What is Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia in children and adults is a learning disability involving difficulties in motor and speech – this is the main dyspraxia definition. An individual with dyspraxia may have difficulties in coordination and movement, language formation, thought and perception. The degree and type of disability depends on the classification of the condition. It should be understood that the condition does not affect the intelligence of a person, but may result in difficulty in learning during childhood.
Source – telegraph.co.uk
Dyspraxia learning disability also involves either a difficulty in planning action or executing it. Classifications of dyspraxia manifest these differences such as:
- Ideational Dyspraxia - Involves problems with planning the action (does not know how to do it).
- Ideo-Motor Dyspraxia- Involves problems with the action itself (cannot execute it even if the steps are known)
- Oromotor Dyspraxia- Involves problems on pronouncing words
- Constructional Dyspraxia- Involves problems on spatial tasks
Dyspraxia Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of dyspraxia learning disability vary according to the developmental milestone of the person. The following outlines the most common signs and symptoms of dyspraxia as described according to developmental stage:
Infancy to Toddlerhood
A young child may experience mild dyspraxia problems such as delays in the following tasks:
- Sitting upright
- Establishing vocabulary
- Speaking (children are oftentimes not understood)
The preschool child may experience the following difficulties:
- Problems with dressing own self
- Difficulty in tying shoelace or buttoning of clothes
- Unable to perform jumping, catching, hopping, kicking or skipping
- Difficulty in going up and down the stairs
- Lack of concentration
- Hesitant in playing with others
- Fidgets most of the time
- Difficulty in holding a pencil properly
- Unable to understand common prepositions such as in, out, beside, on top, etc.
- Early difficulties do not resolve
- Avoids sports and other school activities
- Best learns on a one-on-one teaching, unable to learn with other children
- Has difficulty in writing
- Reacts to all external stimuli (do not exhibit selective inattention to irrelevant stimulus) as a result of sensory integrative dysfunction
- Unable to follow simple instructions and does not remember instructions.
- Unwilling to attend social activities because of speech difficulties.
Adolescence and Adulthood
- Poor grooming
- Unable to write well
- Difficulties in speech (including pitch, volume and articulation)
- Difficulty learning how to drive
- Very sensitive to sensations such as touch, light, smell and taste
- Children should be assessed early for signs and symptoms to employ early management.
Causes of Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia learning disability was seen to be inherited although the exact cause of dyspraxia is unknown, but researchers speculate that the motor neurons are impaired. Because of this, it is likely that the brain will also process data longer.
Other studies have indicated that damage to the cerebellum during development may contribute to the occurrence of dyspraxia. Premature babies who have not developed the cerebellum fully have also higher risks for developing it.
Dyspraxia during adulthood is commonly caused by head traumas, brain attack (stroke) or illness affecting the neurologic system.
Types of Dyspraxia
1. Verbal dyspraxia
Verbal dyspraxia is an ideational dyspraxia learning disability wherein the person is not able to form words. There is a problem on the initiation of movements needed to form speech. It is also called articulatory dyspraxia or childhood apraxia. Verbal dyspraxia involves problems in making sounds, controlling the speech organs, controlling phonation and breathing, problems with feeding and a delayed language development.
2. Oral dyspraxia
Oral dyspraxia is an oromotor dyspraxia and involves problems on doing non-speech movements such as licking, sucking, blowing and any tongue or lip movement. Oral dyspraxia may affect speech as a result of motor problems. A child may manifest drooling as a result of problems on the tongue
3. Motor dyspraxia
Motor dyspraxia, also known as motor skills disorder involves difficulties in motor movements, including fine and gross motor activities. Motor dyspraxia is a result of problems on the motor neurons which affect the way the person moves. People having motor dyspraxia often exhibit clumsiness and falling.
4. Developmental dyspraxia
Developmental dyspraxia is a type of dyspraxia that develop starting at birth. Developmental dyspraxia may occur with all types of dyspraxia.
Testing for dyspraxia involves a checklist to be accomplished by a caregiver or the patient itself. This checklist contains demonstrations of dyspraxia to be evaluated from the patient. The testing is not an assessment tool for dyspraxia, but gives suspicion on the presence of the condition. A relevant number of manifestations present may suggest presence of the problem which requires definitive assessment and diagnosis from health practitioners.
Online testing is also available and results are presented in a few minutes or hours. Several mental health sites offer a free online testing for dyspraxia.
Dyspraxia Diagnosis and Assessment
Dyspraxia is oftentimes difficult to determine from other developmental disorders. Diagnosis and assessment of dyspraxia include:
- Detailed developmental history – Developmental milestones need to be examined to assess any difficulties in previous milestones such as walking, speaking or crawling.
- Cognitive Tests – Certain intellectual screening tests are performed by a trained examiner (usually a psychiatrist or psychologists) to assess learning and intellectual problems. Usually among patients with dyspraxia, the intellectual abilities are not affected.
- Motor Skill Test – Motor tests include gross motor and fine motor skills testing.
- Gross Motor Skills – Gross motor skills testing involve the examination of the use of large muscles during body movement such as walking, running, jumping, and balancing.
- Fine Motor Skills -This involves examining the use of small muscles during movement. The client may be asked to tie the shoelace, button clothes, write, or pick up small pieces.
Aside from these tests, the examiner will also assess reactions to stimuli such as touch, light and sound. Assessing dyspraxia is crucial as it is difficult to diagnose. Special education teachers are also trained to do assessments among students.
Treatment of dyspraxia learning disability aims at developing the speech and motor functioning for the patient. These include:
- Speech and Language Therapy – Speech and language therapy helps the patient in language formation. The therapy includes phonation and exercise of the speech organs.
- Occupational Therapy – Therapists usually allow clients to do home and school tasks and help clients in developing new skills that may be difficult for the client.
- Perceptual Motor Training – This therapy involves training the client develop movement, auditory, visual and language skills. The task advances as the development of the child improves.
- Dyspraxia Exercises – Exercises are instituted through active play. The child is allowed to explore things by themselves and play with other children to improve their language, motor skills, spatial skills and senses. Caregivers should ensure safety during these times. Caregivers may also be involved with the active play specially when inside the house.
Dyspraxia support groups are also helping in reassuring parents and providing therapies for clients. These treatments do not cure the condition, but improves the abilities of the client.
Dyspraxia often do not lead to physical complications or side-effects. Problems arise with the social repercussions of the condition. A person may have low self-esteem and develop depression as a result of learning and motor problems. The person may also be socially isolated especially during school times.
Dyspraxia is a lifelong disease; however it does not lead to medical conditions. Symptoms can be controlled or addressed using therapies and the person may experience optimum level of functioning. Some people with dyspraxia turn out to be talented individuals with the help of support groups.