Dyspraxia is described by the Dyspraxia Foundation, as being an ‘impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement and associated with this may be problems of language, perception and thought.’ Over the years; dyspraxia has been called many different things including Clumsy Child Syndrome, Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Motor Learning difficulty as well as Perceptuo-motor Dysfunction.
Dyspraxia is actually quite common and affects just over 6% of the population. For most the symptoms and problems incurred are relatively mild but a third of all cases are considered to be severe. Boys are three times more likely to be affected by dyspraxia than girls but it is important to remember that it can affect anyone. Although the cause of dyspraxia is unclear at the moment, there is some evidence to suggest that the problem may run in families.
Unfortunately there is no cure for dyspraxia although the symptoms for most children mature and improve as the child grows. With regular help and advice, children and adults who suffer with dyspraxia can learn to minimise their daily difficulties that arise due to dyspraxia.
The problems that a person who has dyspraxia may experience are categorised into four areas and are:
- Movement: A person will find it hard to learn and undertake physical activities. They are likely to be very hesitant and worried about participating and scared to perform.
- Speech and language : Speech may be slightly impaired and it could be very late to develop. The speech is likely to be unintelligible for a few years and is likely to sound very young and childish.
- Perception: People who are suffering from problems associated with dyspraxia will find it hard to understand messages which involve their senses and/or emotions.
- Thought: Dyspraxia may cause the person to have difficulty when planning actions or organising their thoughts.
It is very important to recognise and identify a child who may have Dyspraxia as early as possible as the condition affects not only the child but the whole family in every situation both educationally and socially. Some of the ways of recognising a child with dyspraxia include:
- Late in reaching major milestones such as rolling over, sitting, walking, speaking
- Be late in skills like running, jumping, hopping, ball play
- Finds it hard to dress/un-dress
- Slow in daily actions
- Hesitant when carrying out activities
- Does not understand position such as in, out, under, over, behind, infront
- Finds it hard to follow instructions
- Is messy and disorganised
- Struggles when using stairs
- Needs to be taught everything as does not grasp new skills easily
- Often falls over
- Finds it hard to hold a pencil
- Dislikes jigsaws, puzzles, shape sorting activities and finds them difficult
- Cannot draw well
- Very easily distracted and poor attention span
- Often concerned and worried
- Avoids PE and outdoor games
- Does not manage well in a classroom situation with lots of children
- Finds it hard to copy actions or skills such as handwriting
- Writing is slow and messy
It is also possible for a child to be diagnosed with Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia. This can happen in isolation without any other problems associated with dyspraxia or some children may also have general motor difficulties as well. Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia means that the childs biggest problem is making the right movements and shapes with their mouth and tongue in order to make the sounds needed for speech. This will often cause severe difficulties with the ability to produce speech.
It is important to remember that many children suffer from a few of these problems and they often ‘grow out’ of them but if you do have any concerns about your child, it is always best to seek help and advice. A child will not be labelled with this condition unnecessarily and if your child is discovered not to have dyspraxia then you can carry on without any worry but it is still best to discuss any concerns that you may have with a professional.
If your child is of pre-school age then you should contact your Health visitor or doctor. They will refer you and your child to a Child Development Centre where your child will be assessed and appropriate help and advice will be offered.
If your child is at school, you will need to speak to the school’s Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) who will make the necessary referrals for your child to be assessed. If your school does not have a SENCO, you will need to speak to your doctors.
For further advice and information, you can contact The Dyspraxia Foundation who will be able to supply you with leaflets and booklets on dyspraxia and advise you how to get support in your local area and also how to meet other people in a similar situation.