Touching Lives - September 2004
Dyspraxia -- progress being made
So far, most effort has been spent on helping children of primary school age with DCD. We have learned much about this condition in the last decade, and it has been realised that there is an urgent need for better ways of assessing children of secondary school age too. For many children with DCD, handwriting is an extremely difficult skill to master.
When reaching secondary school, a pupil is required to take notes, write examination papers and manipulate materials in practical subjects. Secondary school can therefore become a stressful environment and these children may fail to achieve their true potential unless they receive extra help at home and in school.
Action Medical Research is supporting a project — generously funded by the Freemasons’ Grand Charity — which aims to improve the situation for teenagers with DCD. The team, based at the Institute of Education, University of London, is working towards the production of standardised tests to assess their problems more precisely. The work involves the development of a general test of movement and coordination and also a specific handwriting test.
At the moment, the regulations for deciding which pupils will receive special provision in written examinations (for example, extra time or the use of a computer) are rather unclear, and the researchers report that they have had a great deal of interest from professionals working in education. ^Reliable methods for assessing DCD would allow a fairer way of allocating scarce resources to those children who need them^, and offer a sound basis for planning and evaluating new treatments.
The project is making good progress, with new equipment being designed to assess hand skills and coordination in teenagers. The research team is also collecting data using a newly developed test of handwriting speed with students at many centres across the UK.
Dr Anna Barnett, a senior researcher on the project, told Touching Lives, “Standardised tests are in great demand by clinicians and teachers working with teenagers with movement difficulties. The tools we are developing will be important in helping them to plan how best to support these students and develop their skills”.