Dyspraxia is defined as a disability of a cognitive nature relating to organisation, coordination and mental execution, generally visible from the motor aspect but also in the acquisition of knowledge. Dyspraxia is of a neurological origin and is present at birth. This disability is explained by the difficulties encountered by the brain in orchestrating, planning, integrating and arranging information in order to carry out a task or motor conduct. The most current observations reported among children who display dyspraxia are: delay in fundamental motor learning (standing up, walking, running, rolling over, going up and down stairs, and throwing or catching a ball); difficulties in dressing; clumsy behaviour; difficulty in writing; difficulty in cutting out and in performing odd jobs; and the capacity to carry our construction activities.
At school, teachers note the complications involved for the child in copying information from the blackboard. Writing and drawing are usually laborious and time consuming, and difficulties in understanding mathematical concepts or managing simple operations are also evident, as is learning allied to sports of artistic activities. This is despite the good intentions of the child to succeed in performing the task.
Some difficulties in the thinking process
What is less visible to the eye of the non-professional but close to the factors observed by the parents and teachers is a change or lack of maturation of the cognitive structures and of the fundamental processes required for the successful conduct of learning. We can note :
- Some memory disabilities – short and working memory
- A fragmented and incomplete acceptance of information
- Some ill-adapted compensatory strategies
- A deficit of sequential and simultaneous analysis
- Some disabilities in executive control (organisation and planning)
- A difficulty in conceptualising
Recommendations and ways of proceeding
If it is suspected that the child displays some difficulties in learning allied to a dyspraxia, the first step to take is to obtain a complete evaluation in neuropsychology. This will enable the nature and origin of the difficulties to be determined. Subsequently, according to the profile established, it may be necessary to work with a speech therapist for language disabilities, a psychometrician for the motor aspects, and an orthopedagogue for the cognitive aspects in cognitive education and therapy allied to learning.
Procedure for cognitive education and therapy
The aim of the individualised programme in cognitive education and therapy is to receive children and adolescents who encounter difficulties in learning allied to dyspraxia disability. The pedagogical and therapeutical approach employed is cognitive education. This orientation directs the action towards processes that underlie the handicap, in order to stimulate and support the functions that are necessary in operational learning. The child will be led to understand the causes of its difficulties and will employ its cognitive capacities for developing a functioning that will become, in a general way, more suitable for learning. It will learn to maintain and increase its motivational level and reduce the mentally inappropriate conduct. It is postulated in this work that the intelligence and emotional responses are not unalterable factors, but are educable. That is why the cognitive education programme can improve the capacities of the dyspraxic child by dynamizing the cognitive processes. This programme also devotes particular attention to the self-esteem of the child, and its determination to succeed despite the handicap. This component prevents the child from sinking progressively into a feeling of incompetence and withdrawing within itself.
What does the programme offer ?
- A specific work on the functioning of thought, such as short term and working memory, acceptance and integration of information, executive functioning (planning and organisation), guiding of sequential and simultaneous conduct, conceptualisation, and selective attention.
- Maintenance and strengthening of self-esteem, work on willpower and determination.
- Comprehension and explanation of the challenges.
- Work with the parents, imparting the pedagogical tools, and explanations that enable a better accompaniment of the child at home and during the scholastic tasks.
- Possibility of interchanging views, receiving advice, being listened to and understood, and speaking about one’s worries.
- A horizontal working relationship with educational and health specialists for multi-disciplinary discussions, and as a pedagogic consultation service.