Dyspraxia is a condition that makes planning and coordination of movements difficult. Dyspraxia is often referred to as having challenges in motor planning. Dyspraxia is one word that encompasses a wide array of symptoms defining challenges in daily life encompassing physical, emotional and organizational capacities. It is a diagnosis that can present itself differently and bring challenges in different areas for each child and family that it impacts.
Some children present with more challenges in coordination and participation in physical activities – playing sports requiring hand-eye coordination, riding a bike, pumping a swing, writing letters, and putting clothes on. These children seem generally clumsy and awkward. Some children present with challenges in organization and attention – difficulty following directions, losing and misplacing things, forgetting in what order to complete multiple step tasks, getting distracted during daily routines. Yet other children present with challenges in coming up with ideas, adapting to changes in plans, transitioning to new activities, and thinking flexibly. These kids can be slow to initiate activities and hesitant to join others in play.
Most children with dyspraxia present with some combination of the above challenges, as well as challenges in emotional regulation. They feel frustrated that they are not successful with tasks and often seen as not paying attention. They have a low self esteem and are not persistent, giving up on activities and not trying new activities. They feel anxious and worried, are hesitant and cautious. Social emotional development is very often impacted.
What causes dyspraxia?
The cause of dyspraxia is unknown but it is thought that it is caused by a disruption in the way messages are transferred from the brain to the body.
It is believed that Dyspraxia is a Sensory Processing Disorder.
In order to have an idea and a goal and then efficiently carry out a task to accomplish that goal one must take in sensory information from the environment and from the body, then process and interpret that information in order to organize a response. Processing and interpretation of sensations gives us the ability to understand how our body moves in relation to the environment and how our body parts move in relation to each other. It is the understanding of the affordances of the environment (soft, hard, stable, unstable, safe, unsafe, etc.) and the qualities of the experience (wobbly, sturdy, fast, slow, whole body needed, one part of my body needed, etc.). This understanding allows one to organize a motor response. When there are challenges in sensory processing, we often see dyspraxia.
What is the treatment?
Occupational Therapists are often an imperative part of treatment for Dyspraxia, particularly those trained in Sensory Processing Disorder. Children take in sensory experiences – often proprioceptive, vestibular and tactile in nature – and discover ways to move their body through various tasks and activities. You can learn more about this approach here. You can learn more about sensory systems here. These intensive therapeutic activities provide the body with foundational information that supports development of ideas, sequences, and coordination to support participation in social interactions, dressing and self care tasks, writing and educational tasks and sports and recreation.