How to Manage Coordination Difficulties Caused by Dyspraxia

What is Dyspraxia? 

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a neurodevelopmental condition that primarily affects motor planning, coordination and motor skills that include fine and gross motor skills.  It typically becomes evident around 5 years and it occurs at 5 to 6 percent of the pediatric population and approximately 10 percent of the overall population.

What are the main symptoms of dyspraxia? 

The main symptoms of Dyspraxia in children are:

  • Delayed milestones¬†(e.g., lifting the head, rolling over, sitting up), although children may eventually reach early milestones.
  • Other signs include:
    • Unusual body positions
    • General irritability
    • Sensitivity to loud noises
    • Feeding and sleeping problems
    • High level of arm and leg movement¬†
  • As children grow, they may experience delays in:
    • Crawling
    • Walking
    • Potty training
    • Self-feeding
    • Self-dressing
  • Dyspraxia makes it challenging to¬†organize physical movements, leading to difficulties like tripping, bumping into objects, or dropping items.

In addition, it can also affect cognitive skills; individuals with dyspraxia find it challenging to plan and execute tasks, which make them appear clumsy and inaccurate. As well, it can cause speech difficulties related to challenges in oro-motor sequencing. All these symptoms, significantly impact daily living skills, school productivity, leisure, and play.

What is the difference between Dyspraxia and Apraxia?

Dyspraxia is present from birth, affecting motor skills and coordination. It persists into adolescence and adulthood, potentially leading to learning difficulties and low self-esteem.

Apraxia can develop after a stroke or brain injury at any age. However, it may go away especially if it results from a stroke.

How Dyspraxia is treated?

Unfortunately, there’s currently no cure, but effective strategies, can help manage dyspraxia. Occupational/Psychomotor therapy and other interventions such speech and language therapy play a crucial role in managing dyspraxia.

 

Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), presents several challenges for students in the school environment:

  1. Motor Coordination Difficulties:
    • Slouching,¬†slumping, and¬†poor core strength¬†are common among students with dyspraxia due to inadequate muscle strength.
    • Fine motor skills, such as gripping a pencil or crayon, are challenging because of weak hand muscles.
    • Basic tasks like¬†printing,¬†playing ball, and¬†tying shoes¬†require significantly more effort and practice.
  2. Clumsiness and Learning Disabilities:
    • Students with dyspraxia often appear¬†clumsy¬†due to difficulties in small muscle movements.
    • Embarrassment¬†related to physical limitations can lead to learning disabilities.
    • Speech difficulties¬†(slow and unclear speech) further impact communication.
  3. Executive Function Challenges:
    • Tracking instructions, especially those with multiple steps, can be problematic.
    • Organization,¬†planning ahead, and managing materials pose additional challenges.
  4. Social and Emotional Impact:
    • Poor coordination limits participation in sports and complex schoolyard games.
    • Social awkwardness¬†arises from struggles with basic tasks and physical limitations.
    • Students may become¬†unwilling to engage¬†in social interactions.

What are the most effective strategies used with Dyspraxia?

  1. Cognitive Motor Therapy: The psychomotor therapist focuses on teaching movement patterns to children struggling with specific tasks. It aims to instill essential skills for coordinated movement, including planning, execution, and self-evaluation.
  1. Sensory Integration Therapy: For children who are overly sensitive to stimuli, the therapist helps them cope while engaging in motor activities. It also involves modifying the environment to provide an appropriate level of sensory stimulation. Conversely, those who are less responsive to stimuli gradually receive increased sensory input.
  1. Improved Sensory Integration: Over time, the occupational therapist enhances sensory integration that leads to better-regulated motor responses.
  1. Kinesthetic Therapy: By increasing awareness of motion in space, this therapy enhances overall motor control.
  1. Integration of primitive reflexes: The psychomotor therapist aims to inhibit persistent primitive reflexes and abnormal muscle contraction patterns. Simultaneously, it encourages the development of age-appropriate reflexes and a normal sequence of muscle activation.
  1. Assistive Technology: Utilizing technology, such as computer aids, facilitates effective communication and appliance use for patients. Alternate learning methods involving repeated practice are essential.

Conclusion 

Despite these obstacles, with appropriate support and understanding, students with dyspraxia can thrive in mainstream school settings. It’s crucial to foster an inclusive environment that recognizes their unique needs and strengths. An early intervention in psychomotor and speech therapy contribute to better functioning and quality of life for individuals with Dyspraxia.