What is Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia, which is also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), currently effects 5-6% of children for which the majority then go onto experience related difficulties in their adult lives. Intellectual ability isn’t affected by DCD, but as children with dyspraxia often struggle with their coordination sadly this can, in turn, affect their educational achievement and go onto to affect their daily life skills and even their future job opportunities.
According to the Dyspraxia Association 2015, whilst dyspraxia/DCD is primarily a motor disorder, in many cases individuals may experience difficulties with memory, perception and processing along with poor planning, organisation and sequencing skills which can have a significant negative impact on everyday activities.
So, for some children even simple, daily tasks (like dressing) that require muscle strength, balance and coordination are difficult and basic movements like hopping, running and jumping are a real challenge. It’s great to know that by providing simple opportunities for children to practise key skills that gradually develop their motor-skills and by encouraging them to participate, improve and become successful learners, this can be life-changing for them… and what could be more enjoyable than practising these life skills outdoors in a fun and meaningful way?
What to Look Out For?
It is easy to gradually improve children’s fine and gross motor skills and to support the development of better memory, processing and organisational skills. So, once children are 5, some of the following signs of dyspraxia will become more obvious. They may:
• Generally appear awkward.
• Find dressing, tying laces, using cutlery, holding a pencil, writing and drawing difficult.
• Find mastering any new tools difficult.
• Have difficulty with basic movements like running, hopping, skipping and have poor ball skills.
• Find balancing and following a track tricky.
• Find taking part in playground activities, outdoor games, team games and PE lessons stressful or even avoid them altogether.
• Display poor organisational skills, finding it hard to complete tasks on time, be forgetful or lose personal items.
• Struggle socially and find working in groups difficult or find it hard to maintain friendships.
• Have emotional difficulties and have low self-esteem.
How can you Support the Development of Essential Skills?
• Make learning fun and meaningful.
• Practice skills little and often.
• Have a variety of activities and even choice.
• Encourage using cognitive strategies like goal setting, problem-solving and self -assessment.
• Incorporate using movement to learn across the curriculum.
Fun Activities to Effectively Support Children with Dyspraxia
Here are some of Schoolscapes’ favourite ways to effectively develop children’s physical and cognitive skills through active, outdoor fun…. so life becomes easier for those children with dyspraxia, and their futures become brighter.
Focus: Gross Motor Skills:
Often improving children’s gross motor skills, will create a platform for improving fine motor skills, so here is a good place to start!
Young children love to zoom around a track, so why not provide them with a bright, colourful, safe Cycle Track in their outside play space, so they can practise scooting, cycling or balancing and build stamina without a backwards glance?
A fun Adventure Tower like the Treetops Range can allow children to clamber and climb, slide and balance alongside their peers. They won’t even know they are practising and developing their coordination, strength, agility and balance! Chasing games around the Play Tower are also fun, as children can learn to move and develop body control moving around the equipment, whilst they use the Play Tower, Boat or Climbing Wall as a safe ‘home’.
A Daily Mile Track will enable children to plan, carry out and evaluate their active journey in a fun and physical way, developing important planning and evaluation skills as well as developing gross motor skills. Children will love to naturally develop their movement and coordination skills through running, hopping, jumping, climbing etc in a beautiful, safe environment. Making up obstacle races for their friends will also help to develop their visual and verbal short-term memory skills.
A fantastic stamina builder is also a Playground Gym. There’s no stopping the children jumping on and voluntarily engaging in fun, energetic exercise that develops coordination, muscle strength and fitness. A real winner for developing their gross motor skills by having fun. Playground Gyms also provide choice, as not all children enjoy the same activities. Step ups on any equipment are a great way of building stamina too.
Playground markings provide a cheap and effective solution too, encouraging purposeful physical activity both during free play and directed time. A traditional Hopscotch, Mirror Me Game, Twister, Playground Adventure Trail or Exercise Course can help children to develop balance and coordination, as well as stamina and strength. Just following a line or jumping in spaces will help to develop coordination and body control. Simple bowling games are also a great way to develop hand-eye co-ordination, as well as using slow moving bubbles, scarves and large beach balls etc to catch; children will feel successful and this will enable them to grow in confidence.
Den Building and Performing on our Outside Instruments and on our Range of Outdoor Stages, will develop motor skills at the same time as allowing creativity and stimulating their imagination. Children can plan, organise and practise a performance including music and dance, improving their physical, organisational and memory skills in an exciting and purposeful way.
Focus: Fine Motor Skills:
It is so easy to provide varied, exciting and stimulating outdoor activities to effectively develop children’s fine motor skills.
Using a Tuff Tray/Mixing Spot? Outdoors can provide a solid base for some great activities that will keep children amused and little fingers active for hours. Why not provide tweezers or kitchen tongs to sort and organise any small items like pasta or paperclips into trays? Children love using clothes pegs to pick up and organise colourful pom poms! Other firm favourites are filling the tray with colourful paper and creating rainbow snow with hole punches, stretching colourful elastic bands over different shaped objects, or glittery playdough fun. Which child can resist creating a scary dinosaur or a sparkly unicorn with their own hands?
Sorting Trays can provide an excellent outside storage solution for providing stimulating activities aimed at developing fine motor-skills through play; for example: lacing, sewing, weaving, threading and tracing opportunities. Wooden Weaving Stations also provide a useful base for inspirational weaving creations. Children love to add natural objects into their creations too, like sticks, leaves and pine cones! An Observatory is a great way to store and show off any exciting collections that the children have made on their outdoor adventures.
A Games Top Table is another fun way to play with small world toys or to engage in a game. Children will enjoy manipulating small counters to win a game or to follow a trail. They are also a fun way to learn through the surrounding environment, rather than through formal teaching.
Art is an amazing way to develop fine motor skills and a Poly Painting Station is a fantastic permanent solution enabling easy access to paint. Large Chalk and Whiteboards are also great to stimulate active imaginations, providing a large blank canvas for unlimited creativity both as an individual and in a group. This can help to develop children’s social skills, allowing them to work together and share, as well as providing a fun way to develop fine motor skills and develop a stronger tripod grip whilst using a brush, pencil or piece of chalk etc.
Water Walls, Tables and Trays also provide a great place to develop fine motor skills. The children will be keen to explore and get involved! Providing plastic syringes to suck up the water are a fun way to develop motor skills and coordination as well as through manipulating the water toys and building water ways etc. Planning a water run will also develop cognitive skills, teaching the children to visualise, plan, organise and evaluate a project.
Sand too is a perfect way to get little ones to unknowingly use their fine motor skills. Walking on different surfaces like soft sand and bark etc, can help to develop body control and coordination, so a Sand Tray or a Sand Construction Station will help to provide the ultimate fun sand experience. Pullies and bucket systems can develop gross motor skills too, as well as be great fun!
What child doesn’t enjoy mixing, pouring and stirring? So, a well-designed, long-lasting Mud Kitchen will provide the perfect opportunity for children to naturally develop their coordination and social skills and to get muddy and magical with it!
At Schoolscapes we love to see all children voluntarily engaging in fun, stimulating activities, designed to develop their physical, social and cognitive skills, but at same time stimulate their creativity, imagination and passion for a lifetime of learning. We want children to have high self-esteem and to feel successful and confident to embrace all that the future holds for them, in both their daily lives and on all their future adventures.
Helpful online resources with information and advice in supporting children with Dyspraxia:
Primary Years Fun Fit booklet containing 6 weeks of lesson plans contact: Rachael Blackie, Educational Psychologist firstname.lastname@example.org
P.E. ideas for teachers dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/PE_Activities_and_dyspraxia.pdf
Leaflet for Primary School Teachers www.movementmattersuk.org/content/documents/Leaflet%20for%20primary%20teacher%20MM2012b.pdf