Dyspraxia is a neurological condition that impairs movement. As it relates directly to a child’s motor skills, children who experience dyspraxia (or development coordination disorder as it is also known) have problems with coordination which is often wrongly interpreted as clumsy behaviour. The condition is genetic and more boys suffer from it than girls, and it is more common than you might think. Studies show that about 10% of the population is affected by dyspraxia, with about 2% experiencing severe symptoms.
Although symptoms are present early on in a child’s development, many children with dyspraxia aren’t diagnosed until their impairment causes them to lag behind their peers in a significant manner. It is helpful to diagnose the condition as early as possible, so that proper therapy can be started to help your child learn to cope with the challenges common to dyspraxia.
Symptoms in Babies
Babies with dyspraxia may display some of the following symptoms:
- Undue fussiness
- Feeding difficulties
- Delayed achievement of developmental milestones
- Failure to crawl
Symptoms in 3-5 Year Olds
The following may be a sign that a younger child (aged 3-5) is suffering from dyspraxia:
- Frequent falling
- Bumping into things
- Inability to sit still
- Poor concentration
- Inability to stay on task
- Poor small motor skills, such as the ability to use scissors or hold a pencil properly
- Difficulty in eating without making a mess; frequent spilling
- Language and communication difficulties
- Difficulty pedalling a tricycle
- Limited enjoyment of creative play
- Preference to socialise with adults rather than other children
Symptoms in Older Children
If an older child has dyspraxia, he/she may be experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- Poor listening skills
- Inability to multi-task and poor memory
- Illegible handwriting
- Difficulty tying shoelaces
- Lags behind peers, academically
- Difficulty coordinating the use of a knife and fork simultaneously
- Emotionally charged
- Sleeping difficulties
Parents are often the first people to notice the symptoms of dyspraxia in their children, so it helps if you are on the lookout for these. But be aware that many of the listed symptoms are common to perfectly healthy children, too. Children develop at varied stages, so while a development delay isn’t likely to be cause for concern, it is advisable to bring up any worries that you have with your child’s GP or health visitor. The sooner that a problem is diagnosed, the sooner your child can begin to get treatment.
Although there is currently no cure for dyspraxia, there are ways to help your child to maximise their coping skills. Physical, speech, and occupational therapy can help your child to deal with the condition, by teaching methods designed to help children slow down, concentrate, and find their own ways of mastering life skills.
Though a small number of children will mild dyspraxia will grow out of the condition, most will be affected by it into adult life. However, with a thoughtful plan of therapy, many children with dyspraxia are successful, both academically and socially.