What is Dyspraxia?

You may not have heard of dyspraxia although it is a fairly common disorder. Dyspraxia affects the ability to plan and coordinate physical movement. Children who suffer from it may struggle to speak clearly. They appear clumsy when walking and struggle to hold a pencil. They may find it difficult to do daily physical tasks like holding a brush. Dyspraxia can affect life skills, academic performance, emotions, behavior, and communication. Children often experience difficulties in group settings. They are anxious about socializing, especially as they grow older. They may behave immaturely and battle in a classroom setting. Symptoms may be mild or more severe. Learning more about the condition can help you to find ways to help your child.

Defining dyspraxia

Dyspraxia affects the development of gross and fine motor skills. It causes children to struggle with posture and balance. They may battle to walk or jump. Fine motor difficulties cause problems with writing and speaking clearly. Dyspraxia affects children differently. Some may find it hard to complete a single movement like waving hello. Others may find tasks that need more than one movement difficult such as making a bed or brushing teeth. Verbal apraxia may cause difficulty in coordinating mouth and tongue movements. They are unable to pronounce words. Some children find it hard to understand spatial relationships. They struggle to do puzzles or use construction blocks.

Causes and Symptoms of dyspraxia in babies

The exact causes of dyspraxia are unknown. Scientists believe that disruption occurs when nerve cells send signals from the brain to the muscles. Symptoms start from an early age. In babies, they may manifest as irritability and difficulties with feeding. Babies may take longer to reach developmental milestones such as crawling or walking. Toddlers may be messy eaters and prefer eating with their fingers. They may not talk as well as other kids. They avoid playing with construction toys and have difficulty catching a ball.

Causes and Symptoms of dyspraxia in school kids

In preschool, a child with dyspraxia will often bump into objects or people or drop objects. They have trouble grasping a pencil and may not be able to fasten buttons or zippers. Learning to jump or skip is difficult and the child may be slow to develop dominance in the left or right hand. He or she may speak slowly, struggle to enunciate or have trouble speaking at the right speed and pitch. In grade school or middle school, children may take a long time to write. They struggle with all activities that need hand-eye coordination. Children will have difficulty remembering instructions and following them. They often talk continuously and repeat themselves., and often forget or lose items. These children do not easily pick up on nonverbal signals from others. They may try to avoid sports. The same symptoms are evident in high school and continue on into adulthood. It may affect the ability to learn new skills such as driving and affect employment.

Diagnosis of dyspraxia

There is no specific test to determine whether a child has dyspraxia. It is important to start making notes about your observations. Your child has to experience symptoms for at least six months to have a diagnosis of dyspraxia. Your doctor will examine your child. Next, refer you to another professional if necessary. A specialist such as an occupational therapist will interview and test your child. To diagnose a child with dyspraxia, the specialist looks for four key indicators:

  • Symptoms were present early in life.
  • Other neurological conditions like cerebral palsy have been ruled out.
  • Motor skills are underdeveloped for the child’s age
  • The difficulties interfere with daily life and academic achievement.

Therapists who can help

You may find some of these therapists at your child’s school. Others will work within your community. An occupational therapist can help your child develop skills like writing legibly. A speech therapist will understand your child’s speech issues. He will suggest exercises that may help. Occupational and physical therapists do perceptual-motor training. This involves giving children exercises that improve their movement, listening and language skills. They can help your child to learn how to work around weaknesses and build on strengths.

Parent Training and Information

Every state has non-profit centers staffed by parents of children with special needs. They understand how to deal with the school system and how to advocate for children with special needs. Find a center in your area by going to the website of the Parent Technical Assistance Center Network.

Your Child’s School

A child that has a diagnosis of dyspraxia will need support at school. Some schools identify children who are lagging behind and offer small-group instruction. Children who continue to struggle may receive one-on-one instruction. At some schools, children may be able to use a laptop in class rather than writing by hand. You will need to find out how the school will accommodate your child’s need. This may include providing more time when writing tests. The teachers may modify the homework and copies of class notes as per your child needs. You may request an evaluation for special education services. If your child qualifies, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) provide more resources to help your child.

What you can do as a parent

Little is known about dyspraxia. Informing yourself will help you to help your child. You can encourage family, friends, and teacher to understand your child’s struggles. Share information with them that will enlighten them. If you understand the condition you will no longer become impatient with such children. You will be able to offer praise for any sign of progress. This will develop your child’s self-esteem. It will help you to be in contact with parents of other children with dyspraxia. You may hear valuable tips and advice on how to help your child. The support you receive from other parents may offer invaluable encouragement.

Simple things that help in Dyspraxia

There are simple activities you can do at home that may help. Any kind of physical activity will help to develop your child’s motor skills. A swimming class can get a child moving. Tossing a beanbag or a ball develops hand-eye coordination. Doing jigsaw puzzles assists with spatial perception and improves fine motor skills. Pencil grips are inexpensive and can help with writing. Get your child to practice typing on a keyboard. It may be easier than writing. Strengthen hand muscles by squeezing play dough. Today you are able to download many apps that can help to improve your child’s fine motor skills.