Girls with dyspraxia not being diagnosed in schools

Charity calls for greater awareness of dyspraxia among females as survey shows they may be slipping through the net

New findings released this week reveal a significant gap in the diagnosis – and therefore, treatment – of dyspraxia, otherwise known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), among young women and girls.

The nationwide poll commissioned by the Dyspraxia Foundation reported that over half (53 per cent) of all female respondents said that their primary school teachers were unaware of their difficulties compared to just 39 per cent of the males questioned. In secondary school this trend continued with 47 per cent of teenage girls reporting the same situation, as opposed to 32 per cent of males.

Experts from the Dyspraxia Foundation believe such findings may reflect teachers’ perceptions of dyspraxia as a largely male disorder, leaving girls often overlooked in the classroom.

That’s why the Dyspraxia Foundation will be focusing on the gender gap for its 2015 Awareness Week during October. Thanks to a three-year £166,265 grant from the Big Lottery Fund, the charity has been able to re-launch its helpline and employ an Information Officer. Last year, a dedicated Youth Information Officer was also appointed and Awareness Week 2015 will now see the launch of a new ‘Advice for Girls’ information pack as part of the annual campaign.

What was once insensitively (and incorrectly) referred to as ‘clumsy child syndrome’, dyspraxia / DCD is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in both children and adults. Many individuals may also experience difficulties with memory, perception and processing, along with poor planning, organisation and sequencing skills which can have a significant, negative impact on everyday activities. Dyspraxia can also affect articulation and speech.

Of the 467 adults with dyspraxia polled (and who revealed their gender), 69 per cent (320) were female and 31 per cent (147) male. While for the ‘child’ population the figures were almost exactly opposite (73 per cent had sons with dyspraxia, 28 per cent had daughters), reinforcing the argument that dyspraxia/DCD is under-recognised in girls – who will often have to wait until adulthood before being diagnosed.

For more information about the ongoing work of the Dyspraxia Foundation and how to become involved or access help, information and advice, please visit dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk or look up @DYSPRAXIAFDTN on Twitter.

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Pie Corbett