4. Dyspraxia

4.1 What is Dyspraxia

A person with dyspraxia has problems with movement and coordination. It’s also known as “motor learning disability”. Somebody with dyspraxia finds it hard to carry out smooth and coordinated movements. Dyspraxia often comes with language problems, and sometimes a degree of difficulty with perception and thought. Dyspraxia does not affect a person’s intelligence, but it can cause learning difficulties, especially for children.

Dyspraxia is also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), perceptuo motor dysfunction, and motor learning difficulties. The terms clumsy child syndrome or minimal brain damage are no longer used.

Developmental dyspraxia is an immaturity of the organization of movement. The brain does not process information in a way that allows for a full transmission of neural messages. A person with dyspraxia finds it hard to plan what to do, and how to do it.
Scientist do not know what causes it. Experts believe the person’s nerve cells that control muscles (motor neurons) are not developing correctly. If motor neurons cannot form proper connections, for whatever reasons, the brain will take much longer to process data.
In some cases dyspraxia can be inherited.

4.2 Facts and Statistics of Dyspraxia

The WHO states in their ‘Diagnostic and Statistic Manual IV’ that it affects 6% of all children to varying degrees, while other estimates vary between 10-20%

The Dyspraxia Foundation believes one in 30 children have some degree of dyspraxic difficulty and 2% of the adult population. Males are 4 times more likely to be dyspraxic than females

Not all dyspraxic are affected in the same manner, and this itself will change with age. However a typical dyspraxic would exhibit characteristics differing from the norm from birth.

4.3 Some Characteristics of people with dyspraxia

Age 0 – 3 Years

  1. In cases of DAS (Developmental Apraxia of Speech) there will be a limited ability to pronounce syllables or words
  2. Difficulty with remembering ‘data’ for example the sequence of words, or misplacing a word in a sentence
  3. Slow in learning to speak
  4. By comparison late in learning to feed themselves with some simpler foods
  5. Dislikes brushing teeth, washing, sensitive to skin and touch
  6. Poor sense of direction

As a young child 3-9 Years

  1. Difficulty with pen grip
  2. Poor short term memory, leading to difficulty with sequencing tasks such as carrying out a series of instructions
  3. Problem learning to hop, skip, ride a bike or other tasks requiring good balance
  4. Problems with reading or writing in a legible manner
  5. Difficulties throwing and catching a ball
  6. Those with DAS will still suffer from speech difficulties and an inability to communicate answer they know (This will require the help of a speech therapist)
  7. Taking longer to complete written/reading tasks than expected
  8. This can lead to the onset of the behavioral problems in an effort to express themselves

As an older child 9-13 Years

  1. Continuing problems with reading, missing words or substituting in different ones
  2. Lack of co-ordination for dexterous tasks, ranging from sports such as football to dancing
  3. Forgets tasks learned the previous day, such as how to solve math’s problems learned in class
  4. Poor body awareness. This can often be seen in a dyspraxic;s inability to walk in a straight line 
  5. Poor directionality, unable to tell left from right
  6. Struggles to hold pen correctly, poor organization

As a Teenager and University Student

  1. Problems with planning essays, hard to retain the central argument due to poor short term memory
  2. Poor spelling and organization, easily forgets appointments, lectures, tutorials, deadlines, etc
  3. Requires extra time to complete tasks such as essays or practical in science subjects
  4. Frustration due to inability to communicate the feelings they have on paper

4.4 Why Early Intervention so Important

Although dyspraxia is not curable, children with the condition may improve with growing maturity. Symptoms in children and adults can lessen if they are given appropriate treatment and advice on practical actions to minimize the day to day difficulties that their dyspraxia can cause

Early diagnosis of dyspraxia is key to helping both children and adults manage this condition. Since dyspraxia does not signify lack of intelligence, those who evolve coping skills can be extremely successful later in life. Early Interventions include occupational therapy to address motor coordination, speech therapy and possibly play therapy for children, or traditional therapy for adults.

Growing up is hard enough as it is. Children must overcome the usual hurdles in life to succeed, both socially and academically. Early Intervention is crucial in helping a child with dyspraxia cope with additional challenges

4.5 What Can I Do to help My Child

First of all, arrange for a proper assessment of the child with a qualified psychologist/therapist. A thorough assessment is not for us to “label” a child as dyspraxic, but for us to understand the area of weaknesses caused by the characteristics of dyspraxia, so that we can better help the child cope with the challenges ahead and help him achieve his fullest potential.

Parenting a child with dyspraxia requires a great deal of patience and understanding. Numerous studies have indicated that children with dyspraxia benefit the most when there is intervention involving support from therapists, educators, caregivers and most important of all parent’s participation
Hence it is crucial that parents should gather as much information on dyspraxia as possible. It’s also important to br discerning when choosing the training programs or workshops to attend as there are many unproven “revolutionary therapies” available in the market.

Attending training programs offered by schools or institutions that are accredited by the governing ministries or universities is one good way to enhance your knowledge of dyspraxia. Joining the local support for dyspraxia is another good way of receiving information and support for both the parent and the child with dyspraxia.