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Dyspraxia: Definition, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Rebecca Bradshaw

Rebecca Bradshaw has a Master of Arts in Teaching and has experience teaching ELA, ESL, and high school CTE courses.

Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder that affects motor coordination and communication skills. This lesson will examine the symptoms and treatment for this disorder.

A Life-Long Brain Disorder

Dyspraxia is a life-long brain-based disorder that affects motor and communication skills. It presents a variety of symptoms and affects approximately 6% of children with the majority being males. Dyspraxia meets the criteria for a disability and usually requires accommodations in school to support the student both physically and academically. The exact cause of dyspraxia is unknown, but genetics, premature birth, and exposure to alcohol in the womb are considered to be factors in the development of the disorder.

Other learning disabilities, such as ADHD or dyslexia, are commonly experienced with dyspraxia. These learning disabilities may present similar symptoms; however, the severity of the dyspraxia symptoms varies greatly from person to person despite coexisting disabilities.

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is commonly known as motor learning difficulty and developmental coordination disorder. It can affect both gross and fine motor skills. Due to the affects it may have on speech and word pronunciation, it also can adversely affect social skills. To an outsider, someone with dyspraxia might simply appear clumsy because it causes challenges with posture and balance and makes it difficult to coordinate movements on both sides of the body. Dyspraxia continues throughout a person's lifespan, but the daily challenges change with a shift in personal activities and increased responsibilities.

Symptoms

Dyspraxia presents itself differently in everyone who has this disorder. Challenges arise from a mere wave of the hand to brushing teeth, speech, and/or walking. Babies and young children experience difficulty with crawling, rolling over, and walking. They may not be able to track movements with their eyes, struggle to hold a fork or spoon, have delayed speech, and often bump into furniture and objects.

School age children might be delayed in performing tasks such as tying shoes, hopping or skipping, have difficulty with handwriting and manipulation of small objects, and/or be sensitive to touch. They might appear immature due to challenges with their speech and have a rough time participating in P.E. and sports due to a lack of coordination.

As teenagers, completing chores around the house, cooking, typing, and driving may prove challenging. They might also be overly sensitive to touch, smell, and/or taste. Additionally, those suffering with dyspraxia may experience depression, low self-esteem, and metal health issues.

Treatment

Diagnosing dyspraxia takes time and involves a process of ruling out other neurological disorders. Observing daily challenges and keeping notes on behaviors over a period of time helps in the process of obtaining a diagnosis. Once other neurological disorders are ruled out, a referral to an occupational therapist usually occurs where tests for muscle tone, strength, and coordination are performed. If the findings prove that motor skills are delayed, daily challenges are affecting everyday life, the absence of additional neurological conditions, and symptoms continue to present since infancy, then a dyspraxia diagnosis is usually given.

There are a variety of treatment options for dyspraxia. These include services from occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and physical therapists. An occupational therapist works with a child to help develop fine motor skills such as holding a utensil or handwriting. They also work on gross motor skills activities such as throwing a ball or jumping. Sensory issues can be addressed by helping children respond appropriately to uncomfortable sensory input such as fabric textures or heavy clothing.

Speech-language pathologists work with children to improve their communication ability by practicing the pronunciation of words. They use exercises that teach how to produce specific sounds and how to prevent sound errors. They also focus on the rate of speech and quality of one's voice.

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