Also known as a developmental coordination disorder, it affects a person’s movements and coordination.
It is a neurological, motor planning disorder, and its symptoms may initially be seen as signs of clumsiness.
A child with dyspraxia may appear to have underdeveloped motor skills for his age. They may also have difficulties with their perception, which affects the way they interpret what they see, hear, and feel.
The symptoms of dyspraxia are very varied, but generally include difficulties to perform movements or actions, such as running, lack of coordination and cognitive difficulties, such as presenting short-term memory problems, lack of concentration, among others.
Dyspraxia is usually noticed and diagnosed during early childhood, and children generally grow into adults with dyspraxia, as there is no cure for the condition.
However, there are treatments for dyspraxia available, usually in the form of therapies, that provide ways to help a person live well with the condition.
Dyspraxia can affect a person’s life, mobility, and abilities to some degree, but this will differ from person to person. All people with dyspraxia will have a unique experience of their illness.
Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families, but a specific gene for the condition has not been identified. It is more common in boys than girls and is linked to other conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD, and autism.
Causes of dyspraxia
Experts are still unclear about what causes dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is neurological as it is believed to be caused by an abnormality in the brain, but it is not yet very clear what this abnormality is.
Some of the difficulties in finding the causes of dyspraxia are hampered by the processes involved in the body that allow movement and the senses, which are very complex.
Research suggests that a child with dyspraxia has underdeveloped neurons in the brain.
There are some factors that can increase the risk of a child having dyspraxia:
- Premature birth.
- Have a low birth weight.
- Having a family history of dyspraxia.
- When the mother used illegal drugs or drank alcohol during pregnancy.
Types of dyspraxia
The type of dyspraxia a child is diagnosed with will be determined by his symptoms. Some people may have more than one type.
Everyone will experience their symptoms differently and to varying degrees, so some people may have a severe type of dyspraxia and others a mild type.
The types of dyspraxia can be:
The individual has difficulties speaking and communicating
The person has difficulty performing other actions with the mouth, such as licking, or may have poor control over the mouth, leading to drooling.
The person may understand how to carry out an activity, but may have difficulty putting it into practice and performing the necessary movements.
Dispraxia of idea
Has difficulty dividing tasks into smaller actions and movements.
Has difficulty understanding patterns, instructions, organizing objects, among other difficulties.
Symptoms of dyspraxia
Each person’s experience with dyspraxia will always be different. Symptoms of dyspraxia can be very varied and are often behavioral types rather than physical or visible symptoms like those seen in other conditions.
Pediatricians who perform regular well-child checkups, preschool teachers, and parents are the first to detect special behaviors in children with dyspraxia.
Some symptoms do not necessarily mean that a child has dyspraxia or any other related condition, but it is important that they are diagnosed and offered therapies at an early age.
Signs and symptoms of dyspraxia in childhood and adulthood may include the following:
Symptoms are evident from an early age. Babies are generally fussy from birth and can have significant feeding problems.
They are slow to reach expected development milestones. For example, at the age of eight months they are still unable to sit independently.
Many children with dyspraxia do not go through the crawling stages, preferring to “shuffle” and then walk. They generally avoid tasks that require good manual dexterity and have difficulty pronouncing words.
Preschoolers (3-5 year olds)
If dyspraxia is not identified, problems can persist and affect the child’s life at school. This can lead to increased frustration and decreased self-esteem in the child.
Children with dyspraxia can demonstrate some of these types of behavior:
- Very high levels of motor activity, including feet swaying and tapping when sitting, clapping, or waving hands. They are unable to remain still.
- They have high levels of excitability, with a high and sharp voice.
- They can be easily distressed and prone to tantrums.
- They can constantly collide with objects and fall.
- They usually wave their hands when running.
- Difficulty learning to use the bathroom.
- Difficulty grasping objects, catching a ball.
- They have difficulty pedaling a tricycle or similar toy.
- Lack of a sense of danger, they often jump from heights without seeing the consequences.
- They request continuous feeding and in a disorderly way. You may prefer to eat with your fingers, and they spill drinks frequently.
- They avoid construction toys, such as puzzles or building blocks.
- They have few fine motor skills. Difficulty holding a pencil or using scissors. Drawings may appear immature.
- Lack of imaginative play. May show little interest in dressing up, or in playing by imagining scenes typical of their environment in a certain space of the house or participating in quiet games.
- Creative games are limited.
- They tend to isolate themselves within a group of equals. They are rejected by their peers, these children may prefer the company of adults.
- Laterality (left or right) is not set yet.
- Language difficulties are persistent.
- They are sensitive to sensory stimulation, including high noise levels, they are often defensive on contact and wearing new clothes.
- Limited response to verbal instruction. May be slow to respond and have trouble understanding.
- Limited concentration. Tasks are often left unfinished
At 7 years old
Problems can include:
- Difficulty adjusting to a structured school routine.
- Difficulties in physical education classes.
- Slow when dressing. Shoe laces cannot be tied.
- Barely legible writing.
- Immature drawing and copying skills.
- Limited concentration and poor listening skills.
- Literal use of language.
- Inability to remember more than two or three instructions at a time.
- Slow completion of class work.
- They continue with high levels of motor activity.
- Clap or clap hands when excited
- Tendency to be easily distressed.
- Knife and fork coordination problems.
- Inability to form relationships with other children.
- Difficulties sleeping, including wakefulness at night and nightmares.
- Report of physical symptoms, such as migraines, headaches, and general aches and pains.
Children with dyspraxia learn more successfully in smaller groups or with private lessons.
8 to 9 years
Children with dyspraxia may have become disillusioned with the educational system. Handwriting is often a particular difficulty. By the time they reach secondary education, their attendance record is usually low.
Dyspraxia in adults
In adults, symptoms include:
- Bad posture and fatigue.
- Difficulty completing normal tasks.
- Less control, writing and drawing are difficult.
- Difficulty coordinating both sides of the body.
- They speak with little clarity, often the order of the words can be mixed.
- Clumsy movements and tendency to stumble.
- Getting ready and dressed, shaving, applying makeup, buttoning clothes, tying shoelaces are often difficult.
- Poor hand-eye coordination.
- Difficulty planning and organizing thoughts and tasks.
- Less sensitive to non-verbal cues.
- They get frustrated very easily.
- Low self-esteem.
- Difficulty to sleep.
- Difficulty distinguishing sounds from background noise.
- Noticeable lack of rhythm when dancing or coordination when exercising.
Even in adults, individuals with dyspraxia remain extremely sensitive to taste, light, touch, and noise.
Lack of awareness of potential dangers may also continue. Many experience mood swings and display erratic behavior.
Such a long list of dyspraxia symptoms may seem negative, but there are also many positives to having the condition.
For example, people with dyspraxia can be good at creative thinking and have a good long-term memory.
Despite some of the challenges listed above, there are many ways for a child or adult with dyspraxia to adjust and manage their condition.
Diagnosis of dyspraxia
Diagnosing dyspraxia can take some time, and the earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better it will be for the child.
A child with dyspraxia may have varied symptoms throughout childhood, and these may continue to change into adulthood.
It can be helpful to keep a record of the symptoms and behaviors that concern you when you visit your doctor.
They will do an initial exam and ask about symptoms. They may refer you to a pediatrician if they think there is a possibility that the symptoms could be dyspraxia (or a related condition).
It is quite common for a child not to receive an official diagnosis of dyspraxia until they are of school age, even if it has been suspected for some time, because it is difficult to evaluate dyspraxia in young children.
Diagnosis early in childhood can really benefit a person and help them develop skills and abilities.
There are no cure treatments or medications available for dyspraxia. Therefore, dyspraxia treatment generally involves a variety of health and social care professionals, school and family, working together.
That is why the earlier a child is diagnosed, the better his prognosis.
The following therapies are most often used in people with dyspraxia:
An occupational therapist will assess how your child handles daily functions both at home and at school.
Then they will help the child develop specific skills for daily activities that are difficult for them.
Speech and language therapy
The speech-language pathologist will conduct a speech evaluation of the child and then implement a treatment plan to help them communicate more effectively.
Perceptual motor training
This involves improving the child’s language, visual, movement, and hearing skills.
The individual is assigned a series of tasks that gradually become more advanced: the goal is to challenge the child to improve, but not so much that it becomes frustrating or stressful.
Equine therapy for dyspraxia
In one study, a team of Irish, British and Swedish researchers evaluated the effects of equine therapy (therapeutic riding) in a group of 40 children aged 6 to 15 years with dyspraxia.
They found that driving therapy stimulated and improved the participants’ cognitive, mood and gait parameters.
Experts say that active play, any game that involves physical activity, which can be outdoors or indoors, helps improve motor activity.
Play is a way for children to learn about the environment and themselves, and in particular for children ages 3 to 5. This is a crucial part of your learning.
Active play is where the physical and emotional learning of a very young child, his language development, his special awareness, the development of what his senses are, come together.
The more children participate in active play, the better they will become at interacting with other children successfully.
Living with dyspraxia
It is important to remember that each patient is unique and will experience illness in different ways.
Many parents report that they have found ways to cope with the challenges that dyspraxia presents.
There is a lot of support available for families, and working with professionals can help develop skills and capacities.
Dyspraxia affects everyone differently, so it’s hard to say what impact the condition will have on a child or adult’s daily life, or their family life.
Some people have dyspraxia symptoms that are very challenging and these people may need a lot of support, while other people may have milder symptoms that are easier to manage.
There are many ways to manage daily activities to make life easier, and there are health and social work professionals who can help.
For example, an occupational therapist may recommend different ways to perform tasks or equipment that can make tasks easier.
A physical therapist can help a child (or adult) develop physical movements, such as walking or running, working on balance and coordination.