Exercises for Dyspraxics
Balance-remediation exercise-training may help with some of the difficulties seen in dyspraxia but, ''There's really no evidence that improving co-ordination is going to make it easier for you to learn to read. (Prof. Bishop.The Dyslexia Myth ITV CH4 08/09/05) The exercises below were given to home educator Claire Killips by a NHS physiotherapist, to carry out with her daughter. She found them simple to follow, beneficial and fun.

Exercises should be done for about 15 minutes a day - if you are a home educator, think of them as one part of the 'physical education' element of your home curriculum!

1. Balancing: standing on one leg (start with stronger leg) and count how long your child can balance for, keeping eyes open. Next, do the same on the weaker side. Eventually your child should be able to do this with eyes closed though not as easily. I sat on a chair and S. stood in front of me focusing on my face which helps with balance.

2. Hopping: again start with the stronger leg and count how many hops your child can do. When they eventually lose balance swap to the other leg. To start with they will probably hop all over the place but eventually they should be able to hop on the spot ie. within 2sq ft.

Ball skills:
3. Using different size balls from tennis to football, practice throwing/catching between you and your child. Start with a short distance between you gradually widening the gap. Aim to ensure your child watches the travelling ball and they don't just stick their hands out hoping the ball will land in them! Sounds obvious I know but to some kids with these problems it needs explaining. This aids judgement of distance and speed.

4. To begin with throwing/catching should be directly to your child, moving onto throwing to the left(L) and right(R) of your child (without telling them where it's going) varying how far, so they have to judge how far to move, in order to catch it.

5. Also practice doing the above but with a wider gap between you and allowing the ball to bounce once in the middle. Again start with direct throwing but then moving onto L & R throws.

6. Now move onto single-handed throwing/catching. Best to start with the more confident hand ie. S is right-handed so that's her lead hand, with the other hand behind your child's back. Remember you have to do this too! Then swap. Follow above with direct throws then L & R.

7. As they become more confident get them to practice bouncing a ball off the wall. I marked out a square 3x3 bricks which she had to throw into. Eventually I reduced this area down to a large X which she had to aim for.

8. Practice football skills. Start with a little distance between you, gently kicking the ball back and forth. Again start with the 'lead' leg but do swap equally between both legs. Aim directly to begin with, gradually kicking to L & R of your child and they should do the same back to you (as with all the ball skills).

9. Last one! Using a football to begin with as it's bigger, get them to practice bouncing it with one hand. At first they might wander all over the back yard doing this and that's fine but eventually they should be able to do it on the spot. Again your child should practice with each hand equally. Over time they can move to a tennis ball. An adaptation of this is to practice bouncing the tennis ball with some kind of bat or a tennis racket .

These exercises don't just aim to improve balance and co-ordination, they also aid visual processing and tracking and teach skills such as judging distance and speed, logic and sequencing - they have to think where they are going to throw/kick/bounce the ball and where the ball will end up. Some children will pick this up quicker than others, some will find it very difficult. S loved doing them even though she really struggled at times and did them every day. The physiotherapist said that these exercises should be done in conjunction with practising riding her bike and skipping but it was just too much for S. We did the exercises for 3 or 4 months before I attempted to see if she could ride her bike or use the skipping rope. I think it depends on the nature of your child and their determination levels!

For information on exercise 'treatment' programmes such as DORE (DDAT), 'Brain Gym' and INPP, go to Room 101