Understanding Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is a challenging, and very much misunderstood condition that affects about 10 percent of the population.

It is a sub type of Sensory Based Motor Disorder, which can initially manifest at any time during development, from early childhood to adulthood.

Dyspraxia can’t be cured but it can be improved and controlled with proper treatment. For this reason, the sooner a diagnosis is made and treatment begins the better.

The exact cause of dyspraxia is not known, but researchers believe that it may stem from improper development of the nerve cells in the brain called motor neurons.

When the motor neurons can’t make a proper connection, the affected person may take longer to process data. As a result, individuals with this particular condition may have problems with coordination, movement, judgment, processing, memory and other cognitive skills.

While dyspraxia does not affect an individual’s intelligence, it can impact the development of motor skills. Symptoms can vary depending on the age of the individual, but general symptoms include poor balance and posture, fatigue, clumsiness, differences in speech, perception problems and poor hand-eye coordination.

In very early childhood, children with this condition may take longer to reach regular developmental milestones such as sitting, crawling, walking and speaking.

Later in childhood, the most common symptoms involve an inability to perform functions that require fine motor skills such as tying shoes, working buttons and zippers, using cutlery and writing. There may also be difficulties with playground activities like jumping, playing hopscotch and catching a ball or classroom skills like using a pair of scissors, coloring or drawing.

As affected individuals get older they have trouble following instructions or organizing their thoughts and they may be overly sensitive to sensory stimulation, including loud noises or touching.

In adults, dyspraxia can lead to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem as the affected individuals find themselves constantly struggling to keep up with the world around them. They may have difficulty planning and organizing thoughts and tasks or distinguishing sounds from background noise.

While poor posture and fatigue are common symptoms, there may also be difficulty sleeping, all of which can make functioning in the everyday world challenging.

Diagnosing dyspraxia can be done by a clinical or educational psychologist, a pediatrician or an occupational therapist. In order to make the diagnosis, an analysis of the individual’s developmental history will be required, which means parents should provide as much information as they can about how and when they reached developmental milestones. Again, the sooner a diagnosis can be made, the more likely it is for treatment to be successful.

Though there is no cure for dyspraxia, it is possible to treat the symptoms with occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and perceptual motor training. The goal of these therapies is to help the individual improve their speech and motor skills so that they can communicate and respond properly.

For younger children, active play involving physical activity can be an important tool to help improve motor activity. All children learn through play so using play can help them to develop proper sensory and motor responses and interact with other children normally. The important thing is to realize that this is a physical condition that can be controlled with the right approach.

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