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Studying with Dyspraxia Specific learning difficulties (SpLD)

Studying with dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) can have its challenges. The Open University can support you through your study journey to cope with and overcome these challenges.

Dyspraxia affects motor coordination, visual perception, spatial awareness, short-term working memory and organisation of tasks and thoughts. This means it can cause difficulties with organising study, prioritising tasks and formulating academic arguments, such as essays and reports.

As dyspraxia is an umbrella term, not everyone will experience the same difficulties. It can also occur with other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), such as dyslexia.

If dyspraxia is not identified until adulthood it can affect confidence. Learning more about dyspraxia can help to make the most of your strengths and match these to the expectations of the course and individual assignments. 

Study tips

Studying with dyspraxia sometimes means thinking of alternatives to overcome challenges when the conventional way will not work. Here are some areas you may need to think differently about, with some help and advice on how to do that.

Organising and prioritising work

Working out the time a task may take, especially if it is new, may be difficult. You could try working backwards from your assignment deadline to identify when to do each part of the preparation. Break down the overall task into smaller ones to help with this. If you’re finding it difficult to know what to prioritise, talk to your Tutor or your Student Support Team.

Tutorials

Tutorials may at first appear a challenge as you process information differently. Multi-tasking by listening while making notes can be difficult. Knowing in advance what the tutorial will cover may help. You will find a tutorial description on your tutorial booking page.

As an alternative to taking notes you may want to watch a recording of the tutorial afterwards. All tutorials have one recorded version. This won’t necessarily be the one you attended, but it will cover the same subjects. To find a recorded tutorial see Find and view recorded tutorials. Also if the tutor uses slides, they may be able to share these with you.

Recalling information you’ve read

If you struggle recalling what you have read, reading actively, and making notes as you read can help. For more techniques see Active reading.

Selecting information for your TMA

People with dyspraxia are often independent and creative thinkers who see things from an unusual angle or make connections not commonly made by other people. This is a valuable quality, however, ‘thinking outside the box’ needs to be combined with ‘thinking inside the box’ to make sure you answer the question.

Use highlighters to identify key parts of the TMA guidance. This will help you to cover key points as well as including your own thoughts. If you need help with this aspect of your writing, ask for support or feedback from your tutor. 

Planning and structuring your TMA

Differences in the way you organise thought may cause difficulties when you are working out an order in which to present your ideas.  Mind maps are often helpful. To find a good sequence for your points, you could put key ideas on Post-it notes or slides and move them around to work out a structure. You may also find some useful examples on Mind maps.

Writing your assignment

People with dyspraxia learn by doing. By beginning to write the assignment you may start to work out what you want to argue. It may be helpful to start writing earlier than other people, or earlier than the study planner suggests, because you may need to write more drafts to make your argument clear.

Proof-reading

Weakness in visual perception can lead to problems with accuracy and proofreading. You may not readily notice spelling, punctuation and referencing mistakes.

As you work closely on an assignment it can make it harder to recognise mistakes, as you are so familiar with what you have written. You may find it easier to spot mistakes by leaving your work a while before proof-reading.

You could also try reading your assignment backwards, starting with the last paragraph and then the second to last one and so on. In that way you can focus on spelling and punctuation.

Make a list of mistakes you have missed in each TMA and look out for these in the next one. 

Spatial awareness

A lack of spatial awareness can affect the way you set things out on a page. Microsoft Word Help can guide you though setting up a page and you can also find useful links to the Microsoft Help Centre at Using Microsoft Word for study. There are also widely available videos on page layout.

Good days and bad days

People with dyspraxia report unevenness in the way dyspraxia affects them. For instance, sometimes they will remember how to reference a particular text and on other days they will have to look up the referencing convention. It can be helpful to know this to manage the frustration it may cause.

Support available

The OU aims to make study as accessible as possible and a range of adjustments and support are included in modules for all students as standard. Further adjustments are possible if you tell us about your dyspraxia and supply supporting evidence. For more information on how the OU can help see Adjustments and support available through the OU.

You may also be eligible to apply for Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA). For more details see Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

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