Is Dyspraxia a Learning Disability and What Can Be Done About It?

October 8, 2021
Parents

With Dyspraxia Awareness Week coming up, we thought it was important to shed some light on this disorder. Dyspraxia isn’t widely recognised as a learning difficulty, unlike Dyslexia, Autism or ADHD, which gets more attention. So let’s uncover what dyspraxia actually is, how it contributes to learning challenges and the best way to support students in their education journey.

What is Dyspraxia?

As defined by the NHS, “​​Developmental coordination disorder (DCD), also known as Dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical coordination. It causes a child to perform less well than expected in daily activities for their age, and appear to move clumsily.”

In the UK alone, around 10% of the population suffer from Dyspraxia (about 1 in 10 students), which can cause serious problems not just for learning, but also establishing interpersonal relationships, engaging in physical activity and finding jobs.

It’s thought that the disorder affects boys almost 4 times more than girls; although this could be because the age of onset differs and there are less studies in girls.

Researchers suggest that the lack of coordination and control over one’s body is due to impaired neuron development.

What are the signs of Dyspraxia?

There are a few notable signs of Dyspraxia, mainly related to movement and coordination:

  • Poor balance
  • Lack of hand-eye coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Bad posture
  • Trouble handwriting and typing
  • Difficulty controlling tone or volume of voice
  • Poor memory (especially short-term)
  • More creative personality

Generally, people with Dyspraxia are coined as “clumsy”, due to the inability to recognise being in one’s own body; so sufferers might trip or fall over more often than normal, especially when they’re toddlers. 

A lot of studies have found that some of the behavioural and physiological symptoms of Dyspraxia are very similar to ADHD. In fact, many children with Dyspraxia are also 50% more likely to have ADHD. If you’d like to find out whether your child might have Dyspraxia, then we recommend this quick assessment tool via Dyspraxia UK. As always, we recommend speaking to your GP for a formal diagnosis.


How Dyspraxia affects learning

You may have noticed that many skills required for learning are affected by Dyspraxia. Most of our motor control involves precise movements, especially when it comes to writing, exercising and even cooking, hence why these are the areas where students will fall back the most.

Many famous people with Dyspraxia comment on how the difficulty to write was the most taxing. Daniel Radcliffe and Cara Delavigne in particular have shared how exams and tests were “a nightmare”, because it required more concentration and physical effort than the average student.

In young children, Dyspraxia can affect learning how to crawl, walk and even talk. It can delay learning development by a few years; this late onset means children will struggle in school. The Dyspraxia Foundation reports that students might not be able to copy notes from the whiteboard in class as quickly as others, and will also struggle with literacy. So English and any subjects involving essay writing (like humanities) can be quite demanding for students with Dyspraxia.

Some children can turn to more creative outlets – sometimes as a coping mechanism – or more interested in strategic thinking. So subjects like drama, music, maths or physics could be strong choices. You might be surprised to know that even Einstein himself was Dyspraxic, so it doesn’t necessarily mean students are doomed for all eternity. They’ll just need a little more help in their studies. Read on to find out how.

What support can be given to learners with Dyspraxia?

Here are 8 ways to support students with Dyspraxia – whether at home or in school. 

1. Extra time in exams or tests

Is important to remember that Dyspraxic students don’t lack ideas or intelligence; they just struggle with the ability to organise their thoughts and connect them with their motor skills. So make sure your child applies for extra time in exams and tests. Teachers should also give learners with Dyspraxia more time to complete tasks set in class so they don’t feel rushed.

2. Hire a tutor for 1:1 support

It doesn’t matter if you’re experiencing learning difficulties or not, everyone needs extra help sometimes. We recommend hiring a private tutor who specialises in tuition for Dyspraxia to get one-to-one support. This will give your child the opportunity to learn at their own pace, get tailored lessons and a chance to explore their creative side.

3. Wellbeing support

Your child might experience higher anxiety levels as a result of the stress and frustration caused by their disorder. Peers can sometimes lack emotional intelligence, which can result in bullying or mean comments. So it’s worth checking-in on your child’s wellbeing, perhaps enlisting therapist advice or local support groups. 

4. Use tools to help with writing

As mentioned, tasks that involve writing, spelling or reading will be the most tricky. So invest in graph paper to help with line spacing, buy wide-tip pens and rubber grips to put on pencils. This will promote fine motor control and visibility. Alternatively, teaching your child to touch-type or use tools on tablets will be easier for them to make notes in class and write essays.


5. Tailor PE classes and practise at home

When it comes to PE or sports activities, start with the basics. Take note of what your child has a natural aptitude for, and see what they enjoy. They might like playing catch, swimming or running. Just start with the basics and work on helping them become more confident before moving on to more challenging exercises.

6. Break down a big task into small chunks 

It’s really helpful to write step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow for students with Dyspraxia. This will help them manage their workload and complete the task to the best of their ability.

7. Record lessons via audio or video 

Use the technology to your advantage and record lessons, whether online or in class. This is a great opportunity for students with Dyspraxia to play back material and go over the lesson notes in a way that might tap into their memory more. 

8. Patience is a virtue

Finally, and most importantly, just be patient. The least helpful thing is to get frustrated when your child is slow to pick up information or complete a task. By expressing patience, your child will work in a calmer environment. This will help them organise their thoughts and ideas better to form clearer answers.

To sum it all up

As the research shows, Dyspraxia is a type of learning difficulty that affects students differently. The severity depends on a number of factors like age, symptoms experienced, comorbidity with other disorders and even gender. There are a few things you can do as a parent at home or in the classroom to make their school experience a lot easier. This blog is not an all-inclusive list, but offers some starting points. For more in-depth solutions, we recommend seeking the support of a professional.

Is Dyspraxia affecting your learning?

We’re home to some of the most qualified tutors equipped with the latest tools to teach students with Dyspraxia. Whatever your age or level, we can help you find a private tutor that will tailor lessons to best suit you. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you reach your full potential.

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Naida Allen

Naida is a witty wordsmith with a love for writing and reading. She is a Content Writer and Social Media Executive at Tutor House — the top UK provider of online and in-person tuition. She specialises in topics relating to mental & physical wellbeing and career advice.

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