Box of tricks
Dyspraxia, or developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) is debilitating in a number of ways, not least that it is not often recognised as the condition. It affects fine and gross motor skills.
Dyspraxic children may not have the co-ordination to catch a ball or the dexterity to dress themselves. When children with no visible disability fail at apparently simple tasks parents can become impatient; when they are no good at games they can have difficulty with their peers.
A system to help develop motor skills at home as well as school has been devised by occupational physiotherapists Teleri Robinson and Una Maclean, at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. Pindora's Box contains play equipment for about 50 activities at five levels of difficulty. A task that starts with simply throwing and catching a ball progresses to throwing it, capping, and catching it, and becomes more demanding through five stages. The problem of threading beads on a string moves into threading them in colour sequences.
Hops and jumps around a course, throwing peg bags into a box, lacing cards, develop further skills: co-ordination can be learned by methodical repetition.
Most of the exercises are timed, with increased speed indicating progress, but the strong point is made that children progress at different speeds. The programme is intended to provide skills practice during the period between physiotherapy sessions, often a fortnight. Teleri Robinson says that working at home on a programme with straightforward goals also helps strengthen the relationship between children and parents. Parents may not have perceived a relationship between, say, threading beads and doing up buttons, or realised that building up repetitive movements and increasing their speed is useful. The instructions come as a leaflet and a video. Benefits all round.