Dyspraxia in Children – Reasons, Symptoms, and Treatment
There are certain milestones that kids should reach as they grow up. These milestones enable them to perform their daily tasks. One of the important milestones is motor skills, which prepares them to take their first steps. However, some kids, may not be able to reach this milestone due to an inherent condition called dyspraxia.
What is Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder that impacts the ability to plan and process physical movement. Professionals use the term developmental coordination disorder (DCD) to describe this condition. Kids suffering from this condition struggle to reach milestones that enhance their motor skills. These kids may appear clumsy.
How Common Is it in Children?
Around 10 percent of children suffer from this condition, and only 2 percent may have severe dyspraxia. DCD is three to four times more common in boys than girls, and the condition may run in the family. Many children with dyspraxia also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Various Types of Dyspraxia
Here are the different types of dyspraxia noticed in kids.
1. Ideomotor Dyspraxia
A child with ideomotor dyspraxia cannot perform simple single-steps tasks. For example, using a spoon or fork, pouring juice, kicking or throwing a ball, using pencils and scissors, waving etc.
2. Ideational Dyspraxia
This condition causes the child to have trouble with simple tasks like brushing his teeth, tying shoelaces, riding a cycle, etc., due to the inability to plan and execute tasks.
3. Oromotor Dyspraxia
Children with this condition have difficulty in pronouncing words as they cannot figure out how to move the muscles needed for speech. Hence it is also known as verbal apraxia.
4. Constructional Dyspraxia
Children with constructional dyspraxia have spatial difficulty. They have trouble in doing simple tasks, like copying from a board, playing Lego, solving puzzles, arranging objects, etc. These children cannot fit pieces together to make a whole object.
Causes of Dyspraxia in Kids
The exact cause of dyspraxia or why the brain takes much longer to process data and leads to movement and coordination problems is not known. Here are some possible reasons for the same:
- The neuron development in the brain is immature
- It may be inherited genetically
Risk Factors for Dyspraxia in Children
The following factors increase the risk of dyspraxia in kids:
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Genetic disorder with a family history of dyspraxia
- Alcohol or drug abuse by the mother during pregnancy
Signs and Symptoms of Dyspraxia in Kids
Signs of dyspraxia are present from an early age. But the rate of development and a definitive diagnosis may vary. Some of the symptoms of dyspraxia in various age groups are discussed below.
1. Baby/Toddler – Up to 3 yrs Old
Symptoms to watch for include:
- The developmental milestones like crawling, sitting, etc., are delayed. Some kids may also not crawl at all.
- Poor hand-eye coordination while standing, walking, etc., gets delayed coupled with poor balance and posture.
- Speech dyspraxia in toddlers where speaking and reacting to questions is affected with long pauses while speaking and a very limited vocabulary.
- Speech and vocabulary are slurred.
- Has a problem in being toilet training.
2. Pre-schooler – 3 to 5 Years Old
Common symptoms noticed in a preschooler are as follows:
- May have a problem while dressing and buttoning up.
- May have a problem with fine motor skills.
- Problems while playing and with movements.
- Problems in the classroom with a limited vocabulary, not answering questions etc.
- Faces problem in processing the thoughts and has difficulty while concentrating on something.
- May feel fatigued all the time.
- Poor posture and difficulty in climbing the stairs.
- Difficulty in learning new skills not being age-appropriate.
3. School-aged Children 6 and beyond
A kid with the dyspraxia at this age has following problems:
- He may avoid sports as he may not be able to follow the instructions.
- Learns on a one-on-one basis and when other children are not present.
- Exhibits problems with perceptions, concepts, and understanding.
- Fails to filter information and reacts to all stimuli equally.
- May have erratic behaviour, mood swings.
- He may fail to recognize danger and may also be sensitive to noise and light.
- The child listens but does not understand.
- Poor social, cognitive, and motor skills.
How Is Dyspraxia Diagnosed in a Child
Dyspraxia (DCD) can cause a wide range of symptoms and problems which may be obvious at an early age or may become more obvious as your child gets older. The diagnosis of dyspraxia involves tests by professionals based on birth and developmental history, fine and gross motor skills, behaviour, cognitive skills and intellectual ability.
The tests normally conducted are:
- Gross motor skills tests: This test is performed to assess how the child uses muscles involved in coordination of body movement. Ex: jumping, throwing, walking, running, and balance.
- Fine motor skills tests: This test is performed to assess how the child uses smaller muscles to perform simple activities like tying shoelaces, cutting out shapes, doing up buttons, writing, etc.
- Cognitive and social skills tests: This test is performed to check for verbal dyspraxia in children. It helps evaluate a child’s ability to understand instructions, recognize people, memorize, and math ability.
How Is Dyspraxia Treated?
There’s no cure for DCD or Dyspraxia. The sooner a child is diagnosed, the better the chances of coping, adapting, and recovery will be. Treatment of dyspraxia in children is directed at managing symptoms and depends on the symptoms in your child. Try therapy and method based activities to help.
If your child needs a little extra help with motor skills, try activities for children with dyspraxia like the trampoline, hopscotch, martial arts, wobbly bridges, rope ladders etc. Balloons and bubbles, tricycles, scooters, pedal cars, dancing, and obstacle courses help improve motor skills. Encourage activities like painting, music, playing with dough, cycling, swimming, gardening, and planting. Playing video games, using computers, community activities like going to a church or temple; going for family outings, gatherings, travel, and dinners etc can also help immensely.
Following are the therapies that can help your child:
- Occupational therapy
- Speech and language therapy
- Perpetual-motor training
- Horse riding therapy with audiovisuals
- Active play therapy involving physical activity
- Music and pet therapy
2. Other Treatments
The effectiveness of alternative medicine systems or other treatments has not been established and there is no evidence that they work.
What Can Parents Do At Home for a Child with Dyspraxia?
Here’s what parents can do at home for a child with dyspraxia:
- Learn all you can about sensory processing issues and how you can help your child through discussions with teachers, doctors, online, etc.
- Observe your child’s sensory triggers like the smell, visual cues, touch, taste, etc., and notice how it affects motor skills, sensitivity, etc., to help you find activities and solutions to help over trouble-spots.
- Look into focused treatments and strategies with an occupational therapist and practice activities that encourage the development of sensory processing issues.
- Discuss with school teachers, support groups, and services.
- Get tips for managing meltdowns and handling tantrums. Understand the possible emotional impact, anxiety, and depression your child may be trying to communicate with you.
- Discover ways to help with routines, dressing, toilet training, responding to stimuli, etc., at home.
Tips to Make Parenting Easier for You
Here are a few parenting tips you can try to help a child with dyspraxia that can make it easier for both of you.
- Each day can be different and maybe worse. The key is to take things day by day. Talk to your child, write down routines, and be patient with your child.
- Get innovative, expand your horizons, and learn with your child.
- Understand yourself, your role, and how you can help. Some symptoms are hidden, hard to handle and not so obvious. Ex: Mood swings.
- A child with dyspraxia never does things “wrong” out of choice. Your child needs love, understanding, acceptance and adapting every day for a lifetime. So, make sure you give him that.
- Physical co-ordination problems will improve over time and you will learn how to handle things better if you consistently help your child.
It is important to have faith in your child and not let the frustration get the better of you while dealing with kids with this condition.