I remember when Clinton was about 15 months old and his speech came to a halt and the milestones stopped. Autism was of course the main diagnosis mentioned but Dysgraphia or Developmental-Coordination Disorder as it is called by some was also mentioned. I had no idea what any of this meant and to be honest was completely overwhelmed with all of it. My head was spinning and my initial reaction was “he just needs time”, but in reality I am the one who needed time; to process, to research and to beat myself up for not knowing what Dyspraxia was. Now thankfully Dyspraxia was not part of Clinton’s diagnosis, but that does not mean I was not completely overwhelmed and lost looking at all the information and misinformation out there. I am by no means an expert, but my hope is to help break down some of this information to you so it does not seem so overwhelming or intimidating and maybe, just maybe by the end of this you wont feel so alone or lost in this new world you have thrown in to.
Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder that affects fine and gross motor skills, memory, judgment, perception, information processing, and other cognitive abilities. The most common form of dyspraxia is developmental coordination disorder, and the terms are often used interchangeably. It can affect so many different areas of the brain and body, dyspraxia takes different forms in different people. Let us break this down. What are motor skills? What is Motor Planning? First off there are your Fine Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills. Fine Motor Skills require the use the feet and toes. There tasks that are precise in nature, like playing the piano, writing carefully, and blinking. Gross Motor Skills require the use of large muscle groups to perform tasks like walking, balancing, and crawling. Gross motor skills can be further divided into two subgroups: locomotor skills, such as running, jumping, sliding, and swimming; and object-control skills such as throwing, catching and kicking.
Motor planning is a process that helps us learn motor actions. You try something, and you get instant feedback on how it went. You adjust what you’re doing and try again. And you keep adjusting until you find the most efficient way of doing it. From then on, your brain quickly plans for that action every time. When kids have trouble with motor planning, however, they don’t easily learn from the feedback they get. Even if they’ve done a task before, it’s like they’re doing it for the first time. Kids who struggle with motor planning can seem clumsy. They might seem slow to learn basic skills and take “forever” to complete physical tasks like tying shoes. Motor planning issues can also affect how kids do in school, since basic physical tasks can be hard for them.
Possible Symptoms of Dyspraxia in children:
- Is late in reaching milestones – eg, sitting, standing, walking, toilet training and speaking (although most children who are late to some milestones do not have dyspraxia).
- Feeding and sleeping difficulties in early childhood.
- Lack of interest in construction toys like Lego® and stacking toys.
- May not be able to run, hop, jump, or catch or kick a ball when their peers can do.
- Many have trouble managing walking up and down stairs.
- Always falling over.
- May not like solid food that needs to be chewed.
- Has little understanding of concepts such as ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘in front of’, etc.
- Poor at getting dressed.
- Muscle tone may be high (the muscles seem hard or tense).
- Muscle tone may be low (a baby may seem floppy when being held).
- Delayed language development or problems with speech. For example, speech is odd and inconsistent, so that it is difficult to understand.
The most important thing to understand is that Dyspraxia does not just go away it is a lifelong condition. As stated in the video above symptoms may lessen over time between development and different therapies, but an individual who was diagnosed with Dyspraxia will always have Dyspraxia. Sometimes as parents we like to think our children with special needs will outgrow their learning disability, but that simply just is not the case. As overwhelming as it can be to have a child with a diagnosis such as Dyspraxia or Dyslexia or Autism, once you know you can begin to plan a way to not only help your child but you. It is so important to have a supportive, knowledgeable behind you helping you help your child because if you do not have that, your job and your days just became that much harder. It will take time but I promise you it is worth all the battles and sleepless nights you will encounter. I firmly believe that if you find yourself a quality team that includes a physical, speech and occupational therapist that you have found gold because those individuals alone can help you and your tremendously. There is no way as a parent as much as you want to that you can be everything your child needs at all times, but these specialists can give you tools, activities, knowledge and exercises that can help you and your child. Again, it will take time to find the right team but I promise you it is worth it on so many levels.
Please check out some of the links below for further information