Approximate reading time: Under 5 mins.
Have you ever tried to do up coat buttons with your gloves on? Now
imagine trying to do up your shoe laces wearing oven gloves. Would you be the
first in the class to get ready for PE?
For children with Dyspraxia this is their world. Everyday tasks can
become major challenges.
Dyspraxia or Development Coordination Disorder (DCD) affects between 2%
and 10% of children
. It is a motor co-ordination difficulty which can have wide
ranging effects. Children with DCD will struggle with tasks requiring the co-ordination
or sequencing of movements. They will lack organisational skills and may be
easily distracted. Anxiety can play a large role with some pupils becoming
reluctant to speak or participate in certain situations.
Dyspraxia can affect gross and fine motor skills or be more specific,
affecting just groups of muscles, e.g. oromotor dyspraxia effects lips, jaw,
tongue and soft palate or oculomotor dyspraxia which just effects eye
You may be familiar with pupils who struggle with dressing, movement
and handwriting but did you know that Dyspraxia can also affect speech and
Dyspraxia and Speech
Verbal dyspraxia affects the production and sequencing of speech
sounds. The child’s speech may be difficult to understand, even for family
members. The pattern of errors can also be very inconsistent making it hard to
‘tune in’ to the child’s speech. These speech difficulties can persist for many
years and the child will not simply grow out of them. If you think a child in
your class has verbal dyspraxia you should contact your local Speech and
Therapy focuses on repetitive exercises which should be built up
gradually and carried out frequently - a challenge within a busy curriculum.
However, small step repetitive exercises can make a huge difference with many
pupils achieving clear speech as they move through the school.
Verbal dyspraxia - signs to look
• Limited range of sounds
• Distorted vowels
• Difficulty with longer words
• Unusual stress and intonation
• May have problems eating and/or drinking
• Literacy difficulties
• Language difficulties
Many pupils with verbal dyspraxia will struggle with reading and
spelling and indeed difficulties with literacy can persist even when the
child’s speech has improved and become easy to understand. Verbal dyspraxia
affects the child’s phonological processing, in particular any tasks involving
segmentation, so they are likely to need a lot of support with phonics. They
may find it very hard to blend and segment sounds and syllables.
You may notice that they are slow to move on from whole word reading to
breaking words down into sounds. It may take them a long time to learn grapheme-phoneme
correspondences and they may also struggle with both rhyme detection and
To support literacy development for these pupils try these ideas. You
should find they benefit all pupils, not just the children with dyspraxia.
- Introduce sound cards
– pictures to represent sounds e.g. The Speech Link
- Teach letter sound relationships using hand signs (e.g. Cued
Articulation*) for sounds and finger spelling for letters. Make sure you use
the hand sign up at your mouth to show it represents speech and the finger
spelling sign down by the page to represent letters.
- Develop an awareness of sounds in words, e.g. ask the child to find
something in the classroom beginning with a given sound, or to decide which two
words have the same sound at the beginning from a choice of three pictures.
- Work on segmentation skills using sound cards and coloured cubes to
provide visual support.
- Use whole word teaching strategies.
It is likely that pupils with verbal dyspraxia will take a long time to
grasp phonics and will require time for repetition and revision
Dyspraxia can also affect a child’s understanding and use of spoken
*Cued articulation is a signing system that was developed by Speech and
Language Therapist, Jane Passey, to help anyone who has difficulty processing,
pronouncing or sequencing English speech sounds. Each sound has its own hand
cue which the adult uses to show the child how and where the sound is produced.
It is a very simple system to use and can work extremely well for many pupils
with a variety of speech difficulties including Dyspraxia.
Labels: cued articulation, DCD, Development Coordination Disorder, Dyspraxia, language, literacy, phonics, phonological processing, speech and language difficulties, speech sounds, verbal dyspraxia