Friday, 6 November 2009

Top Tips ~ Dyspraxia and nonverbal learning difficulties

Learn good fine motor control and spatial awareness from an early age:

- do lots of pencil/crayon activities like drawing, colouring in, copying shapes, continuing a drawn pattern, drawing the way out of a maze, dot-to-dot patterns, jig-saw puzzles, block building, matching games (with colours, pictures, shapes and letters).

- teach and practise correct pencil grip (see our videoclip on handwriting for a demonstration ) – use a ‘correcting’ rubber pencil grip if needed.

Improve handwriting

- get the mechanics right by choosing a comfortable-to-use pen, a chair that encourages good posture at a table of the right height (and sloping boards to hold the paper are useful especially for left-handers).

- teach correct letter formation (see Prepare Your Child for Starting School or Top Tips for Starting School

- give lots of practice, starting with individual letters and then moving on to joined-up lettering.

What’s the alternative to handwriting?

- teach touch-typing and keyboarding skills from an early age (around 7 years).

- encourage the use of computers for note-taking, projects and homework (but check with teachers first that this is okay).

- encourage your child to use a dictating machine for interviews, stories, descriptions to get their ideas flowing.

- ask teachers to provide handouts for children who are slow or find it hard to copy notes.

Develop organisation, planning and time management

- encourage use of diaries, timetables, lists and post-its as reminders.

- have a weekly session with your child to organise papers and files, and throw away anything unnecessary.

- encourage your child to routinely pack school and sports bags the night before and leave by the front door; use rewards to encourage your child to learn to remember without you having to prompt.

- use a kitchen timer to encourage working and concentrating hard in small ‘chunks’ (for younger children 5 minutes and for older children 15 minutes, followed by a 2 minute break).

Top Tips ~ Reading

1. Read with your child at home

For children of 7-8 whose reading is very poor, read aloud to them every day. This will make them want to read, give them more experience of print (print exposure, which is very important) and help them to understand stories better (listening comprehension, which is essential for much school work including written comprehension)
For older children with dyslexia do shared reading. You take turns with your child to be the reader and the listener. This takes away some of the effort for a struggling child and means that more material can be read so stories become more interesting and enjoyable.
For children whose reading is becoming reasonably fluent, it is still extremely useful to keep on hearing them read aloud every day. It is also fine to do some shared reading if they wish.

2. Reading Sessions

Keep reading sessions with your child short (10 minutes is fine)

3. Choice Of Books

Choose books with an interest level that is right for your child’s age – but whose level of difficulty matches your child’s level (see our link sites for where to find suitable books)

4. Aim for fluency.

When your child struggles to read a word or says it incorrectly, just tell him/her the right word. Do not be tempted to add in “just try it again”, “sound out the letters” and so on because this interrupts the flow and makes reading a chore instead of a pleasure.

5. Identify Difficult Words

Make a note of words that are difficult for your child to read – or if they don’t know the meaning. Later on, write each word on a file card, one word per card, with the meaning on the back. You can use these to teach spelling (not as part of the reading) and for expanding vocabulary.

6. Ask Questions

Ask questions to encourage comprehension – detailed questions about a piece of the text [e.g. Q. How was the boy feeling do you think? A. (The text says he was smiling broadly) He must be happy.] Also ask what your child thinks might happen next, to stimulate imagination. (Stick to a short passage only for this and agree beforehand with your child that you are going to ask some questions about the passage chosen.) Your child may not like to do this every time he/she reads to you and it is best not to force it.

Top Tips - Starting School


• Set up clear routines – organise bed-time, meal-time and "getting up" routines; children then know what to expect, and behaviour is easier to manage too.

• Aim towards an "authoritative" parenting style – be caring and encouraging, use lots of praise and avoid being too critical or harsh.

• Use rewards as well as praise to encourage good behaviour, and give clear guidelines about what you expect from your child.


• Help your child make friends by arranging play dates with children who will be in his or her class – and get to know their parents too.

• Teach your child sharing and turn-taking.

Concentrating and listening

• Teach your child to sit and play quietly for 10-15 minutes and to complete activities once started (such as finishing a picture). Also, encourage your child to listen to, and act on, simple instructions.


• Develop your child's language by talking to him or her about things you are doing together and about the things around you.


• Read a short story to your child every day to help develop vocabulary and awareness of books, printed words and letters. This is good for bonding too.

• Do lots of nursery rhymes and "I Spy" games to help develop your child's awareness of sounds within words; this is very important for early reading development.

Early number skills

• Provide lots of opportunities like shopping, cooking and setting the table to practice counting, comparing the size and shape of objects, measuring and creating patterns.

Preparation for writing

• Do lots of pre-writing activities and games, like painting, colouring in, dot-to-dot, and pattern-making to develop pencil control.

For a happy first day at school

• Prepare you child for the very first day at school by helping him or her feel comfortable about separating from you (and you from your child!) for short periods.

• Make sure your child knows in advance what to expect from the school day.
And finally,

• Take a sensible and balanced approach to progress; there is a wide range of what is normal.

• Do as well as you can – and relax: you don't have to be the "perfect parent".