A Comprehensive Guide about the Basics of Dyspraxia

Amisha Gandhi

9 May 2022

Dyspraxia is a common term for DCD (developmental coordination disorder). It’s also referred to as perceptuo-motor dysfunction. The term “motor learning difficulties” also comes to mind nowadays and gets used. In the old days, people made use of terminology like “clumsy child syndrome” and “minimal brain damage”. Those are no longer in use today.

People who suffer from dyspraxia, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, struggle to complete fine and gross motor tasks as well as planning. It can be anything from waving goodbye, sequencing steps all the way to brushing one’s teeth.

For the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeTrusted Source (NINDS), people who have dyspraxia are largely “out of sync” with their given environment.

What Is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a disorder that impedes motor functions, such as speaking and moving. It can also impact thought processes, such as organisation and reasoning abilities. It is most commonly associated with language difficulties and occasionally some thought or perception issues as well. Because dyspraxia does not affect an individual’s intelligence, it is difficult to diagnose in young children.

There is also such a thing as developmental dyspraxia. It’s essentially an immaturity when it comes to the organisation of movement. When it’s in play, the brain is unable to process information that lets neural messages be transmitted in full.

It is estimated that 10% of the population has some degree of dyspraxia, but only 2% have it severely. There’s a debate as to whether or not dyspraxia could be under-diagnosed in girls; 80% of every five children whose dyspraxia is evident are boys.

Symptoms

Age is a major factor in terms of the dyspraxia symptoms that manifest in a person. The more general ones include, but are not limited to:

  • clumsiness
  • differences in speech
  • fatigue
  • perception problems
  • poor balance
  • poor hand-eye coordination
  • poor posture

At this point, it’s possible for a person to be diagnosed with dyspraxia by a clinical psychologist, an educational psychologist, or a paediatric occupational therapist. A good rule of thumb is for parents to consult a doctor if their child seems to have dyspraxia.

The Role of Occupational Therapists

  • Occupational therapists specialise in assessing and addressing the unique needs of children with dyspraxia.
  • Through paediatric occupational therapy, therapists work with children to improve motor coordination, sensory processing and self-care skills.
  • Therapy sessions may include activities to enhance balance, proprioception and coordination, as well as strategies to improve organisation and planning.

Strategies for Supporting Children with Dyspraxia

  • Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps to minimise “overwhelm” and facilitate learning.
  • Provide visual cues and demonstrations to help children understand and imitate movements.
  • Use sensory tools such as fidget toys or weighted blankets to promote self-regulation and focus during activities.
  • Encourage participation in activities that foster motor skills development, such as swimming, dancing, or martial arts.

Assessments 

Medically getting assessed for dyspraxia will involve providing more information on the child’s developmental history intellectual ability alongside their gross & fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills – This involves how well the child uses his or her smaller muscles (cutting out shapes with scissors, writing, tying shoelaces, doing up buttons and more).

Gross motor skills – This involves how well the child uses his or her larger muscles, involving body movement coordination. (Jumping, walking, maintaining balance, running, throwing and more.)

Developmental milestones will need to be tracked in terms of when and how the likes of walking, speaking and crawling happened. The evaluator needs that information alongside doing assessments regarding touch sensitivity, balance and more.

Creating a Supportive Environment

  • Foster a positive and encouraging atmosphere that celebrates effort and progress rather than perfection.
  • Advocate for accommodations and modifications at school, such as extra time for tasks or preferential seating.
  • Collaborate with therapists, teachers and other professionals to develop individualised plans that address the child’s specific needs.

Empowering Children with Dyspraxia

  • Encourage self-advocacy skills by teaching children to recognise their strengths and challenges.
  • Promote independence through opportunities for practice and mastery of daily tasks.
  • Celebrate achievements, irrespective of how small, to boost self-esteem and confidence.

Conclusion

Dyspraxia, in a nutshell, is a neurological disorder that involves motor learning difficulties. It does not affect intelligence in people, making it hard to diagnose in children. Medical assessments are ideal for making a proper diagnosis.

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FAQs

Q1. What are the causes of dyspraxia?

A1. The real causes of dyspraxia are not fully understood, but scientists believe that it results from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Differences in brain connectivity and development may contribute to the challenges individuals with dyspraxia face in coordinating movements and processing sensory information.

Q2. What are the four types of dyspraxia?

A2. The four types of dyspraxia include ideational dyspraxia, ideomotor dyspraxia, verbal dyspraxia and oral dyspraxia. Each type involves difficulties in planning and executing different types of movements, such as motor coordination, speech production, or oral motor skills.

Q3. What are the signs of dyspraxia?

A3. Signs of dyspraxia vary depending on the individual but may include delays in achieving developmental milestones, difficulties with fine and gross motor skills, poor coordination, balance problems and sensory processing challenges. Children with dyspraxia may also struggle with activities requiring organisation and planning.

Q4: What are the common symptoms of dyspraxia? 

A4: Common symptoms include clumsiness, poor coordination, problems with fine motor skills (like properly holding a spoon, writing and using utensils), balance problems, and difficulty with activities that require sequencing or planning, like tying shoelaces or organising tasks.

Q5. How is dyspraxia treated?

A5. Treatment for dyspraxia often involves a multidisciplinary approach, including speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. Therapy sessions focus on improving motor coordination, sensory processing and self-care skills through targeted interventions, exercises and strategies tailored to the individual’s needs. Early intervention and ongoing support are key to maximising the individual’s potential and quality of life.