All About Dyspraxia: What It Is & How It’s Related to ADHD

Amisha Gandhi

24 May 2024

Developmental delays can appear in various forms, impacting a child’s ability to perform everyday tasks. One such delay is dyspraxia, a condition that often causes comorbidity issues along with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

In this article, we will delve into what dyspraxia is, its connection to ADHD, and the pivotal role that Occupational Therapy (OT) for kids plays in managing these developmental challenges.

Understanding Dyspraxia:

Dyspraxia, a condition commonly called as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), is a neurological anomaly that affects a person’s ability to plan and coordinate physical movements.

Individuals with dyspraxia may struggle with activities requiring fine and gross motor skills, leading to challenges in tasks like writing, tying shoelaces, or even basic activities like buttoning a shirt. While dyspraxia is not exclusive to children, early detection and intervention are crucial to mitigate its impact on a child’s overall development.

Recognising the Signs:

Identifying developmental delays, including dyspraxia, requires a keen understanding of the associated symptoms. Children with dyspraxia may exhibit delays in reaching developmental milestones, struggle with balance and coordination, and display difficulties in activities that involve hand-eye coordination. When coupled with ADHD, these challenges can escalate, impacting a child’s academic performance and social interactions.

Here are a snapshot of these signs:

Neurological Basis:

At its core, dyspraxia is rooted in differences in brain structure and function. The brain’s ability to process information and send coordinated signals to muscles is compromised in individuals with dyspraxia. This results in difficulties in performing precise, coordinated movements, affecting both fine and gross motor skills.

Fine Motor and Gross Motor Skills:

Children with dyspraxia often struggle with tasks requiring subtle or complex hand movements, such as writing, drawing, or using utensils. The fine motor challenges extend to difficulties in buttoning clothes, using a racket correctly if playing badminton or manipulating small objects, hindering their ability to engage in daily activities independently.

Cognitive and Behavioural Signs:

  • Attention Difficulties: Struggling to maintain focus on tasks, leading to incomplete assignments or frequent errors.
  • Impulsivity: Acting without thinking, resulting in accidents or inappropriate social interactions.
  • Social Challenges: Difficulty making and maintaining friendships due to coordination issues or impulsivity.

Coordinating larger movements poses a significant hurdle for individuals with dyspraxia. Activities like riding a bike, catching a ball, or navigating crowded spaces can be challenging due to issues with balance, coordination, and spatial awareness.

Academic Performance:

  • Handwriting Difficulties: Illegible handwriting and slow writing speed are common issues.
  • Organisational Challenges: Difficulty organising tasks, managing time, and keeping track of assignments.

Impact on Daily Life:

The repercussions of dyspraxia extend beyond motor difficulties. Individuals may face challenges in organising their daily routines, managing time effectively, and adapting to new environments. These difficulties can significantly impact academic performance, social interactions, and overall quality of life.

Connection to ADHD:

Research indicates a commonly observed association between dyspraxia and ADHD. Both conditions share commonalities, such as difficulties with attention, organisation, and impulse control. Children with dyspraxia and ADHD may face additional challenges due to the overlap of symptoms, making it imperative for parents and educators to recognise the signs early on.

The link between dyspraxia and ADHD lies in the shared neurological underpinnings and overlapping symptoms. While dyspraxia primarily affects motor coordination, ADHD impacts attention, impulse control, and executive functions. Children with both conditions may struggle with tasks requiring coordination and attention simultaneously, leading to more pronounced challenges in daily activities.

The executive functioning deficits present in both dyspraxia and ADHD can compound the difficulties faced by children. Executive functions involve cognitive processes like planning, organising, and initiating tasks – areas where children with dyspraxia and ADHD often encounter obstacles. The impulsivity and distractibility associated with ADHD can also worsen the motor coordination challenges of dyspraxia.

Understanding the coexistence of these conditions is crucial for personalised interventions. Children with both dyspraxia and ADHD may require comprehensive strategies that address both the motor and cognitive aspects of their development.

The Role of Occupational Therapy for Kids:

Occupational therapy emerges as a vital component in addressing the multifaceted challenges presented by dyspraxia and ADHD. Occupational therapists for kids specialise in evaluating and addressing difficulties related to sensory processing, motor skills, and overall functional abilities. Through tailored interventions, these professionals aim to enhance a child’s independence and overall quality of life.

Key Components of OT for Kids:

Sensory Integration:

  • Occupational therapists employ sensory integration techniques to help children with dyspraxia and ADHD process and respond to sensory information more effectively. This may involve activities that stimulate various senses, fostering improved sensory-motor coordination.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills Training:

  • Occupational therapy for kids places a significant emphasis on refining both fine and gross motor skills. Therapists use engaging activities to enhance a child’s ability to perform tasks like handwriting, dressing, and playing sports.

Executive Functioning Skills:

  • Given the cognitive challenges associated with dyspraxia and ADHD, occupational therapists work on developing executive functioning skills. This includes activities to improve planning, organisation, and time management.

Social Skills Development:

  • Many children with dyspraxia and ADHD face social difficulties. Occupational therapy interventions often incorporate strategies to enhance social skills, fostering better peer interactions and relationships.

Environmental Modifications:

  • Occupational therapists may recommend modifications to the child’s environment to create a supportive and adaptive space. This can include adjustments in the classroom or at home to accommodate a child’s unique needs.

The Collaborative Approach:

The management of dyspraxia and ADHD is most effective when approached collaboratively. Parents, educators as well as healthcare professionals should work together to create a supportive environment for the child. Regular communication ensures that strategies implemented at school align with those applied during occupational therapy sessions, creating a cohesive and reinforcing approach.

Early recognition and intervention are crucial in minimising the impact on a child’s life. Occupational therapy for kids emerges as a ray of hope, offering the necessary support and interventions to address the specific needs of children with dyspraxia and ADHD. Through a collaborative effort, we can empower these children to navigate the world with greater confidence and independence. You can contact Cloud Nine to understand better how occupational therapy can benefit your child.