Local MP joins charity to raise awareness of challenges faced by young people diagnosed with dyspraxia

Steve McCabe MP (Selly Oak MP and Shadow Minister for Children and Families)joined the national charity, the Dyspraxia Foundation as it launched the results of a new survey highlighting the huge levels of anxiety, fear or even dread felt by hundreds of secondary school children living with the developmental co-ordination disorder, dyspraxia.

 

The nationwide pollshowed that the emotional impact of the condition is far greater amongst teenagers than the more obvious problems with co-ordination or motor skills, often associated with younger children when the condition is first recognised84% said they had felt left out of a friendship group due to their “differences”, with more than a third (35%) saying this was a constant problem.

 

70% said they had been victims of bullying– a worrying pattern that was echoed by the parents and carers who took part in the survey, with 15% saying they felt their child was “always bullied.”

 

It is widely recognised that teenagers with dyspraxia are at greater risk of social isolation because their co-ordination difficulties may make it hard to participate in “socially-valued” activities such as playing an instrument or team sports. Indeed more than three quarters (77%) of those questioned said they avoided participating in sport, with 33% admitting they “always avoided such physical activity”.

 

In practical terms, life in a secondary school environment - particularly for those who had recently made the transition from a more protected and ‘cosier’ setting of primary school – presented a series of problems that many children of a similar age might take for granted.

 

53% said they had been late for school in the last half term– with 10% reporting that they were “always late’. 90% said they had lost something important, such as keys, wallet or phone.

 

More than two thirds (67%) said they felt they had put themselves in danger when crossing the road – something that occurs due to a poor perception of distance, depth and speed, making it harder to judge when it is safe cross.

 

Mr McCabe MP adds; “I was delighted to attend the launch of the Dyspraxia Foundation’s 2014 Awareness Week and would like to congratulate the charity for the work it does in supporting teenagers and helping them to achieve their potential both at school and as they become young adults.”

Sally Payne, Paediatric Occupational Therapist and Trustee of the Dyspraxia Foundation comments; “What this survey has really reinforced to us as a charity is that it’s the emotional aspects that hit teenagers and young adults most hard - especially when trying to navigate the already “tricky” aspects of growing up, such as the transition to secondary school or college, friendships, potential bullying, leaving home and generally learning to fend for yourselves.

 

“This can be a ‘minefield’ for most teenagers but those who are already struggling with co-ordination, memory or organisation skills, the impact on self-esteem and confidence can be huge. Simple tasks, such as arriving at school on time and making sure you’ve packed your school bag properly means that many students are stressed before they’ve even started their lessons. This level of daily anxiety can only serve to affect a teenager’s academic performance, participation in social activities and emotional well-being – not just during adolescence but also into adulthood.”

 

That’s why the Dyspraxia Foundation – the only national charity in the UK dedicated to raising awareness of the condition – will be focusing on teenagers for its 2014 Awareness Week during October.The charity (which thanks to a three-year £166,265 grant from the Big Lottery Fund has re-launched its helpline and employed an information officer) is also introducing a new Teenage Information Officer, who will be available to offer advice for young people experiencing any difficulties associated with dyspraxia and share info via the charity’s social media networks.

 

Sally continues; “However, whilst this comprehensive survey has flagged up some very real issues which must be addressed by schools, families and support services, it’s also vital that we are not too disheartened by some of the negative findings. At the Dyspraxia Foundation, we are increasingly hearing from teenagers and young adults who are achieving wonderful things, going onto university and embarking on fantastic careers, often in the arts.

Dyspraxia affects around 5% of the population (2%, severely) and males are up to three times more likely to be affected than females. Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families – and there are believed to be one to two children affected in every class of 30 children.

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