How to hire neurodiverse people

Over the past year, employers from every section of society have been redoubling their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. Brands across the UK are successfully breaking down the barriers around gender, ethnicity, disability and sexuality. However, for the most part their efforts have stopped short of promoting neurodiversity.

Neurodiverse conditions encompass dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and autism, including Asperger’s syndrome.

This means that neurodiveristy is by no means a rarity. Some 10% of the population have dyslexia, a learning difficulty that can result in problems with reading, writing and spelling. Of those, 4% are severely affected, according to the British Dyslexia Association.

Dyscalculia, characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic, processing numbers and performing accurate calculations, is thought to affect 5% of the population. The British Dyslexia Association reports that this number rises to 25% when the definition is widened to “mathematical learning difficulties”.

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Early Symptoms of Dyspraxia

The information below is taken from A Practical Manual for Parents and Professionals by Madeleine Portwood and the Developmental Dyspraxia Foundation UK with their kind permission. Full details of the research and profiles of Dyspraxic children can be found in A Practical Manual for Parents and Professionals Behaviors 0 – 3 Years

There are many early indications that a child is dyspraxic and a summary is shown below:

  • Irritable and difficult to comfort – from birth
  • Feeding difficulties: milk allergies, colic, restricted diet
  • Sleeping difficulties: problems establishing routine, requires constant adult reassurance
  • Delayed early motor development: sitting unaided, rolling from side to side: do not usually go through the crawling stage
  • High levels of motor activity: constantly moving arms and legs
  • Repetitive behaviors: head banging or rolling
  • Sensitive to high levels of noise
  • Continued problems with development of feeding skills
  • Toilet training may be delayed
  • Avoids constructional toys such as jigsaws and Lego
  • Delayed language development: single words not evident until age 3
  • Highly emotional: easily distressed, frequent outbursts of uncontrolled behavior
  • Concentration limited to 2 or 3 minutes on any task?

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Dyspraxia is more than just “clumsy child syndrome”

Compared to other specific learning difficulties, major research into dyspraxia – or developmental coordination disorder (DCD) as it is more formally known – has only begun fairly recently.

DCD is the term used to diagnose children who have motor skills substantially below what is expected for their age. They are not lazy, clumsy or unintelligent – in fact, their intellectual ability is in line with the general population – but they do struggle with everyday tasks that require coordination.

Take a typical boy with DCD: he is a bright and capable 10-year-old boy, but he struggles to tie his shoe laces and needs help to fasten the buttons on his school shirt. He can’t ride a bike and no one passes him the ball when he plays sports. His teacher has told his parents that while he is a clever and very able student, his handwriting is slow and difficult to read. He finds it hard to keep up in class or to complete his homework – and his performance at school is deteriorating.

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8 Fun Ways to Build Gross Motor Skills

When young kids have weak gross motor skills, it can get in the way of having fun. Running, jumping and throwing all require using large muscles. Help build gross motor skills with these eight activities.

Young girl and grand parents playing airplanes in a field

Play pretend.

A key to developing gross motor skills is understanding what the body can do. Fire up your child’s imagination and movement through pretend games. Have him waddle like a duck, fly like an airplane or hop like a rabbit. Or let him pretend to be something, and you can guess what he is.

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How to help a child with dyspraxia in the classroom

Teaching a child with dyspraxia can be a frustrating experience due to the wide range of symptoms a student may present. However, while dyspraxia is a neurological condition that causes movement and co-ordination issues, it has no impact on intelligence. Children with dyspraxia are perfectly capable of learning alongside their peers; they may just need some extra attention and support from time to time. Awareness is the first step and can make all of the difference in helping a child to reach his or her full potential at school.
While not as well known as other learning difficulties, dyspraxia in children is relatively common, with 6-10% of the population affected, to some degree. A child with dyspraxia may experience problems at school, including difficulty in handwriting his or her work, performing other tasks that require fine motor skills and planning and organisation aspects.
Nonetheless, parents and teachers can help students with learning difficulties by recognizing the root cause of a child’s performance issues and providing appropriate support, to make it easier for the dyspraxic child to be successful in the classroom. Sometimes a solution as simple as touch-typing vs. handwriting classwork can make all the difference in encouraging a child with dyspraxia to develop strong literacy skills from an early age.

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