When your child has dyspraxia, it’s important to talk with his teacher about it. Understanding what your child struggles with allows the teacher to find ways for your child to be successful in the classroom. These tips can help guide the conversation.
1. Meet with the teacher as early as possible.
The best time to have a conversation about dyspraxia is right before or right after the school year begins. That allows the teacher to consider strategies to use from the start. (Don’t hesitate to request a meeting at any time, however.)
Many teachers either haven’t heard of dyspraxia, or they know very little about it. Be prepared to provide a lot of information. Consider printing out information about dyspraxia and the skills it can affect, and bringing it to the meeting.
2. Explain what dyspraxia is…and isn’t.
Dyspraxia is a brain-based condition that affects motor planning. The brain knows what the body is supposed to do. But instead of the body instantly acting on the plan, it takes much more thought and effort. And even then the body may not execute the plan well.
Dyspraxia isn’t the same as clumsiness, however. And it’s not the result of having weak muscles. Dyspraxia isn’t about physical strength—it’s about being able to carry out the movements the brain tells the body to make.
3. Suggest strategies that work well for your child.
Be sure to get the teacher’s input, too. Ask if she’s had a child with dyspraxia in class before, and whether she used any strategies that she found helpful.
4. Talk about how dyspraxia can affect gross and fine motor skills.
The more your child’s teacher knows about his specific challenges, the better able she’ll be to support him in class. She’ll also be able to show that she understands why certain things are hard for him.
5. Describe how dyspraxia can affect speech.
Poor motor planning can impact more than just fine and gross motor skills. It can also affect speaking. So if your child with dyspraxia has trouble with speech, it’s important for the teacher to understand why.
Explain that it’s a challenge for your child to get the muscles of his mouth, tongue and voice box to work together. That can impact his ability to form accurate sounds and pronounce words properly.
6. Explain that dyspraxia can affect body position.
Knowing where your body is in space can be difficult for kids with dyspraxia. A child may understand that his feet have to be under his desk. But he might think they’re in the right place when they’re actually in the aisle.
If this is the case with your child, explain that if your child seems unable to control his body position, it’s because of his dyspraxia.
7. Ask the teacher to avoid saying certain things to your child.
Let the teacher know that saying things like “Just try harder” and “Don’t worry, this will be easy” probably won’t encourage your child. In fact, it may have the opposite effect.
Being “real” and supportive works better. Ask the teacher to try saying things like “I know this can be tough, but together we’ll find a way for you to do it.”
8. Explain that dyspraxia can be very frustrating.
Your child knows what he needs to do, and he wants to do it. But his body has trouble following through on what his brain tells it to do. Talk to the teacher about the frustration your child sometimes feels because of that.
The more the teacher understands about your child, and about dyspraxia, the more she’ll be able to support him at school. And knowing his teacher “gets” him can make it easier for your child to self-advocate and ask for help.