Teaching Kids New Skills - Dyspraxia/DCD - CO-OP Approach

Teaching Unfamiliar Tasks to Children with Dyspraxia/DCD

There are lots of different techniques & treatment approaches that Occupational Therapists (OT's) use to teach children new & unfamiliar tasks. A popular evidenced-based approach is the CO-OP approach & it's an easy one for parents to also use at home especially for teaching ball skills, handwriting, cycling & dressing.

If you are looking for specific activities to do with your child, I have designed motor skill programs for Preschoolers & School-Aged kids which you can view by clicking on the age range that suits your child. 

There are three distinctive phases when learning a new skill:

Cognitive phase: It is necessary to pause & think about each movement before attempting it.   

Associative phase: Less thought is required to carry out individual steps, however the overall task it is not yet fluid.

Autonomic phase: no longer need to think about the movement and it gets more and more refined with practice.

If you are trying to make sense of these steps, then just reflect on when you were learning to drive & go back through each of the phases.

Some people move between these phases much faster than others & that can be dependent on their motor planning. 

Key features of the CO-OP approach include:
  • Client/Child directed motivating goal
  • Dynamic Performance Analysis
  • Cognitive Strategy Use
  • Guided Discovery

So maybe it's easier to understand when I discuss a specific skill that you might be teaching your child. 

Task/Goal: To independently put on his shorts for soccer practice. 

Performance Anaysis:

  • Person: child puts both his legs into one side,right hand letting go of the pants, not bending body forward to hold pants open etc.
  • Task: entire sequence for lower body dressing very complex.
  • Environment: child finding it difficult to balance and complete in standing position.
Possible Strategies:
  • Person: child given verbal prompt to hold onto pants with both hands, physical cue to facilitate bending.
  • Task: start at point of being handed the pants in correct orientation. Use elastic loose shorts which are easier.
  • Environment: Complete task sitting down.

Once you have decided on a goal with your child & observed their performance & listed possible strategies (as above); you can then move onto the global problem solving strategy in CO-OP which is GOAL, PLAN, DO, CHECK. 

Goal: What do I want to do?

Plan: How am I going to do it?

Do: Do it! (carry out the plan)

Check: How well did the plan work?

So obviously for most children, there will be hiccups along the way so here are a few strategies that might be helpful: 

  • Start with a task that has an easy plan e.g. drinking out of a cup, using a spoon.
  • Demonstrate the task for the child if necessary.
  • Use a mirror to provide more feedback on body awareness. 
  • Use physical & verbal prompting where necessary.
  • Children learn best if given the opportunity to problem solve situations & come up with solutions themselves.
  • Ask lots of questions, comment on performance and give feedback.

There are lots of interactive videos on my course relating to Dyspraxia, motor skills & sensory processing which you can access byclicking here. 

Hope you find this blog helpful, let me know if you have any questions. 


CONTENT DISCLAIMER: Jessica Kennedy is a Certified CORU Registered Occupational Therapist. All information on the website is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for medical advice from your physician. Please consult with a medical professional if you suspect any medical or developmental issues with your child. Do not rely on the information on the website as an alternative to advice from your medical professional or healthcare provider. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment as a result of any information provided on the website. All medical information on the website is for informational purposes only. All activities outlined on the website are designed for completion with adult supervision. Please use your own judgment with your child and do not provide objects that could pose a choking hazard to young children. Never leave a child unattended during these activities. Please be aware of and follow all age recommendations on all products used in these activities. My OT & Me is not liable for any injury when replicating any of the activities found on this blog or website.

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