It may seem like a scary scenario; thinking that something could be potentially wrong with your child. You will want to know how best to help your child and how to plan for the years ahead. It is important to recognise that dyspraxia is no one’s fault. Although there is no cure, there are many things that you can do to give practical help and support to your child. Here’s how to go about it:
All You Need to Know About Dyspraxia in Children
Firstly, what is dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the person both physically and mentally. It is a form of developmental coordination disorder (dcd) is a common disorder affecting motor coordination in children and adults. While this is often regarded as an umbrella term to cover motor coordination difficulties, dyspraxia specifically refers to those people who have additional problems planning, organising and carrying out movements in the right order in everyday situations. Dyspraxia can also affect comprehension, speech, perception and thought.
Children with dyspraxia can face a range of challenges related to their trouble with movement and coordination.
Is dyspraxia a physical disability?
Dyspraxia is not regarded as a straight out disability, since it can be improved is that with the right approach and plenty of practice. Most problems that face a child with dyspraxia can be overcome and that can’t be said for someone who has a visible disability. Dyspraxia can be more easily compared to a disorder than a disability.
Dyspraxia is a particularly frustrating condition/disorder as it affects the child both mentally and physically. It is thought to be caused by a problem with the development of the brain.
What are its symptoms?
Developmental coordination disorder can cause a wide range of problems. Some of these may be noticeable at an early age, while others may only become more obvious as your child gets older.
Your child may take slightly longer than expected to roll over, sit, crawl or walk. You may also notice that your child shows unusual body positions (postures) during their first year. Symptoms are evident from an early age. Babies are usually irritable from birth and may exhibit significant feeding problems. They are slow to achieve expected developmental milestones.
Although these may come and go, they may also:
- have difficulty playing with toys that involve good coordination – such as stacking bricks
- may have some difficulties learning to eat with cutlery
These challenges usually don’t occur on their own. Kids with motor skills issues often have other conditions along with it. The most common issues that co-occur include:
- adhd and executive functioning issues
- transcription and handwriting issues, like dysgraphia
- sensory processing issues
- mental health issues, like anxiety
- slow processing speed
How do I know if my child has dyspraxia?
If dyspraxia is not identified, problems can persist and affect the childís life at school. Increasing frustration and lowering of self-esteem can result.
Children with dyspraxia may demonstrate some of these types of behaviour:
- very high levels of motor activity, including feet swinging and tapping when seated, hand-clapping or twisting and inability to stay still
- high levels of excitability, with a loud/shrill voice
- may be easily distressed and prone to temper tantrums
- may constantly bump into objects and fall over
- poor fine motor skills: difficulty in holding a pencil or using scissors, drawings may appear immature
- lack of imaginative play. May show little interest in dressing up or in playing appropriately
Older children have more serious symptoms that would affect their behaviour. These problems may include:
- difficulties in adapting to a structured school routine
- difficulties in physical education lessons
- slow at dressing. Unable to tie shoe laces
- barely legible handwriting
- immature drawing and copying skills
- limited concentration and poor listening skills
Okay how does it get diagnosed?
Your child may be referred to the child development team where there is a multidisciplinary team of professionals (such as a paediatrician, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and speech and language therapist) who will assess your child.
The occupational therapist or physiotherapist will be able to assess your child’s movement, motor skills and coordination skills. A speech and language therapist will assess your child’s speech and language development. A paediatrician or paediatric neurologist will ensure that the difficulties your child is experiencing is not due to another medical condition as there are other conditions that can cause symptoms similar to dyspraxia/dcd but which need to be treated differently.
In addition, your child may be referred to see an educational psychologist to help your child with their school work.
How do i help my child if they have dyspraxia?
Early recognition of dyspraxia will enable early intervention and practical steps to help your child to achieve their potential. Children whose dyspraxia is identified at an early stage are less likely to have problems with acceptance by their peers and with lowered self-esteem.
When children become teenagers their problems may change as social and organisational difficulties become more pressing.
Although dyspraxia is not curable, with treatment, the individual can improve. However, the earlier a child is diagnosed, the better their prognosis will be.
There are two types of professionals who most often work with kids who struggle with motor skills. They are occupational therapists (ots) and physical therapists (pts).
Ots work on fine motor skills and the ability to do everyday tasks like holding a pencil and cutting with scissors. They might also work on gross motor skills, like the ability to catch or kick a ball. They also help kids with motor planning issues that get in the way of daily tasks like washing hands. Physical therapists, meanwhile, work on building body strength, if that’s part of a child’s trouble with movement.
The best thing parents can do is observe their child’s behaviours and cues, notice how it affects motor skills, sensitivity, etc. And most of all, be patient with them. Take things day by day. Talk to them, write down routines, and be helpful and engaging with your child.
Physical coordination problems will improve over time and you will learn how to handle things better if you consistently help your child.
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM –5) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA)