Dyspraxia is a specific coordination disability developed in childhood resulting from poor processing of information in the brain. It is also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) and in the past has been referred to as ‘clumsy child syndrome’.
Dyspraxia is diagnosed when a child has unexpected difficulties doing activities involving coordination and movement. These difficulties may be in play skills such as riding a bike, playing ball games; in daily living skills such as buttoning shirts, using a knife and fork; or in school activities such as writing, art and crafts and P.E.
There is no definitive cause for Dyspraxia other than the immaturity of the neurological development of the brain. Children with DCD are healthy and usually of normal intelligence: they do not have any known brain or muscle disorder.
To date, there are no medical, biological or radiological tests to confirm a diagnosis. X-rays or neurological tests will not show up anything. As a result, diagnosis is a clinical procedure. It involves assessing the child on a range of motor, cognitive and self-care skills, and needs to involve a multi-disciplinary team.
Some characteristics of dyspraxia?
- History of reaching many of the normal developmental milestones later than average, e.g., rolling over, sitting up, walking, talking, etc.
- Difficulty with dressing.
- Clumsiness and a poor sense of spatial awareness.
- Difficulty remembering and following a sequence of instructions.
- Difficulty running, hopping, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking a ball and riding a bike
- Poor pencil grip, often resulting in handwriting being almost illegible.
- Difficulty keeping friends and knowing how to behave socially among a group of peers.
- Difficulty with speech, reading, writing and spelling.
- Emotional or behaviour problems
- Easily distracted, poor attention span, reaction to stimuli without discrimination ; difficulty in copying from the blackboard in school.
- Poor organisation skills
What can be done to help someone with dyspraxia?
Children with dyspraxia will not grow out of it. First and foremost, they need to be understood and recognised. They need the support of professionals such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and teachers. Therapy on a one-to-one basis is very beneficial and parental involvement with the therapy is very important to ensure that the various exercises are practised at home.
Poorly developed gross motor skills (e.g., throwing, catching or kicking a ball, riding a bicycle, etc.) often feature in children with dyspraxia. By working on balance and co-ordination skills, an OT & physiotherapist can build up the child’s muscle strength and tone and increase the child’s awareness and use of limbs.
For children experiencing problems with their fine motor skills (e.g., handwriting), an occupational therapist can concentrate on the child’s co-ordination using skills such as threading, cutting, colouring and copying of shapes and patterns.
Oral Dyspraxia can mean some children can have difficulty pronouncing sounds, syllables and words – due to the absence of the motor plan to correctly position the articulators (face, tongue, lips and jaw). Working with a speech and language therapist can dramatically improve the child’s oral communication.
While children with dyspraxia are never cured, a programme of physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy will greatly assist them in compensating and coping with their disability. With proper support, there is no reason why children with dyspraxia cannot reach their full potential.
Check out our blog for more on managing Dyspraxia and DCDs in your children.