Understanding Dyspraxia

Understanding Dyspraxia

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When I was a kid, my mom called me a bull in a china closet. For those unfamiliar with this term, it means that the person is really clumsy and accident prone and that they are unaware of how their movements can impact or endanger delicate and/or valuable objects.

I was constantly embarrassed because of bumping into things, breaking things, and spilling my milk, to name just a few of my issues. Little did any of us know that there was actually a name for my condition—dyspraxia. Now that I have a better understanding of dyspraxia and the nature and scope of this condition, I have grown to respect it rather than be embarrassed by it.

Dyspraxia is a form of developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Dyspraxia affects a person’s ability to control muscle movements. In more severe cases, it can also affect balance and coordination. It can also inhibit a child’s ability to socialize. Those who suffer from dyspraxia may find it difficult to make friends and maintain relationships due to their clumsiness and lack of coordination.

Dyslexia is a language-based reading disorder, and dyspraxia is a difficulty with motor skills. Dyslexia is more commonly recognized, but dyspraxia should not be forgotten—it’s a common learning disability that affects motor skills, coordination, and balance. Both conditions have been shown to stem from differences in brain development.

A little boy wearing a helmet sits on the ground at a park next to his toppled bicycle. He holds his knee and cries. A parent runs up to help. Dyspraxia can cause difficulty with motor skills, coordination, and balance.

According to the Dyspraxia Foundation UK, around 4% of children have dyspraxia. In most cases, dyspraxia does not cause any major impairment or get in the way of a child’s development. However, it can make it more difficult to learn basic skills such as handwriting and fine motor skills, which can make schoolwork more challenging for children with a dyspraxia diagnosis.

The Dyspraxia Foundation UK says that while most people with dyspraxia do not have significant learning difficulties, those who have a severe form of the condition can have difficulties with learning and concentration in school. There are often delays in speech and language development which may lead to a slurred or mumbled speech pattern.

Sometimes these symptoms can continue into adulthood too. In some cases, the condition is linked to other disorders such as dyslexia.

In adults, dyspraxia can affect a person’s ability to do everyday tasks such as getting dressed, cutting food, or driving a car. It can also affect a person’s speech. Some people may experience pain or weakness in the muscles that control their hands and arms, which can make it painful to hold a pen or pencil to write.

Dyspraxia can cause problems with planning and organization skills and can lead to feelings of embarrassment. This can affect social skills and confidence. These issues can have a significant impact on a student’s ability to function at school.

A silly photo of a boy who looks like he's fallen on the floor while baking. He is covered in flour and surrounded by spilled ingredients for chocolate chip cookies as well as actual finished cookies. Dyspraxia can cause difficulty with motor skills, coordination, and balance.

Dyspraxia can affect children of any age, and symptoms usually appear before the age of four. Although the severity of symptoms can vary from child to child, there is usually a gradual onset of difficulty in these areas of functioning. The symptoms of dyspraxia also tend to persist over time and can interfere with a child’s development and learning.

A diagnosis of dyspraxia is not usually made until a child is five years old, and symptoms cannot be explained by muscle weakness or neurological conditions.

There are a number of effective treatments and strategies that can help students with dyspraxia to overcome their challenges and improve their ability to function at school. It is important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of dyspraxia so that their children can receive appropriate treatment and support.

In 2016, Melissa Prunty, a pediatric psychologist, wrote “Dyspraxia: A Guide for Secondary School Teachers,” which provides guidance for secondary school teachers on how to support the learning of students affected by dyspraxia. This guide includes information on assessment strategies and classroom accommodations for pupils with dyspraxia.

Successful treatment of dyspraxia usually involves a combination of therapy and educational interventions. Speech-language therapy and occupational therapy are particularly helpful in improving the motor coordination impairments associated with this condition.

In 2012, the Dyspraxia Foundation UK and Dyspraxia Foundation Australia published “Dyspraxia: A Guide to Understanding and Supporting Children and Young People,” which aims to help parents, teachers, and health professionals understand dyspraxia and provide support for those affected by it.

If you suspect that your child may be dyspraxic, feel free to take advantage of the references linked below.


Thank you for reading the article, “Understanding Dyspraxia” For a thorough discussion of dyslexia, you may enjoy the second edition of my award-winning book Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know, available in softcover, hardcover, eBook, and audio. In addition to facts on testing and accommodation, my book gives you the tools to provide the social and emotional support children with dyslexia require.

Cover of the book Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know by Don M. Winn.

And to learn more about how every student best learns to read, you may also enjoy Failing Students or Failing Schools? A Parent’s Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention, by reading specialist and shortlisted World Literacy Award nominee Faith Borkowsky.

Cover of the book Failing Students or Failing Schools? A Parent's Guide to Reading Instruction and Intervention by Faith Borkowsky.

Cardboard Box Adventures picture books are great for shared reading and can help parents establish a strong preliteracy foundation for their children. Check out the CBA Catalog for a full list of award-winning picture books, chapter books, and resources for parents and educators. Visit my Amazon author page for more information.

References:

  1. What’s the difference between dyslexia and dyspraxia? (https://www.readandspell.com/us/difference-between-dyslexia-and-dyspraxia#:~:text=In%20general%2C%20a%20key%20indicator,toward%20movement%20and%20planning%20difficulties)
  2. Developmental Problems (https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-hccc-ss-152-1/chapter/developmental-problems/)
  3. Dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADHD in adults: what you need to know (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4001144/)
  4. Dyspraxia (developmental co-ordination disorder) in adults (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/developmental-coordination-disorder-dyspraxia-in-adults/)
  5. How to help a child with dyspraxia (https://www.readandspell.com/us/how-to-help-a-child-with-dyspraxia-in-the-classroom)
  6. DYSPRAXIA Secondary School Classroom Guidelines (https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/dyspraxia-secondary-guidelines.pdf)