Dyspraxia can make it hard to manage everyday tasks. For school-age kids these may include things like writing, drawing and playing sports. Young adults can face a new set of daily challenges as they prepare for independent living. The good news is there are ways to work around these hurdles so they don’t stand in the way of success.
Here are some everyday challenges for young adults with dyspraxia—and what can help:
Why it’s hard: Driving is one of the toughest tasks for people with dyspraxia because they must organize, coordinate and execute many actions at the same time. Frequently checking mirrors, using hand-over-hand steering and even operating things like blinkers and wipers can be a challenge.
What might help: There are driving instructors who are specially trained to assess and teach students with challenges. Ask for names at your child’s school. The school occupational therapist (or a private one) may be a good resource. You may also be able to find an instructor through the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. This group provides a national directory of rehab specialists, many of whom give private lessons.
Challenge: Keeping Track of Paperwork and Appointments
Why it’s hard: People with dyspraxia may have trouble putting their thoughts in order, following directions, planning ahead and completing tasks. That can translate to unfiled paperwork, bill-paying problems and missed appointments.
What might help: Use the calendar, alarm and reminder features on your child’s phone to help him get organized. Also encourage him to keep an old-fashioned appointment calendar clearly visible in a central spot. Seeing what the month or week ahead looks like can help with planning. A professional organizer may also be able to help your child set up a file system to make organization fast and easy. You can search for a professional organizer through the National Association of Professional Organizers directory.
Why it’s hard: Young adults with dyspraxia may have mastered basics like tying shoelaces long before becoming independent. But ongoing issues with fine motor skills and coordination may create new hurdles with shaving and other grooming tasks. These include using two hands to style and blow-dry their hair. Putting on makeup can also be tough.
What might help: Go with your child to a store that carries personal care items, and look for low-tech solutions to self-care challenges. Electric razors are a perfect example. Another example is a blow-dryer that has a brush attachment so hair can be styled with one hand.
Why it’s hard: Keeping house involves lots of tasks that have many steps, such as cooking, making beds, tidying up and doing laundry. Folding and other actions that involve fine motor skills may be difficult, too.
What might help: A step-by-step checklist for chores like laundry and tidying may keep your child on track with multi-step tasks. Show your child how to look for expiration dates and remind him to keep track of them. When it comes to cooking, look for simple recipes and practice making them with your child. Put the recipes together in a binder for him. Teach him to roll his clothes instead of folding them.
Challenge: Job Hunting
Why it’s hard: Dyspraxia can affect skills that are important for finding and keeping a job. These might include the ability to organize, drive and type. Some people with dyspraxia have a hard time speaking clearly, which may create extra challenges.
What can help: Breaking down the job hunt into small steps can make it easier for your child to manage the process. Help him produce resumes and cover letters. Work with him to set up folders on his desktop to keep track of information.
You can also help him create a “prep routine” for interviews. That can include everything from pulling together an outfit to mapping out which buses to take to get there. Once your child has a job, have him pack whatever items he needs for work the night before and leave his bag in a set place.
Discuss whether your child should disclose his dyspraxia to his employer. Make sure he knows about workplace accommodations. Help him practice presenting strategies that have worked for him in the past. With your guidance, your child with dyspraxia can find strategies and tools that help clear a path to success.