Child with dyspraxia? Don't panic, here's what you need to know.
Dyspraxia refers to a neurological disorder that affects one’s capacity to plan and process their motor skills. People suffering from the condition exhibit difficulty with thought, perception, and language. Contrary to popular belief, dyspraxia has zero impact on an individual’s intelligence, although it makes learning quite challenging for children. Developmental dyspraxia defines an immaturity in the organization and planning of movement. As such, it hinders the brain from processing information in a manner that allows a complete transfer of neural messages. People suffering from the condition have difficulty planning their actions and the manner in which to carry them out.
Are you born with dyspraxia?
Yes. In most cases, when dyspraxia presents in young children it means that they’ve had it since birth. Although research is yet to establish the exact cause of dyspraxia, it is believed to result from sustaining brain damage while still in the womb. Other times, however, the condition presents much later in life after someone sustains brain damage after an accident, stroke, or head injury.
When and how can you diagnose dyspraxia?
The diagnosis for dyspraxia varies depending on age. In children, however, it is important to look out for your child’s progress with such early developmental milestones as lifting head, rolling over, crawling, walking, speech, self-feeding, sitting upright, and dressing. Children with DCD tend to exhibit delayed progress with these milestones among others. You can also keep tabs on their progress in writing, drawing, coloring, and performance in sports depending on their age. In most cases, children present the signs of dyspraxia from an early age, but some variations can occur due to the varying rate of development. As such, to get a definite diagnosis of the condition it is advisable to seek medical advice when you baby attains 5 years of age.
Can dyspraxia be cured?
There are therapists specialised in the field who can help you figure out practical ways to improve your day-to-day life, but more so that of your child. Through occupational therapy, your child can develop a viable system that will help them retain their independence and manage daily tasks including feeding, walking, and writing, among others. That being said there's no cure as such for the condition.
Is dyspraxia becoming worse with age?
Different people experience dyspraxia differently. For some it is severe, while it can be quite manageable for others. Similarly, the symptoms change over times baby grows older. For example:
- Babies with dyspraxia experience difficulty in feeding, irritability, and/or restlessness. Other times they exhibit slow movement when sitting up, rolling over, or walking.
- Toddlers are quite older, and as such, have managed to conquer some developmental milestones. However, due to the condition they may be incapable of catching/throwing ball and riding a tricycle. Potty training and speech could also prove to be a challenge for them when compared to their peers.
- Preschoolers are prone to clumsiness such as bumping into things. They struggle with grasping objects, playing with other children, and slow speech. They also experience a poor balance in developing the right/left hand dominance.
- Older children are likely to fall over often, lose things easily, forget stuff, and talk nonstop all the while repeating themselves. They also struggle with understanding non-verbal cues from their peers.
What are dyspraxia symptoms?
There are two different types of dyspraxia: motor and verbal dyspraxia. Each type has different symptoms , and in turn different treatment. Some children may struggle with both types of dyspraxia, while others may have either. Some of the most common symptoms for motor dyspraxia include:
- Poor coordination skills including poor balance and hand to eye co-ordination
- Challenges in kicking and throwing/catching ball
- Lacking motor skills such as writing, drawing, and coloring
Verbal dyspraxia, also known as childhood apraxia of speech, causes children to experience difficulty in developing and coordinating the exact movements required to form clear speech. As such, some of the common symptoms include:
- Inconsistencies in speech formation
- Unusual error speech patterns
- Limitations in the pronunciation of consonant and vowel sounds
- Favorite articulation, which is the repeated or overuse of a single sound
- Disintegration of a series of sounds in words especially in lengthier words
- Weak coordination in both fine and gross motor skills
Other common signs and symptoms may vary from:
- Atypical posture
- Hand flapping, fidgeting, easy excitability
- Temper tantrums
- Difficulty in jumping, skipping, running, hopping
- Poor skills in artwork, playing with puzzles or blocks
- Lower physical fitness
Dyspraxia doesn’t affect one’s intelligence, however, it creates a huge challenge in their learning experience. In fact, it poses a major obstacle in a child’s ability to learn and socialize because:
- They tend to have a poor attention span especially for complex tasks
- Challenges in following instructions or even remembering them
- Insufficient/inefficient organizational skills
- Hardships with learning new skills
- Low self-esteem
- Immature behavior
- Inadequate social skills which hinder their ability to make friends
How can you treat dyspraxia?
Some children are lucky enough to be rid of the condition as they grow older and the symptoms resolve on their own. However, for the majority of children with dyspraxia, there’s no cure. Therapy is a great way to learn to manage the symptoms, improve skills and abilities, and live a productive life even with the condition. Once you seek medical attention for your child, your healthcare professionals will tailor your child’s treatment plan to their specific needs depending on the severity of their condition and other coexisting factors. This will help identify problem area and work on breaking down tasks to make them more manageable for your baby. As time progresses, your child will become more efficient in tackling various tasks that were once challenging to comprehend, including self-feeding, dressing, walking, running, artwork, organization, using the toilet, and even playing. Over time, your child will gain more confidence, which will in turn improve their social skills and make learning easier.
Besides the challenges that your child faces because of dyspraxia, we know that it is quite difficult for you as a parent as well. However, it is important to remember that frustration and anger doesn’t help, so it is best to avoid negative feelings no matter how difficult it gets. Generally, our children need us to practice patience with them, and even more so when they have preexisting conditions such as dyspraxia. Engage in planning, supporting ideation, and practice, it helps make life a lot easier!
As always, we'd like to emphasise that the contents of the article is not a substitute for medical consultation.