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Issue 473, 19 November 2001

Making use of parent-power

Children with the condition known as dyspraxia can be helped by parents and teachers, rather than using over-stretched NHS resources, according to new research at Leeds. Professor of special needs in education and Pro-Vice-Chancellor David Sugden found that the majority of children with the condition could be helped if parents themselves were trained in basic intervention and management techniques.

Children with dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), have problems with movement and coordination, affecting simple tasks such as dressing or playing games. The disorder has a knock-on effect on children’s self-esteem and later academic progress.

"From the waiting lists in many health authorities, it’s clear that existing models of providing therapy aren’t able to cope with the numbers of children involved," Professor Sugden explained. "We wanted to see if bringing in parents and teachers could provide an alternative solution."

In the model devised by Professor Sugden, children are first assessed by professionals, who draw up a profile of the child’s strengths and difficulties and devise an individual action plan. Parents, teachers or carers are then trained in a programme of activities, which they work through with their children around 3 to 4 times a week in sessions designed to be short, stress-free and enjoyable. Of the thirty-one children who took part in the study, only four were still diagnosed as having dyspraxia after18 months of therapy.

Action Research, who funded the study, have provided a further 46,000 for the next phase of the research, which will follow 28 of the original 31 children over two years to examine the long-term effects of the treatment.

In addition, the NHS is providing 75,000 for studies to determine whether the model can be applied on a larger scale.

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