Have you ever tried to do up coat buttons with your gloves on? Now imagine trying to do up your shoelaces wearing oven gloves. Would you be the first in the class to get ready for PE?

For children with Dyspraxia this is their world. Everyday tasks can become major challenges.

Dyspraxia or development coordination disorder (DCD) affects between 2% and 10% of children. It is a motor co-ordination difficulty which can have wide ranging effects. Children with DCD will struggle with tasks requiring the coordination or sequencing of movements. They will lack organisational skills and may be easily distracted. Anxiety can play a large role with some pupils becoming reluctant to speak or participate in certain situations.

Dyspraxia can affect gross and fine motor skills or be more specific, affecting just groups of muscles, e.g. oromotor dyspraxia effects lips, jaw, tongue and soft palate or oculomotor dyspraxia which just effects eye movements.

You may be familiar with pupils who struggle with dressing, movement and handwriting but did you know that Dyspraxia can also affect speech and language?

Dyspraxia and Speech

Verbal dyspraxia affects the production and sequencing of speech sounds. The child’s speech may be difficult to understand, even for family members. The pattern of errors can also be very inconsistent making it hard to ‘tune in’ to the child’s speech. These speech difficulties can persist for many years and the child will not simply grow out of them. If you think a child in your class has verbal dyspraxia you should contact your local speech and language therapist.

Therapy focuses on repetitive exercises which should be built up gradually and carried out frequently – a challenge within a busy curriculum. However small step repetitive exercises can make a huge difference with many pupils achieving clear speech as they move through the school.

Verbal dyspraxia – signs to look for

  • Limited range of sounds
  • Distorted vowels
  • Difficulty with longer words
  • Unusual stress and intonation
  • May have problems eating and or drinking
  • Literacy difficulties
  • Language difficulties

Dyspraxia and Literacy

Many pupils with verbal dyspraxia will struggle with reading and spelling and indeed difficulties with literacy can persist even when the child’s speech has improved and become easy to understand. Verbal dyspraxia affects the child’s phonological processing, in particular any tasks involving segmentation, so they are likely to need a lot of support with phonics. They may find it very hard to blend and segment sounds and syllables.

You may notice that they are slow to move on from whole word reading to breaking words down into sounds. It may take them a long time to learn grapheme-phoneme correspondences and they may also struggle with both rhyme detection and production tasks.

To support literacy development for these pupils try these ideas. You should find they benefit all pupils, not just the children with dyspraxia.

  • Introduce sound cards – pictures to represent sounds, e.g. The Speech Link sound cards.
  • Teach letter sound relationships using hand signs (e.g. Cued articulation*) for sounds and finger spelling for letters. Make sure you use the hand sign up at your mouth to show it represents speech and the finger spelling sign down by the page to represent letters.
  • Develop an awareness of sounds in words, e.g. ask the child to find something in the classroom beginning with a given sound or to decide which two words have the same sound at the beginning from a choice of three pictures.
  • Work on segmentation skills using sound cards and coloured cubes to provide visual support.
  • Use whole word teaching strategies.

It is likely that pupils with verbal dyspraxia will take a long time to grasp phonics and will require time for repetition and revision of skills.

Find out more: www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk | www.communicationtrust.org.uk | www.afasic.org.uk

*Cued articulation is a signing system that was developed by Speech and Language Therapist, Jane Passey, to help anyone who has difficulty processing, pronouncing or sequencing English speech sounds. Each sound has its own hand cue which the adult uses to show the child how and where the sound is produced. It is a very simple system to use and can work extremely well for many pupils with a variety of speech difficulties including Dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia and Language

Dyspraxia can also affect a child’s understanding and use of spoken language.

Pupils with Dyspraxia may have difficulty: Understanding concept vocabulary related to time and space

You could try…

  • Introducing reference pictures to represent position words
  • Hiding a ‘character’ in different places around the classroom on request, e.g. where’s the monster hiding today?
  • Working on one concept at a time
  • Allowing time for overlearning before moving on to the next concept
  • Introducing a concept of the day/week and provide lots of opportunities for the pupil to hear, see and experience the concept

Pupils with Dyspraxia may have difficulty: Remembering and following instructions

You could try…

  • Using simple language alongside some visual prompts, e.g. task management boards
  • Giving extra time for child to process the language
  • Providing repetition of instructions
  • Using demonstration, i.e. show the child what to do

Pupils with Dyspraxia may have difficulty: Sequencing instructions or tasks

You could try…

  • Using task management boards and visual timetables

Pupils with Dyspraxia may have difficulty: Giving explanations or answering questions

You could try…

  • Using sentence and story planners and story
  • Rehearsing answers with talk partner or adult
  • Using scaffolding techniques to lead pupil to the answer
Share this article

Please login to view this content