Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia: what are they and how can we help children with learning differences?

Dyslexia

Have a look at this short video which explains dyslexia in greater detail:

Dysgraphia

Learn a bit more about dysgraphia in the two videos below:

For more information on how to help with handwriting, please have a look at our dyspraxia blog post; it contains lots of useful tips on how to help our children improve with their handwriting.

Dyscalculia

Ronit Bird is an expert on dyscalculia and has produced several helpful resources. Please watch her video below and have a look at her website!

Our resource recommendations:

Base 10: this equipment helps children to see the differences between the size of different numbers and it is also particularly useful to those who are following the National Curriculum. Most schools have access to Base 10 equipment which will help to consolidate your child’s learning. It uses the principles of units, tens, hundreds and thousands & is an excellent resource for kinesthetic learners.

Numicon is an amazing resource. The aim of Numicon is to make numbers real for children through them being able to see and touch them. It fits in with the Maths Mastery approach that’s used in many schools, providing a concrete object to represent each number. It also has a multi-sensory approach that’s known to help learning.

Using dominoes and dice help dyscalculic learners by helping them to recognize spot patterns instead of having to count by ones.

And finally, a great way to help children become more confident with number is by using board games. Here are our top recommendations!

Draftosaurus 2-5 players, age 6+

Your goal in Draftosaurus is to have the dino park most likely to attract visitors. To do so, you have to draft dino meeples and place them in pens that have some placement restrictions. Each turn, one of the players roll a die and this adds a constraint to which pens any other player can add their dinosaur.

Draftosaurus is a quick and light drafting game in which you don’t have a hand of cards that you pass around (after selecting one), but a bunch of dino meeples in the palm of your hand.

Catan 3-4 players (up to 6 with expansion), age 10+

Players try to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. On each turn dice are rolled to determine what resources the island produces. Players build by spending resources (sheep, wheat, wood, brick and ore) that are depicted by these resource cards; each land type, with the exception of the unproductive desert, produces a specific resource: hills produce brick, forests produce wood, mountains produce ore, fields produce wheat, and pastures produce sheep.

Of Knights & Ninjas 2-6 players, age 8+

Competitive, strategic card game for 2-6 players set in feudal medieval era. The first player to own 10 gems wins the game.

Corinth 2-4 players, 8 years+

In each round of Corinth, a handful of dice are rolled and players take turns selecting groups of dice to deliver goods to shops, purchase herds of goats or visit the market, recording their progress on their notepads. In this game, you will need to pay close attention to what your opponents are doing and choose between taking the best option for you or making sure your opponents don’t get theirs…

Dino World 2-12 players, age 10+

Description from the designer:

Build and manage your own dinosaur park in this strategic roll and write game for 1 or more players.

Roll dice, draw pens and try not to let any dinosaurs escape!

Each turn players share an expanding dice pool to work through three phases: add dinosaurs and buildings to the park, draw paths connecting attractions to the entrance, and control dinosaurs attempting to escape.

The game ends whenever a player runs out of space in their park, or has had too many dinosaurs escape.

The player with the most fame from dinosaurs/attractions and the fewest penalties from breakouts is the winner!

Do be sure to have a look at our blog post about dyspraxia as there are often overlaps between the various learning differences.

Dyspraxia blog post- Special Needs Village

Other Resources

British Dyslexia Association

´Childmind.org

´Importance of Early Screening

´NCDL ´

Understood.org Dysgraphia

Understood.org Educational Therapy

Ronit Bird ´

Steve Chin ´

Brainbalancecenters.com

What is Dyspraxia? And how to help children with dyspraxia

Dyspraxia used to be known as ‘Clumsy Child Syndrome’ and it some countries it is referred to as ‘Developmental Coordination Disorder’. The signs that a child is struggling with dyspraxia can be seen in various aspects of their behaviour and motor control.

There are three recognized types of dyspraxia: verbal, oral and motor.

Verbal dyspraxia refers to difficulty in producing clear and understandable speech; oral dyspraxia refers to difficulty in controlling the vocal tract ( lips, tongue, palate, larynx) in the absence of speech, and motor dyspraxia refers to difficulties with gross and fine motor skills.

So what causes dyspraxia?

For the majority of cases, there is no known direct cause for dyspraxia. However, it has been noted that it is a common comorbidity in people who have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) or a family history of dyspraxia.

What is very intersting is that brain scans can now show the different areas of the brain that light up when a person with dyspraxia performs the same action as someone without dyspraxia.

According to the American Academy of Peadiatrics, children with dyspraxia showed greater activation in the areas of the brain that are to do with visuospatial processing, whereas children without dyspraxia relied more on areas to do with spatial processing, motor control, and error processing.

Brain Activation of Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder is Different Than Peers

Author: Jill G. Zwicker, Cheryl Missiuna, Susan R. Harris, Lara A. Boyd

Publication: Pediatrics

Publisher: American Academy of Pediatrics

Date: Sep 1, 2010

Copyright © 2010, Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Pediatrics

But what does that mean for my child?

It means that there will be some things they will find tricky, or certain actions may take a lot more practice for them to master. eg. doing up a tie for school, tying their laces. But it has been seen that children with dyspraxia tend to have very good visuospatial processing, and can be creative, hard-working problems solvers; they’ve had to learn to think outside the box and this can lend itself to their becoming unique and empathetic thinkers.

Who diagnoses dyspraxia?

If you are based in the UK, then usually your GP, SENCO or health visitor will refer you to another healthcare professional for the assessment. This could be a pediatric occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, a pediatrician or an education psychologist. They will refer to the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 and ICD11 in order to make an official diagnosis.

How can I help my child?

These are some of the most effective ways of helping a child with dyspraxia:

  1. Encourage individual sports rather than team sports. They may feel clumsy and awkward when playing team sports and this can affect their confidence. But it’s still very important for our children to be healthy. Therefore, encouraging team sports such as swimming or Pilates can help to improve their tone and coordination.
  2. Teach one-to-one or in small groups so we can see the areas of difficulty the child has and we can tailor our approach to them.
  3. ‘How To Use’ labels on machines such as the dishwasher or washing machine. Children with dyspraxia often struggle to organize their thoughts and may get muddled up with processes.
  4. Self-esteem work. Many children with dyspraxia have low self-esteem and feel they are the ‘odd one out’. Cater to their strengths and celebrate their achievements. Just because someone has dyspraxia doesn’t mean they are stupid or incapable: it just means the messages aren’t getting from the brain to their muscles in the way they would like.
  5. Orienteering practice. Children with dyspraxia tend to have a bad sense of direction and may get overwhelmed especially when they have to learn a new route or routine. Help them by practicing it over and over again. As they get older, send them out with Google maps and a local destination- they will learn to strengthen their orienteering skills and sense of direction.
  6. Emotional expression. Due to the fact that their body sometimes won’t do what they want it to, children with dyspraxia can get really frustrated with themselves. Make sure they have an outlet for their emotions, such as a journal, sketchbook or other emotional literacy resources.
  7. Good diet, sleep and exercise. As we saw in the article on ADHD, neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers in our brain) need a good balance of vitamins and minerals in order to function correctly and to be balanced. Have a look here for a more in-depth discussion of the role of diet and neurophysiology.
  8. Task-oriented approach. This is used by occupational therapists to help children improve a specific task such as eating with cutlery (Caring cutlery helps too!), climbing stairs or tying shoes. A task-oriented approach has been found to be very effective for children with dyspraxia.
  9. Process-oriented approach. This approach is slightly different in that it encourages the all-round development of the child’s gross motor skills, which in turn leads to improvements in other areas.
  10. Prioritise. Figure out what the priority is for you and your child, then work on that. Whether it be table manners, hand writing, football practice, riding a bike…find what’s going to make the most difference to you and your child and start there. Don’t get overwhelmed with goals and tasks; just one goal at a time.

What about coordination?

Well, one of things a child with dyspraxia will struggle with, is being able to coordinate their actions and do more than one thing at a time. eg. they may struggle to hold a jar of peanut butter still while they turn the lid. There are lots of day-to-day activities that can be incorporated into their daily routine at home and can help build their confidence in coordinated actions and also build up ‘muscle memory’.

What about handwriting?

This is by far the most common question I am asked about dyspraxia. “How can I help my child to improve their handwriting? I can’t understand what they’ve written, what should I do?” Here are some tips that may help:

Start off with warm up exercises and pencil control skills, practice other fine motor skills which will strengthen the muscles and coordination in the hands and wrists. Get them to write about things they like, and in a manner that they find comfortable. Speak to the school SENCO about extra time in exams and also about the possibility of a ‘scribe’; a member of staff who can write down their answers to questions but in a far more legible manner.

There’s some videos of the warm-up exercises to follow shortly!

And over to you…

Do you or your child have dyspraxia? What techniques and strategies have helped you? I’d love to hear in the comments.

P x

Helpful Links:

Dyspraxia Foundation

Medical News Today article re: dyspraxia

NHS UK

British Dyslexia Society, post about dyspraxia

Patient. Info article about dyspraxia