Dyspraxia is falling ‘under the radar’, says UK charity

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Children with dyspraxia in the UK are falling ‘under the radar’ and missing out on vital support in schools, according to a nationwide poll of 183 school-based staff carried out by the Dyspraxia Foundation.

Dyspraxia is a form of developmental coordination disorder that affects gross and fine motor coordination in around five per cent of the population — two per cent, severely. It also affects organisation, planning and time management, and can affect speech. Males are up to three times more likely to be affected than females. Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families — and there are believed to be one to two children affected in every class of 30.

Almost two in every three of staff polled (65 per cent) said that awareness of dyspraxia in their schools was poor or very poor with 71 per cent saying that lack of awareness and understanding affected children’s opportunities and achievement.

A similar number said they had not received any specific training to help them identify and support students with dyspraxia, meaning that students with the condition are not receiving the recognition, help and understanding they need to achieve their academic and personal potential.

Worryingly, 43 per cent of schools did not have a clear process for identifying students with dyspraxia, meaning that teachers are unable to identify children who would benefit from further specialist help including that provided by health professionals.

A further 31 per cent of respondents said there was no clear pathway for diagnosis in their area.

The Dyspraxia Foundation said this was of concern as early diagnosis and intervention is essential to help children reach their potential and develop the skills they need to manage everyday activities. Delays in accessing professional support mean children with dyspraxia are at risk of underachievement, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

Sophie Kayani, parent and Chair of the Dyspraxia Foundation, said:

What this survey has reinforced to us as a charity is that dyspraxia really is the “poor relation” in terms of teacher training and awareness.

Parents who contact our helpline service frequently express frustration at the difficulties they experience getting their child’s needs recognised. In some cases, their children have been dismissed as lazy or naughty, when in fact they have been working very hard to try to keep up with their peers. Often these misunderstandings are the result of ignorance — teachers haven’t received training to help them identify children who may have dyspraxia and to adapt their teaching methods to ensure these children can be successful.

 Although there are pockets of good practice around the country, health and education services are often not “joined up” so parents are passed from one professional to another in the pursuit of a diagnosis and support. This delays children from receiving the professional help they need and deserve.

 She added:

Whilst this survey has flagged up some very real issues which must be addressed by schools and health services, our charity has a very positive outlook and we support so many wonderful young people who are achieving amazing things —despite their own difficulties. At the Dyspraxia Foundation, we truly believe that nothing should hold a young person back from fulfilling their potential.

The poll findings, along with new resources and information to raise awareness among teachers and parents, were published during Dyspraxia Awareness Week (8-14 October).

In response a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said:

We know how important it is that children with medical conditions are supported to enjoy a full education. That is why we introduced a new duty to require governing bodies to make arrangements to support pupils with medical conditions and have provided statutory guidance outlining schools’ responsibilities in this area.

This year, we are providing £500,000 to the British Dyslexia Association, in partnership with Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, Patoss, the Dyspraxia Foundation and Manchester Metropolitan University, to provide support for children and young people with dyspraxia, dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties.

The Dyspraxia Foundation said it was delighted to be part of the DfE Project and that training took place in 2016 and the training materials developed were still available on its website. However:

The Dyspraxia Foundation received only £10,000 of the £½ million funding for the project which has now concluded. Dyspraxia Foundation is the only national charity dedicated to supporting people with dyspraxia and calls on the DfE to provide equality of access to support and funding for dyspraxia/DCD alongside other developmental disorders.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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