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Children with Dyspraxia in America

  • Published: 2012-09-05 : Wendy Taormina-Weiss.
  • Synopsis: Information and resources regarding dyspraxia in children in the US Developmental dyspraxia involves an immaturity of the organization of a persons movement
Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia - Also known as developmental co-ordination disorder, is a disability that affects movement and co-ordination. Although the exact causes of dyspraxia in children are unknown, it is thought to be caused by a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the body. Having dyspraxia does not change how intelligent a child is, but it does affect their learning ability. They may need extra help at school to keep up with classmates. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive and may include occupational and speech therapy, and "cueing" or other forms of communication such as using pictures and hand gestures. Many children with the disorder require special education.

Main Document

People with dyspraxia experience issues with coordination and movement. Dyspraxia is also referred to as, "motor learning disability." A person with dyspraxia has difficulties with carrying out smooth, coordinated movements. Language issues and at times a degree of difficulty with thought and perception.

Dyspraxia does not affect the level of a person's intelligence, although it may cause learning difficulties, particularly for children. Dyspraxia may also be referred to as, 'Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD),' 'Motor Learning Difficulties,' or, 'Perceptuomotor Dysfunction.' Terms used in the past such as, 'Minimal Brain Damage,' or, 'Clumsy Child Syndrome,' are no longer used and are considered to be inappropriate.

Developmental dyspraxia involves an immaturity of the organization of a person's movement. The person's brain does not process information in a way that permits full transmission of neural messages. A person with dyspraxia has difficulties with planning their actions and ways to accomplish them.

Experts estimate that approximately 10% of people in America have some degree of dyspraxia and around 2% experience severe dyspraxia. Four out of every five children with dyspraxia are boys. In a classroom of thirty children, it is likely that one child has dyspraxia.

Signs and Symptoms of Dyspraxia by Stage of Childhood

Very Early Childhood - During very early childhood, a child might take longer than other children their age to do the following:

  • Sit
  • Walk
  • Crawl
  • Stand
  • Speak
  • Build vocabulary
  • Achieve potty training
  • Speak clearly and articulately

Early Childhood - During early childhood, a child might experience difficulties with:

  • Fidgeting
  • Getting dressed
  • Learning new skills
  • Processing thoughts
  • Concentrating or focusing
  • Going up and down stairs
  • Joining other children in playing games
  • Writing stories or copying from a blackboard
  • Using scissors, drawing, coloring, or jigsaw puzzles
  • Falling over, bumping into things, or dropping items
  • Jumping, catching a ball, hopping, kicking a ball, or skipping
  • Subtle movements like tying shoelaces, handwriting, or using zippers or buttons

While a child with dyspraxia is in their pre-school age they may find it difficult to keep friends, and their behavior when they are in the company of others might seem unusual. The child may hesitate in the majority of their actions or appear slow. A pre-school age child with dyspraxia may not hold a pencil with a good grip and concepts such as, 'in or out,' or, 'in front of,' may be difficult for them to perceive automatically.

Older Children with Dyspraxia - Later on in childhood, a child with dyspraxia may experience challenges that do not improve or improve only slightly. A child may also experience difficulties such as:

  • Being poorly organized
  • Not following instructions
  • Not remembering instructions
  • Finding writing and math to be difficult
  • Spending a long time getting writing done
  • Attempts to avoid sports or physical education
  • Learning well on a one-on-one basis, yet not as well in class with others

Potential Causes of Dyspraxia

Medical science does not know what causes dyspraxia, although experts believe a person's nerve cells that control muscles are not developing correctly. If a person's nerve cells are unable to form appropriate connections for some reason, their brain takes longer to process information. It is known that some people have inherited dyspraxia.

When a person develops dyspraxia at a later point in their life it is often because of traumas they experienced in their brain after an accident, a stroke, or a form of illness. People who are born with dyspraxia have what is referred to as, 'Developmental Dyspraxia.' For many people there is unfortunately no apparent cause of the dyspraxia they experience.

Diagnosing Dyspraxia

A pediatrician, educational psychologist, clinical psychologist, or an occupational therapist can make a diagnosis of dyspraxia. Parents who suspect their child may have dyspraxia can also see their general practitioner or a special needs coordinator before seeing one of these other professionals. When a professional performs an assessment they will require details about a child's developmental history, their gross and fine motor skills, and their intellectual abilities.

Gross Motor Skills: A child's gross motor skills involves how well they use their large muscles to coordinate their body movements, such as throwing, jumping, walking, balancing, or running.

Fine Motor Skills: A child's fine motor skills involves how well they can use their smaller muscles to perform tasks such as tying their shoelaces, using buttons, writing, or using scissors.

A professional will need to know both when and how a child reached developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, and speaking. A child will be screened for touch sensitivity, balance, and variations on walking activities. If a general practitioner does not have the training needed, they may miss a diagnosis of dyspraxia or they may refer a child to a specialist.

Training to identify dyspraxia may be spotty among general practitioners or other health care workers. Teachers also may or may not be aware of dyspraxia. In some areas, general practitioners or teachers are aware of dyspraxia while others are not. It is important to note that a new coordination and handwriting test that identifies Developmental Coordination Disorder might identify teenagers who need additional assistance at secondary school and in college.

Treating Dyspraxia

While a cure for dyspraxia has not yet been discovered, over time a child may improve. The earlier a child receives a diagnosis, the better and faster their improvement will be. The following types of therapy and training can help children with dyspraxia:

  • Occupational Therapy
  • Perceptual-Motor Training
  • Speech-Language Therapy

Active Play and Dyspraxia

Experts have stated that active play involving physical activity, whether it is inside the home or outdoors, gets motor activity going in children. Play is one way children learn about their environment and themselves, particularly for children between the ages of three and five. Play is a crucial part of their learning process. Active play is where a young child's:

  • Special awareness
  • Development of language
  • Physical and emotional learning
  • Development of what their senses are

All come together. The more often children are involved in active play, the better they become at interacting with other children. While family members and other adults may become involved in the active play of children, it is important for them to allow children to explore so they can try out their own understanding of the world.

The risks of accidents or negative things happening to children if they play are much smaller than the risks of negative things occurring to them if they do not. Things such as poor socialization with other children, obesity, or having less fun in general outweigh the chance of other and smaller risks if children are not allowed to actively play. Only by taking risks do children learn the importance of learning to hold on tightly, for example, and correct their own actions.

Parents of children with dyspraxia have to weigh the risks of something negative happening as their child actively plays with the incredible benefits their active play has to offer. Deciding where the balance is depends upon a number of factors such as the severity of their child's dyspraxia, their child's play environment, and more.

Dyspraxia Foundation USA
www.dyspraxiausa.org

"The Dyspraxia Foundation USA is committed to being the source for the latest information and research, a social community for those interested in Dyspraxia and sharing their stories, and a public relations center dedicated to building awareness and acceptance."

National Center for Learning Disabilities - Dyspraxia
www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyspraxia/what-is-dyspraxia

"It is estimated that dyspraxia affects at least two percent of the general population, and 70% of those affected are male. As many as six percent of all children show some signs of dyspraxia."

LD Online - Dyspraxia
www.ldonline.org/article/14616/

"Dyspraxia can affect different areas of functioning, varying from simple motor tasks such as waving goodbye to more complex tasks like brushing teeth."



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