It's Dyspraxia Awareness Week, but what is dyspraxia?
According to the Dyspraxia Foundation, dyspraxia (also known as a developmental coordination disorder, or DCD) is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. This means that individuals with dyspraxia are often called "clumsy" or "accident-prone", which has been shown to affect self-confidence and self image.
Dyspraxia doesn't have a proven cause, although research points to it being related to under-developed neurones. Depending upon the severity of symptoms, dyspraxia can be considered a disability or be barely perceptible. Either way you are not likely to be able to tell if someone has dyspraxia just by looking at them. Symptoms include difficulties with self-care and fine motor movements such as writing, playing an instrument or typing, and also wider movements such as skipping or riding a bike. However, dyspraxia symptoms are not just to do with motor function. Dyspraxia can also affect social and emotional function or wellbeing, and problems with time management and organisation. The Dyspraxia Foundation indicates that further symptoms can encompass difficulty with memory, language and speech, visual function, cognitive processes, and carrying out activities in the 'correct' order. Dyspraxia is often seen alongside conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, and social or behavioural difficulties.
Because of these varied symptoms, people with dyspraxia can often struggle to find and maintain employment, and are often dismissed as not trying hard enough in schools. People with dyspraxia develop mental health problems at a higher rate than the general population because of these factors and because of difficulty socialising.
What can organisations do to help?
Because dyspraxia results in such a wide range of symptoms it is important that we speak to the individual about what would be most helpful for them.
Some common reasonable adjustments include:
- Designated quiet spaces for study and work, with adjustable levels of lighting
- The provision of a 'scribe' or note-taker
- Ability to use laptops for work and also for examinations
- Financial provision for electronic aids such as laptops and voice-to-text software
- Assistance with time management
- Stair lifts alongside steps to aid safe movement
- Altering work/study hours to allow for fatigue, or delegating some duties to a co-worker