over the summer holidays) rather than when you are pressured to get out of the door
  • Encourage participation in practical activities that will help to improve ability to plan/organize motor tasks (setting the table, making lunch, organising a backpack)
  • Ask questions that focus on the sequence of steps (“What do you need to do first?”); if frustrated, give specific guidance and direction
  • When teaching motor skills, ask simple questions to ensure comprehension (“What do you do when you hit the ball?”)
  • For more information on how you can help, click here. To learn specifically how to encourage your child to be more physically active, click here and here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: 1) Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University. 2) Rivard, L., & Missiuna, C. (2004). Encouraging participation in physical activities for children with developmental coordination disorder. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Signs of Dyspraxia in the Classroom

  • Motor abilities are discrepant from other abilities (intellectual, language skills strong but motor skills delayed)
  • Frequently erases written work and/or shows frustration with work product
  • Speed – accuracy ‘trade-off’ (handwriting may be very neat but extremely slow)
  • Difficulty with mathematics, spelling, or written language, which require handwriting to be accurate and organized on the page
  • Difficulty with handwriting
  • ‘Class clown’/acting out in class, avoidance behaviours
  • Poor organisation of desk, backpack, locker, homework, or even space on a page
  • May avoid socializing with peers, particularly on the playground
  • Seeks out younger children to play, plays on their own or follows school staff (due to decreased self-confidence or avoidance of physical activities)
  • For more information on signs you may observe, see the article ‘They’re Bright But Can’t Write’, found here and ‘Understanding teachers’ perceptions of the motor difficulties of children with developmental coordination disorder’, found here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Dyspraxia and Other Difficulties

  • Children with dyspraxia may have associated learning, speech/language, and attention problems
  • Withdrawal from activity is often seen (‘couch potato’), leading to poor physical fitness, strength, and endurance
  • Pupils with dyspraxia may become easily frustrated, and have low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Feelings of isolation from peers are not uncommon
  • For more information on related disorders, and how these might present in the classroom, see here. For tips on effective instructional PE approaches, and how to encourage physical activity participation in children with dyspraxia, click here and here. More information on associated social, emotional and behavioural difficulties is found here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from the authors: CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Writing and Dyspraxia

  • Printing/handwriting difficulties are nearly always a challenge for pupils with dyspraxia
  • Pupils with dyspraxia are often slow or laboured when they print or write, and use a considerable amount of effort to produce written products
  • Their written product is often disorganized on the page and not legible, with many errors, frequent erasures and ripped pages due to too much pressure on their pen/pencil grip and on the page
  • They tend to rush through printed/written assignments, or avoid them altogether, frequently acting out
  • While their verbal language abilities may be strong, they do not produce written product that would reflect those abilities and this impacts their academic progression
  • For information on the use of a computer/keyboard to assist pupils with dyspraxia and for tips and strategies on how to help, including school accommodations see here and here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: Pollock, N., & Missiuna, C. (2005). To write or to type – that is the question!, CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Self-Esteem

  • Choose physical activities that will ensure success for the child at least 50% of the time and reward effort, not skill
  • Give positive, encouraging feedback when children are first learning new skills to help them stay motivated
  • Make participation, not competition, the major goal. With fitness and skill-building activities, encourage children to compete with themselves, not others. Emphasize physical activity and enjoyment rather than proficiency or competition
  • Allow pupils to take on a leadership role in physical education activities (captain of the team, umpire) to promote self-esteem and encourage organizational or managerial skills
  • Encourage participation in games/sports that are interesting to the child and which provide practice in, and exposure to, motor activities
  • Help coaches, sports instructors, and community leaders understand dyspraxia strengths and challenges so they can support and encourage children to be successful
  • Encourage children to engage in activities that are non-motor based such as music, drama, clubs to promote social experiences and the benefits of social participation
  • For information on dyspraxia that can be shared with coaches and sports instructors, click here. For information on dyspraxia that can be shared with community group leaders and instructors, click here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Hoe to Help ay School

  • M.A.T.C.H. – Modify the task, Alter expectations, Teach strategies, Change the environment, Help by understanding
  • Ensure proper positioning for seatwork: feet flat on the floor, desk and chair at an appropriate height, shoulders relaxed, forearms comfortably supported on the desk
  • Provide extra time and/or computer access for fine motor activities such as maths, printing, writing a story, practical science tasks, and artwork and for tests and exams that require a lot of written output; if speed is necessary, be willing to accept a less accurate product
  • When copying is not the emphasis, provide prepared worksheets so pupils can focus on the academic task (provide prepared maths sheets, pages with questions already printed, or ‘fill in the blank’ for reading comprehension questions); for study purposes, photocopy notes written by another pupil
  • Introduce computers as early as possible to reduce the amount of handwriting that will be required as they get older. Allow computer use for draft and final copies of reports, stories, assignments (if it is important to see the “non-edited” product, ask to see both draft and final versions)
  • Focus on the lesson purpose: if a creative story is the goal, then accept messy handwriting, uneven spacing and multiple erasures; if the goal is to set up a maths problem correctly, then allow time to do it even if the maths problem does not get solved
  • Use a variety of presentation methods when asking pupils to demonstrate comprehension (oral presentation of a report, drawings to illustrate thoughts, typed story/report on the computer, recording a story or exam on a tape recorder)
  • Encourage dictation of stories, book reports, or answers to comprehension questions to the educator, a volunteer, or another child; for older children, introduce voice recognition software once the pupil’s voice patterns are mature and consistent
  • For more information on how to help in the school, see here and the MATCH flyers located here. See also ‘To Write or to Type – That is the Question!’ for strategies related to handwriting, found here.
  • To review strategies for secondary school, written specifically from the perspective of an adolescent with dyspraxia click here. See the video here that describes how to M.A.T.C.H. for success in secondary school.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: 1) Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University. 2) Missiuna, C., & Pollock, N. Children with Motor Difficulties: A Resource for Educators (MATCH flyers by phase), CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Approaches for PE

  • Break down physical activities into smaller parts while keeping each part meaningful and achievable and introduce changes gradually after each part of a skill has been mastered
  • Encourage children to develop skills using their hands in a dominant/assistant fashion (using a cricket bat or a hockey stick) and incorporate activities that require coordination of arms and/or legs (skipping, bouncing and catching a large ball)
  • Keep the environment as predictable as possible when teaching a new skill
  • Modify equipment to decrease the risk of injury to children who are learning a new skill such as Nerf balls in graduated sizes to develop catching/throwing skills
  • Review any rules and routines associated with the activity (example: football rules) at a time when the child is not concentrating on the motor aspects
  • Provide hand-over-hand guidance to help the child get the feel of the movement – ask the child to help the educator demonstrate a new skill to the class
  • Talk out loud when teaching a new skill to the class, describing each step clearly; when providing individual instruction, describe the movement changes specifically (“you need to lift your arms higher”)
  • Introduce children to new sports activities or a new playground on an individual basis, before being required to manage the activity in a group
  • For more information on effective instructional approaches for physical education, click here. To find out more information on what makes physical activities so challenging for pupils with dyspraxia, click here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.

Dyspraxia - Strengths

  • Verbally adept
  • Advanced reading skills
  • Creative imagination/creativity – photography, lyrical writing, poetry
  • Sensitivity to the needs of others, empathy
  • Strong verbal communication skills
  • Persistence and determination
  • Extremely hard working
  • Good auditory skills, which may include ability to learn languages and music

How to Help in the Community

  • M.A.T.C.H. – Modify the task, Alter expectations, Teach strategies, Change the environment, Help by understanding
  • Use protective gear such as wrist guards and helmets with physical activities
  • Encourage lifestyle sports such as swimming, skating, and cycling to maintain or improve strength and overall endurance
  • Private lessons may be helpful at certain times to teach specific skills, especially as higher skill levels must be reached
  • Encourage participation in games/sports that are interesting to the child and which provide practice in, and exposure to, motor activities
  • Help coaches, sports instructors, and community leaders understand dyspraxia strengths and challenges so they can support and encourage children to be successful
  • Encourage children to engage in activities that are non-motor based such as music, drama, clubs to promote social experiences and the benefits of social participation
  • For information on dyspraxia that can be shared with coaches and sports instructors, click here. For information on dyspraxia that can be shared with community group leaders and instructors, click here.
  • Content adapted by Lisa Rivard (2017) with permission from: Missiuna, C., Rivard, L., & Pollock, N. (2011). Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: At home, at school, and in the community. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research, McMaster University.