Dyspraxia Awareness Week October 10 -17 2009

Dyspraxia Awareness Week is an annual event which brings Dyspraxia centre-stage in terms of developing good teaching and learning practice. The Dyspraxia Foundation is committed to helping teaching and medical professionals recognise dyspraxia (sometimes called developmental co-ordination disorder) in children and adults.

Dyspraxia is surprisingly common - up to 6% of the population are affected yet it is a hidden condition which is still poorly understood. This year The Dyspraxia Foundation is conducting a Teens and Young Adults Survey as part of their 'Teens into Adults' campaign.

The survey assesses the range of issues affecting teens and young adults. All young people with dyspraxia are invited to take part. Results of the survey will be released during the Dyspraxia Awareness Week, 10th - 17th October and the information will be used to prepare action plans to address the issues identified. The closing date is Friday, 11th September 2009 and the survey can be accessed on the Dyspraxia Foundation website www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk or by contacting the charity direct: Tel: 01462454986, Dyspraxia Foundation, 8 West Alley, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1EG.

What exactly is Dyspraxia and how does it affect teenagers?

 Dyspraxia is an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. This can affect small and large muscle movements and generally results in a lack of body coordination and awareness of the body in space - hence lots of accidents, feelings of failure and low self-esteem.

Teenagers with dyspraxia can easily become targets for bullying because of their slowness and clumsiness. School can present serious issues for teenagers who may struggle with: Concentration; physical and sporting skills; handwriting; handling equipment; organisation; homework; social skills; lunch and break times; and personal presentation.

What does research show about teaching and learning for teenagers with Dyspraxia?

There is a shortage of evidence about the nature of teaching approaches which effectively include young people with dyspraxia in mainstream classrooms. There is also a need for research into teachers working alone within inclusive settings, and about their interactions with support staff and pupils.

What evidence there is suggests that teachers who see the inclusion of pupils with dyspraxia as part of their role are more likely to have effective, high quality, on-task interactions. They will appreciate too the need for sufficient planning and preparation time to collaborate with others in the development of curriculum activities. Peer-group interactive approaches can be effective, as can communities of practice involving teaching staff, teacher educators and academics.

Teachers are more likely to be effective with all pupils, including those with dyspraxia, if they use language, rather than report writing, to draw out pupils' understandings, encouraging further questioning and links between new and further knowledge. Meeting the needs of pupils with dyspraxia presents a demanding brief for an unsupported classroom teacher.

A coherent ethos and support structure which allows teachers to reflect on and develop their practice is therefore inherent in effective teaching practice. Teachers need opportunities to explore pedagogic approaches and dyspraxia-specific knowledge in an ongoing manner.

What are the implications for teaching teenagers with Dyspraxia?

Teachers must:

  • embrace their central responsibility for pupils with dyspraxia;
  • engage with others in the pupils' teaching-community - both within and without the school;
  • see other adults within the school community as both teachers and learners about dyspraxia;
  • develop a shared class-philosophy of respect for everyone in the class and all their learning;
  • recognise that student participation and interaction is how student knowledge is developed;
  • plan group work carefully, delineating the roles of group members;
  • explore pupils' understandings, encouraging questioning and the making sure that pupils build securely on what they already know and can do;
  • work on basic and independence skills in an holistic way, embedded in classroom activity and subject knowledge;
  • draw on pupils own skills, knowledge and understanding as resources for learning;
  • use purposeful activities which pupils find meaningful;
  • use hands-on activities frequently;
  • offer diverse ways to engage with concepts and with others' understandings of those concepts.

(Adapted from Rix, J et al. Journal Compilation, Support for Learning Vol. 24, NASEN 2009. )

What is available for teenagers from the Dyspraxia Foundation?

Following on from the successful leaflet, Dyspraxia Classroom Guidelines, The Dyspraxia Foundation is now drawing up draft guidelines for teachers of pupils aged 11-18 years. The Dyspraxia Secondary Classroom Guidelines focus on:

  • Common difficulties for secondary pupils with Dyspraxia
  • How these difficulties impact on teaching and learning at school
  • Classroom strategies to alleviate or minimise the problems at school

The foundation welcomes input from young people, parents and carers, teachers and clinicians for inclusion in the secondary guidelines which will be published this autumn as part of the Dyspraxia Foundation's Dyspraxia-Teens into Adults campaign.

Please send your comments to Wendy Fidler, Chair, Education Panel, Dyspraxia Foundation at the address below, or email: wendyfidler@eight29.com