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Merseyside youngsters invited to help with new Dyspraxia study

Dyspraxia study 150x150 Wednesday 22 April 2015

Children from Merseyside with confirmed or suspected Dyspraxia are being invited to take part in a new six week study at Liverpool Hope University which will investigate how training their gaze can help improve co-ordination skills.  

Dyspraxia (otherwise known as Developmental Coordination Disorder or DCD), affects around 6-12% of primary aged children in the UK, severely impairing their ability to perform everyday tasks such as tying shoelaces, or safely crossing a road. 

Researchers from Liverpool Hope University and the University of Exeter have developed a new eye training programme that can help improve the motor skills of children with the condition, by training what is termed the ‘quiet eye’.

The ‘quiet eye’ is the final visual fixation on a target that takes place immediately before a final movement when performing a skill. Examples include an archer's final gaze at the target before releasing the arrow, or when a person tracks a ball coming towards them with their eyes before they perform the grasping action of a catch.

Quiet Eye Training (QET) has been investigated in sportsmen and women, but this is the first time that it has been used to help children with Dyspraxia. The researchers previously used high tech gaze trackers to trace the quiet eye of children with and without the condition as they completed tasks such as catching a ball, and found that highly coordinated children use a longer quiet eye period in comparison to average and poorly coordinated children.

The new methods that they have developed encourage the child to lengthen their ‘quiet eye’ period through a steady gaze on a target before beginning the most critical part of a movement. By using these new training methods for just a single one hour session, the researchers found significant changes in the children’s catching technique that remained evident a further six weeks after the session.

The first study was funded by the Waterloo Foundation and has just been published in the academic journal Research in Developmental Disabilities 

Liverpool Hope University (via HEIF) has now funded a further 12 month project to develop QET for children with Dyspraxia, and researchers are now looking for children between the ages of 7-10 from the Merseyside area to take part in six weeks of fun movement and co-ordination sessions. 

Children who have confirmed or suspected DCD can volunteer, and they will be invited to participate in six weekly multi-skills sessions that are free and specifically designed to help children with DCD to progress their movement coordination. Before and after the training programme, the children complete a set of movement tasks whilst fitted with cutting edge technology that provides detailed information about their eye movements, muscle contractions, foot pressure distribution, postural control and 3D limb movements. This data will help researchers understand how a change in the child’s quiet eye affects their movements, and enable them to provide parents with detailed information about their child’s movement capabilities.

Dr Greg Wood, Lecturer in Sports Psychology at Liverpool Hope, and who is leading the project, said: “In practical terms, Quiet Eye Training changes a child’s gaze behaviour to provide them with better and more complete information about a task during the movement planning and preparation phase. As a result of this new technique, the children in the original study succeeded in more catching attempts in comparison to a second group of children with Dyspraxia who had received more traditional movement focused training instructions during the same period.”

Dr Charlotte Miles, Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow at Liverpool Hope said:The traditional route to help these children is to provide intensive and often costly one-on-one physiotherapy. This result of using QET to help children with Dyspraxia is remarkable given the short amount of time the children were given to learn, practice and retain the new technique.  As such, QET has already been identified by some paediatric physiotherapists as a method they can use in sessions with their patients diagnosed with DCD to help them develop their motor skills in other real world tasks.” 

Details of the upcoming study

Children between the ages of 7-10years who have confirmed or suspected DCD can volunteer to participate in this study.  Volunteers will be invited to participate in six weekly multi-skills sessions that are fun, free and specifically designed to help children with DCD to progress their movement coordination. 

Before and after the training programme, the children complete a set of movement tasks whilst fitted with cutting edge technology that provides detailed information about their eye movements, muscle contractions, foot pressure distribution, postural control and 3D limb movements.  This data will help researchers understand how a change in the child’s quiet eye affects their movements, and enable them to provide parents with detailed information about their child’s movement capabilities.

If you would like more information about the quiet eye training for children with DCD, or are interested in participating in the research project, please contact Dr Charlotte Miles via milesc@hope.ac.uk or you can visit: https://www.facebook.com/motorskillsresearch.  For the latest updates, you can also follow @DCDLiverpool.  

Sports Psychology at Liverpool Hope

Sports Psychology Research at Liverpool Hope

Pictured: Researchers try out some of the activities that will be used in the multi-skills sessions

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