New tests to help teenagers with Developmental Coordination Disorder
26 September 2008
Psychologists at the Institute of Education, University of London and Oxford Brookes University have been supported by leading children’s research charity, Action Medical Research to develop new coordination and handwriting tests that will identify teenagers who need extra help at secondary school and college. The project was funded by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity.
Approximately five per cent of children, that is roughly one child in every classroom, are affected by Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), sometimes called dyspraxia. One of the most common problems is slow and illegible handwriting and many of the children affected end up doing less well in school than expected, especially at exam time. This underachievement can carry on into adulthood and often leads to low self esteem and social isolation.
Professor Sheila Henderson and Dr Anna Barnett, leading experts in movement development in children have produced two new tests that measure general movement ability and speed of handwriting – the Movement Assessment Battery for Children -2 (M-ABC 2) and the Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH). To ensure that the test results would accurately represent the abilities of children across the UK, the team gathered and analysed data from over 1,000 teenagers attending schools in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These ‘norms’ are the first available for children of secondary school age.
Just launched commercially, the tests should help to accurately diagnose the coordination and writing difficulties caused by DCD, dyslexia and other developmental disorders in young people. This could lead to extra help such as the use of a computer for written work or additional time for exams. They will also be useful for any student applying for a Disabled Student Allowance, before going on to further/ higher education. Professor Henderson said,
“Children at secondary school need to be able to take notes and of course in examination conditions, need to be able to write answers quickly and legibly.
“This is impossible for some young people, who simply cannot write fast enough or neatly enough. We have seen youngsters with an IQ of 150 but an inability to write legibly or quickly enough to cope well in many situations.
“The frustration of having the answers in your head but not being able to get them down on paper must be enormous, but for most children all that is needed is an understanding of the problem and extra time in exams, perhaps the assistance of a reader or the use of a computer. Without those, they are at a huge disadvantage.”
Dr Yolande Harley of Action Medical Research said,
“Professor Henderson and Dr Barnett’s work could help to create a more level playing field for children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Both the Movement ABC and the DASH can assist young people to get an early and accurate diagnosis enabling them to receive the help they need and giving them a chance to achieve their full potential”.
Notes to editors:
• Dyspraxia National Awareness Week runs from September 27 to October 4 2008
• The Research Team at the University of London, Institute of Education and Oxford Brookes University, and Dr Yolande Harley of Action Medical Research are available for interview.
The Research Team at the University of London, Institute of Education and Oxford Brookes University. www.ioe.ac.ukwww.brookes.ac.uk
The research team comprised Professor Sheila E Henderson, Dr Anna L Barnett and Ms Beverly Scheib
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