For kids with developmental coordination disorder (DCD), trouble with motor skills can make it hard to learn in class. DCD, sometimes referred to as dyspraxia, impacts a wide range of tasks, skills, and activities. That includes everything from taking notes to doing things in the right order.
Students may struggle to get from classroom to classroom on time or change into gym clothes. They may have trouble applying the right amount of pressure when they use a pen or pencil to write. Or their handwriting may be so messy that it’s unreadable.
What classroom accommodations can help with DCD? Here are some strategies teachers can use.
Classroom seating, materials, and routines
- Seat the student closer to the board, teacher, and/or another student who could help.
- Adjust chair and/or desk height to ensure the student is in the proper position for desk work. (Feet flat on the floor, shoulders relaxed, and forearms supported on the desk.)
- Allow the student to work in different positions, like standing.
- Provide a slant board (or large three-ring binder) for a sloped writing surface.
- Provide pencil grips.
- Have spring-loaded or loop scissors available.
- Provide special paper as needed, like raised-line paper or graph paper.
- Provide different writing tools (thin markers, gel pens, etc.) to reduce pencil pressure.
- Give the student an end locker or cubby and teach locker-opening skills.
- Give breaks so the student can move around a few times a day.
- Give extra time to get from class to class.
- Build in extra time to get changed for gym and ready for recess.
Giving instructions and assignments
- Give teaching notes ahead of time or have a note-taking buddy.
- Use worksheets that reduce the need to copy, like fill-in-the-blanks or matching.
- Use larger print for worksheets, notes, and textbooks.
- Have the student dictate to a scribe or use speech-to-text software.
- Give outlines of diagrams or maps so the student only needs to mark what’s being taught.
- Allow the student to use a computer for written assignments.
- Provide extra time for tests and writing assignments.
- Allow oral answers on tests.
- Provide checklists, rubrics, step-by-step, and visual directions for assignments.
Introducing new concepts/lessons
- Provide extra time to complete work.
- Give directions slowly and in short sentences.
- Pre-teach physical skills in small parts.
- Teach specific handwriting strategies that show how to print letters consistently.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Priscila Tamplain, PhD is an associate professor in the department of kinesiology and the director of the Developmental Motor Cognition Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington.