This week, we speak to Paediatric Occupational Therapist and member of the British Association and College of Occupational Therapists, Dr. Lynda Foulder-Hughes. She tells us about treating dyspraxia in children through play.
‘I saw Peter* at age six. His main difficulties were handwriting, sitting up posture and reading. He was initially diagnosed with global developmental delay, but his mum knew this was wrong. He was riding a bike without stabilisers at age three. I assessed him as having developmental coordination disorder (DCD) or dyspraxia.’
Lynda Foulder-Hughes is a member of the British Association of Occupational Therapists with a PhD in child health. She specialises in DCD in children.
‘Peter wasn’t getting the help he needed at school. He had problems using a knife and fork which is common with children with handwriting difficulties. It’s all related to bilateral skills. One hand needs to be steady while the other is carrying out a different task all together. I introduced the “hill and bridge” game. The curve on the back of a fork is the hill; the knife’s straight bit on the back is the bridge. Cutting up pretend Plasticine food, I’d say, “Now the bridge goes over the hill. It’s a windy day and the bridge is swaying back and forth.” So Peter could visualise it and know to cut and keep the fork still.’
With the right diagnosis and intervention programme, Peter got consistency in his life at home, in school and in his leisure activities. ‘In his intervention programme I gave him a lot of crawling activities. I developed tiger football, where children dribble a ball between their hands while crawling. This doesn’t just help those with movement difficulties, children developing without difficulties also benefit.’
‘It’s common to diagnose children with problems as early as possible, but this case got me thinking that if we label children too early they can be disadvantaged and unlikely to develop their full potential.’
*Name has been changed
Professor Andy Friedman, CEO of PARN
First appeared in Newsweek, edn. 10 April 2015