Dyspraxia Foundation advisors played a key role in developing the Movement Curriculum on which all spells are based in Tree Fu Tom.
Spells incorporate movements typically used by occupational therapists and physiotherapists to help children with movement/co-ordination disorders such as dyspraxia and are designed to help all children – regardless of whether they have any movement challenges – to learn, practice and perfect the key skills and abilities crucial for movement development. This includes balance; shoulder and pelvic stability; bilateral integration; spatial awareness; fine motor control; trunk rotation; proprioception (body awareness) and midline crossing.
Magic is an essential part of Tree Fu Tom and children are encouraged to participate in the movement-based Tree Fu spells to affect the outcome of each episode. Dyspraxia Foundation movement specialists Sally Payne and Dr Lynda Foulder-Hughes worked closely with the series choreographer Nick Kellington to develop unique spell movement sequences that reflect the narrative of each story-line and which have a “cool” martial-arts type feel (which is particularly engaging for boys).
Sally and Lynda provided feedback on video recordings of the draft spell sequences, suggesting improvements to ensure that they present the “just right challenge” for children from 3 to 7 years, including those with dyspraxia.
Sally or Lynda then joined Nick at a local school where small groups of children were filmed doing the spell movement sequences to check that they were both achievable and engaging and to establish the optimum pace at which Tom should do the movements so that children could follow. The animators then used the film of Nick guiding the children to model Tom’s movements in each episode.
Sally said: “Tree Fu Tom invites children to join in with the spells ensuring that they participate in targeted physical activities at times when they might otherwise be rather sedentary. Participating in Tree Fu magic increases opportunities for children with dyspraxia to practice their movement skills whilst also bringing the health benefits of more active 'screen time' for all children.”
Dyspraxia and coordination difficulties are common, life-long conditions that affect up to 10 per cent of school-aged children (two per cent severely). It is an impairment of the organisation of movement and is the result of an immaturity in the development of the nervous system. This means that nerve signals are not transmitted effectively from the brain to muscles, affecting a person’s ability to perform movements in a smooth, coordinated way.
Understanding of the underlying causes of dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder) is limited but children who are born early, who have a low birth weight or who have a family history of dyspraxia are more likely to have the condition.
Sally adds: “Awareness of dyspraxia remains low in comparison to other common developmental disorders. Tree Fu Tom offers a unique opportunity to raise the profile of this much missed and misunderstood condition.”
Children with dyspraxia have difficulty developing the movement skills that come naturally to their peers. They often have poor balance and postural stability; find it difficult to move their arms and legs in a coordinated manner; and struggle to use both sides of their body together. Without these foundation skills it is hard for them to carry out everyday activities such as walking up stairs without tripping, bending down to pull on socks, making marks with a crayon and using a knife and fork.
Their difficulties with movement skills can often lead to children with dyspraxia falling behind at school (despite, often, having above average IQs) and having additional social challenges at school – this is especially apparent for boys whose early social interactions tend to involve physical skill-based activities such as sports.
Lack of exposure to or experience of the full range of movements that a child needs to develop typically is a problem that all modern children face and so we are hopeful that Tree Fu Tom can offer benefits to every participating child.
Sally concludes by saying: “The Dyspraxia Foundation is so excited about Tree Fu Tom and delighted to have been involved from the start on what we think is an important and remarkable series.”
The Dyspraxia Foundation is so excited about Tree Fu Tom and delighted to have been involved from the start on what we think is an important and remarkable series.”