There was something unusual about a small group of children I used to teach. Bright, and clever children who one day would be able to complete the most extraordinary tasks and then the following day not seem to even remember what we had done to complete the activity. It used to frustrate me as a teacher and I would worry about my ability to teach. However, one by one this little group was diagnosed with developmental dyspraxia. Through this group, I learnt about a disorder that can often go unnoticed and can instead be attributed to naughtiness, or laziness.
Children with developmental dyspraxia do not have the ability to plan and carry out sensory or motor tasks (touching and moving) This can include poor balance, clumsiness, difficulty with short term memory, following instructions, and in formal education activities such as reading and writing. Developmental dyslexics are born, rather than made. Each person may be affected in a different way, which can make it difficult to produce a one case for all treatment for sufferers. While research is still underway regarding causes, many specialists believe it is caused by a lack of myelin in the brain, which helps neuro transmitters talk to each other.
This disorder affects normal development, and can co exist with other disorders.
A simple way to explain this disorder is to think of the brain like a giant filing system. In dyspraxia, it is like knowledge and information is consistently being misfiled so the brain can’t reuse the information consistently. This explains why the children I worked with were able to complete an activity one day and then not be able to reproduce the steps to solve the problem again the following day.
Dyspraxics can come across as having a lower intelligence due to their poor academic performance but generally have normal to high levels of intelligence
Developmental delay is one of the biggest indicators of dyspraxia, in the areas of movement, language, vision, and following instructions. Children with developmental dyspraxia often have poor physical skills and because of this may be very accident prone, clumsy and slow to learn new physical skills. As children, they may be the messiest eaters around as they find managing a spoon up to their mouths a tall order indeed. Differing food textures may cause a problem for young eaters. These problems may present with young babies who take a long time to learn how to suck when born. They may also have unclear speech.
Children with this disorder can feel very uncomfortable with new or unfamiliar tasks, as they are unable to use old information and adapt it to new situations. Because of this they can be reluctant to try anything new and are easily distractable. They prefer tasks where they are guided step by step rather than finding opportunities to play independently.
Many developmental dyspraxics will avoid using toys such as Lego or playdough as these require motor planning to use well.
Because of their intelligence, children with this disorder can become easily stresses and respond best to a structured environment. As a teacher, I always noticed if a dyspraxic child had any change in their routine at home, as it immediately showed up in their ability to learn at school. Huge display so of emotion can be a common factor in dyspraxic children especially when faced with even quite minor changes.
Generally a developmental delay in motor skills of over six months, could be a good enough reason to have your child assessed for Dyspraxia. Children can be diagnosed as young as two or three.
Treatment normally involves occupational therapy, behaviour modification, and speech therapy with Brain Gym an effective tool to use at home or school.
Use plenty of puzzles, planning activities, development of good routines, and a lack of distractions when learning to help your child move through the disorder. There is no cure for dyspraxia, but it can be effectively managed.