Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD)/Dyspraxia
This section introduces Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) or dyspraxia and explores how it may impact on a student’s academic performance and participation in university life. Here, the main focus is to suggest ways in which you as a staff member can support students with DCD/dyspraxia within their role of being a student.
Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) is a lifelong condition which can negatively impact an individual’s functioning and participation in everyday life. While DCD is widely recognised for its impact on gross and fine motor skills, it is often seen with co-occurring difficulties such as social and emotional difficulties, problems with time management, planning, personal organisation and executive functioning. These can have implications for an individual’s education or employment experiences. (Dyspraxia Foundation, 2019).
In a study commissioned by the Disability Service in Trinity College, two students were interviewed and identified experiencing the following difficulties:
- 1) Difficulties with everyday living skills such as cooking, cleaning, organising finances, and developing routines.
- 2) Difficulties with Academic skills such as planning, managing deadlines, time management.
- 3)Difficulties with Motor skills such as driving, handwriting, taking case notes on placement.
If adequate support and intervention in school and work environments are not provided, it can place an individual at great disadvantage (The Leeds Consensus Statement, 2016).
A total of 120 students with DCD are registered with the Disability Service, TCD. 7% of the student population registered with the Disability Service (Claffey, 2020).
Difficulties that may be experienced by university students with DCD or dyspraxia.
In a survey completed by the Trinity Disability Service in 2020, students with DCD rated the following as key areas of difficulty:
- Timing in exams
- Concentrating in lectures
- Writing essays/assignments
“I find it very difficult to keep up and stay focused during lectures.”
“Even with the extra time in the exam I can struggle.”
“I did however find it difficult when writing assignments to read 15 articles and compile ideas all into one assignment.”
“I had trouble with timing during a couple of exams.”
“I found essays to be very stressful.”
“Basic organisational problems.”
“Sometimes I found it hard to keep up with things.”
In addition, students may have difficulty with:
- Handwriting, copying diagrams, and writing notes from the board. Keyboard skills can be difficult to acquire.
- Fine motor skills for accuracy e.g. in laboratory work, or in precise clinical skills for courses such as Nursing.
- Concentration, time management, and planning can be very challenging for some students with DCD.
- Expressing their thoughts clearly.
- Sensitivity to sensory information such as sound, light, or touch.
- Written expression, work organisation, visual skills, oral skills, or numeracy skills.
- Associated mental health difficulties.
Strategies staff can use to support students
- As explained here, students may have disclosed DCD/dyspraxia to their School. Access the LENS report for details on how you can support the student. Implement and support a student’s reasonable accommodations with efficiency and discretion. Be mindful of how having DCD may impact a student’s experience of university life.
- Make lecture notes and other handouts available in advance if possible. As explained, a student with DCD may have difficulty writing notes in lectures. Having access to the notes within the lecture (printed or on a laptop) facilitates the student to follow the format of the lecture, and add in notes as appropriate.
- Students with DCD may find it difficult to manage time and plan ahead. A clear timeline of events, assignments, and deadlines in the course handbook would support students to know when things are due.
- A written outline of the course in the student handbook may assist students with DCD to follow the course and revise for exams. Provision of clear lecture notes on each topic can be very helpful for a student with DCD.
- Prioritise reading lists if possible. Students with DCD often find it difficult to access and organise information, so prioritising reading might help to direct the student to the most pertinent texts.
- Follow Trinity Inclusive Curriculum guidelines as much as possible.
If you would like more information or support, contact the Disability Service. See the following links for more information about DCD and useful resources: