What is dyspraxia? This is a question I get asked quite a lot and sometimes I find it hard to explain to people because it is quite a complex condition, and whilst it is mainly a motor coordination disorder, there is also much more to it than that, as there are lots of other non-motor difficulties that are part of the condition also.
It is basically a neurological condition, which causes the messages from the brain to the body to get scrambled up. This makes it difficult to plan, coordinate and carry out specific movements. It affects fine and gross motor movements, balance, posture and coordination. So whilst Jack knows what he wants to achieve in his mind, he finds it difficult getting his body to carry out the task in a smooth coordinated manner.
The term Dyspraxia literally means Impaired action:
There are certain tasks that we do every day, that we don’t need to think about, we just do them, as we have carried out the tasks many times before, and they have now become second nature to us. An example would be picking up a glass from a table. We reach over, we grab the glass and pick it up, simple. What we are unaware of, is exactly how much work our brain has to do to carry out this task.
Our brains need to judge the distance our arm has to reach over, what angle our arm and hand need to be at to grasp the glass, know how much pressure to put on the glass and what muscles to use to lift the glass. Our brains need to take in the information from the environment (sensory) and then send the messages to our body to enable us to use our muscles in the correct way. If these messages are disrupted then our bodies are going to have a hard job carrying out the job successfully.
Like most tasks we do every day, this requires motor planning, motor control and motor coordination to be carried out successfully.
Other tasks that would normally come naturally and can be done without much thought, such as getting dressed, brushing our teeth, drawing a picture, carrying an object from one end of the room to another, require much more concentration, focus and effort in a person who has dyspraxia.
This is why a child with dyspraxia, may often drop objects or bump into things, as they have less control over their bodies, and this is why dyspraxia was previously known as “clumsy child syndrome”
Some of the motor tasks that may prove difficult are:
- Jumping, climbing, hopping, skipping, cycling.
- Sitting still. Tends to fidget a lot.
- Eating with a knife and fork, they prefer to use their fingers.
- Tying shoelaces
- Using scissors.
- Writing or drawing, unable to grasp the pencil correctly.
- fastening buttons and zippers.
- Holding on to objects. May tend to drop things a lot.
- Sports and P.E
- Activities that require hand-eye coordination.
- Talking, unable to pronounce sounds correctly, maybe also delayed in language. (Verbal Dyspraxia)
These are just a few of the difficulties listed above, I will link up a more comprehensive list here very soon.
As previously mentioned, there are other non-motor difficulties too. I found this very helpful image at The Blog with (more than) one post . I have found that a lot of these problems interlink with each other, but not all dyspraxic children will suffer from all these problems, and the severity of difficulties will also vary from child to child.
It never occurred to me that Jack had a problem with his motor skills, as he was always running, climbing and jumping around the place, sure he had a few knocks and falls but doesn’t every kid. I never thought of Jack as being especially clumsy either. I just thought all kids are clumsy I know I certainly was at that age, and still am a bit now. Jack’s pre-school who prided themselves on early education and development never highlighted any causes for concern, so the diagnosis came as a bit of a shock, but I was relieved to find out, that the speech disorder (which had been diagnosed separately a few months beforehand), the sleep issues, the melt-downs and the motor skills difficulties were all part of this one condition. It would have been nicer to have had this explained to me by the professionals at the time, instead of having to discover this through my own research, but anyway, It was a relief to that it was all beginning to make sense and now that I knew what was behind these difficulties, I could now learn how to help Jack manage them.
You can read more about Jack’s early symptoms and signs in Jack’s First Signs of Dyspraxia..