Students with dyspraxia in the classroom
A guide to supporting students with dyspraxia in your classroom
Children with dyspraxia may experience difficulties with movement, co-ordination, processing, memory and judgement. Dyspraxia does not affect a child’s intelligence although they can acquire learning difficulties. The earlier a child with Dyspraxia is diagnosed the better their chances of improving their skills to achieve well in school and life.
It is essential to work closely with the student’s family/ carers to ensure you understand your students’ specific needs and what strategies and resources will support them to develop and achieve.
Developing an IEP (Individual Education Plan) with the student and their family/ carers will enable you to plan for the student’s participation in lessons and activities, ensuring their needs are met and they can achieve.
If your student is finding it difficult to manage their behaviour this may be a response to stress and anxiety. Keep a behaviour diary to monitor their behaviour to see if a pattern emerges. If the behaviour continues and requires additional support, you may wish to consider developing a behaviour plan with the child and their family/ carers.
Difficulties your student may experience
Handwriting - Letter formation, staying on the line, size of lettering and “neatness”
Start support early during pre-school and early years by encouraging children to practice letter formation in fun multi-sensory ways e.g. Squirt shaving foam or hair mouse into a large tray and encourage your student to use their fingers or a stick to draw out letters, draw letters in the sky. As they become more confident, introduce writing tools such as pencils with pencil grips and use stencils initially and lined paper.
Hand/ eye Co-ordination: Getting themselves dressed, particularly in using fastenings and difficulties in eating independently when utensils are required
Suggest loose-fit easy on/easy off clothing and Velcro fastenings. Break down each task into small sections to be mastered one by one.
Consistent and controlled body movements such as difficulties walking in a straight line, may bump into things, finds it more challenging to run, hop, jump and catch
Provide balance or wobble boards, walking on the line and hand to hand throwing using bean bags or water-filled balloons
May appear easily distracted especially in open plan environments as your student may respond to all stimuli without discrimination
Allow child to choose activities which meet child’s own interests. Avoid disturbing child when on task. Avoid fluorescent lights, fluttering ceiling displays. Keep wall displays to a minimum. Promote a ‘no-disturbance’ culture showing respect for each child’s workspace.
Difficulty in understanding prepositions such as “in”, “under”
Use creative play such as toy farms, trains, schools to encourage the student to use prepositions. At first introduce concepts and ask the student to place the animal, train etc in the right place e.g. “in front of the barn”, then build up to a game of using cue cards.
There are several children’s songs and clips on YouTube. Use these to reaffirm what you have learned after creative play.
Support your student to have an accessible plan for their week and each day- use pictures, symbols and visual aids. For specific activities in class such as “Making a Christmas decoration” give your student a pictorial step by step instruction sheet and physical example of what you want them to create.
Remembering and following instructions
Engage your student before giving any instructions- are they facing you? Do you have eye contact? Ensure any instructions are given pictorially as well as written/ verbal. Make instructions clear, colourful and concise. Try to have an example of the product of what you want your student to achieve and show this to them. If you are asking your student to participate in a complex activity, it would be beneficial to not only have pictorial instructions but to also demonstrate each step.
Explaining needs, asking questions and retelling experiences
Offer your student pictorial, symbols and objects to support them to share with you. Ensure your questions are concise and short
Lack of awareness of others personal belongings or how to behave in public
This can manifest itself in areas such as your student just takes other children’s stationery when they want to use it, helps themselves to another child’s lunch or they may run around playing games in the classroom when you need the children to sit down.
Use social stories, creative play such as schools and role play to “act” out situations to explore belongings and private/ public behaviour. Make up comic strips to play out stories of them going to a café or visiting a friend’s house. Print out pictures of the child so they can stick themselves in the story or use old magazines to cut out scenes. You can display these in the classroom as prompts. Role play to develop understanding of the concepts of private and public. Have consistent explicit classroom rules. Use social stories to explain the social rules and expected behaviour.
Working in partnership with the child’s family/ carers ensure there is shared understanding of how you are supporting their child and you have agreed, shared goals which the family/ carers can support in the home context too. It is essential the same messages and approaches to skills development are practiced both in school and at home, so your student has consistency and opportunity to practice through repetition.
Sequencing time- “Before”, “After”
Help show children when activities/ lessons start and end. Print out a picture to represent the activity/ lesson (matching the one used for the daily plan) place this beside a cardboard clock model (Click here for a template), set times for the start and end of activities. The clock and activity card should be placed beside a real working wall clock so the children can compare. Ensure children are given 10- and 5-minute warnings of the approach of the end of the activity/ lesson.
Ensure parents/ carers have a copy of the weekly plan and daily plan of activities as they can further support communication of this at home and prepare their child for participating in the activities.
Difficulties coping with sudden change
Use pictures, visual aids and symbols to help the child understand what you are communicating. When there is unstructured time or change, check in with the child at the soonest opportunity to see how they are feeling. You could use a feelings chart or visual aids. This will enable you to address any anxiety or anger issues as early as possible and facilitate a strategy if required.
If you can let the child’s parents/ carers know when these will occur so they can prepare their child at home and therefore ease the transition for the child.
Difficulty in understanding the feelings of other people and the effect of their own behaviours on other people.
Work on understanding emotions. Use strategies such as comic strip conversations and mind reading etc.
Difficulty in using a learnt skill out of the learnt situation
Teach each skill in all the possible contexts and in different ways.
Resistance to certain activities or situations
Prepare your student for change, use pictorial plans and visual aids to explain the activity. You may need to approach the activity in steps, gradually introducing aspects of the activity in the lead up to the activity.
Difficulties developing play skills
Use creative play sets, role playing and stories to identify key play skills with your student such as sharing, turn taking then move onto playing games with other children with support.