Teaching children with special educational needs (SEN) has a unique set of challenges.
However, developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) – a lifelong condition that affects the motor skills and coordination of students – can profoundly affect their ability to learn, despite not being a learning disorder.
Sometimes referred to as dyspraxia, DCD affects movement, co-ordination, language and speech, which can negatively affect students’ performance in school.
It is more common in boys than girls, notes Understood.org. The condition is common, affecting some five to six percent of school-going children. According to reports, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe is said to have dyspraxia.
Without the right support, the condition can impair students’ quality of life. So, what happens when a school lacks the facilities or expertise to deal with such students? While they’ll need access to professional help via a therapist, teachers can also play a role towards supporting students with DCD and improving their well-being in the classroom.
Recognising students with DCD
Despite being a common condition, there is a lack of awareness surrounding DCD. This makes it important for educators to be able to recognise some of the telltale signs of DCD among students. Here are some guidelines for teachers:
- Take note of students’ physical characteristics (e.g. do they have difficulty performing daily tasks such as tying shoelaces? Do they have difficulty with activities that require them to change and move their body positions, such as in sports? etc.).
- Does the student display a lack of interest or avoid activities that require a physical response (e.g. avoids playing with others on the playground)?
- Take note of whether they have difficulty in subjects such as mathematics or writing, or experience difficulty completing their task within the allocated time frame.
Supporting students with DCD
- Allocate more time for the child to complete his or her motor activities, including artwork and scientific tasks.
- Make some tasks easier for the student. For instance, when copying is not the emphasis, reduce the amount of time students spend on writing by providing pages with questions that have already been printed on or present ‘fill in the blanks’ questions. Teachers can also introduce students to computers at an early age so they have time to become proficient.
- Teach students handwriting strategies, such as writing in a consistent manner, using different writing tools to help improve their grip or reduce pencil pressure on a page.
- Break down physical activity into smaller parts, without losing its meaning.
- Reward students’ efforts, and not their skills, and encourage participation rather than competition.
With the right support, students will be able to showcase their true abilities in school and beyond.