Teaching Children with Dyspraxia in the Classroom

Instructor: Elizabeth Hemmons

Beth has taught early childhood education, including students with special needs, for the past 11 years. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education.

In this lesson, we will explore strategies for teaching children with Dyspraxia in the classroom. Dyspraxia effects many aspects of a child's day, including academics and social opportunities, and we will discuss ways in which we can support these students on a daily basis.

Dyspraxia in the Classroom

It seems like every time you turn around, Jenny is falling down in the classroom. She drops things in class and is very clumsy as she moves throughout the hallways. In fact, she has very messy handwriting and her peers have a difficult time understanding her speech. Jenny has been diagnosed with Dyspraxia. She has trouble in class and needs you to provide her with help throughout the day. In this lesson, we will discuss ways that we can help Jenny as well as other students who have been diagnosed with Dyspraxia.

What Is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a brain-based, motor planning condition that makes movement and speech difficult. Children diagnosed with Dyspraxia usually have trouble with balance, posture and coordination. The condition can also effect a child's fine motor skills and can cause speech issues. Some children with Dyspraxia are immature, so social skills can be more challenging for them. Providing these students with therapies - such as speech, occupational, and physical - can be very beneficial to them and help them overcome these challenges.

Classroom Environment

Students with Dyspraxia, like Jenny, need an open-plan classroom environment that is free of clutter and that provides clear paths throughout the room so that the student is least likely to trip or fall. Post clear, simple rules in the classroom so your students know what the expectations are. It also may be beneficial to provide a schedule so students, like Jenny, are prepared for what the plan is for the day. If you know of any changes in the day, provide Jenny with a warning and explain to her when and why the changes are occurring. As far as Jenny's work space, it will help to have her sit in the front of the room and close to the teacher.

Time Management

Children with Dyspraxia usually have a slower processing speed. This means that it takes them a longer time to understand or process something. A student like Jenny may take longer to complete assignments and even to process information taught. Allowing them more time to finish and more opportunities for questions and concerns will be beneficial. Jenny would also do better in class if she is given breaks frequently so she doesn't get overstimulated. Whether it is to stretch her legs be doing exercises or going for a quick walk down the hall, she will return to class a little more focused.

Communication

When giving directions, make them simple, clear and with as few words as possible. Get the child's attention before stating the direction as well. Hearing too many directions at once, can be overwhelming for students with Dyspraxia. Use visual prompts to help give directions or to provide support. Also, because children with Dyspraxia have difficulty using their mouth to make sounds and words, give them more time to speak when talking aloud in class.

Social Skills

Social interactions can be challenging for children with Dyspraxia. The use of social stories and role-playing can provide these children with a script of what to say in a social situation. These 'rehearsals' of peer interactions help to build self-confidence and develop problem solving skills.

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