What is dyspraxia?

Infantile dyspraxia is a motor disorder in the coordination of intentional movements. It therefore affects complex muscular activities such as writing, balance, ball control and dancing. Dyspraxia is a developmental disorder, meaning it affects how the parts of the nervous system that coordinate these types of activities develop during childhood.

Additionally, childhood dyspraxia can affect other activities that involve the coordination of muscle and brain activity, including speech, intellectual abilities, and the organization of complex tasks. Dyspraxia does not affect intelligence. However, it constitutes an additional obstacle for children during their schooling.

In any group of children there is a wide range of abilities, and children develop at different rates. Children with dyspraxia are not abnormal children; they are the group of children whose motor coordination develops the slowest, so some things are more difficult for them to learn. This does not mean that the skills they find difficult cannot be learned, just that children with dyspraxia will find them more difficult to learn than other children.

What are the causes of dyspraxia?

Although the exact cause of dyspraxia is unknown, it is thought to be due to problems in the way messages are sent from the brain to the body. These problems may be due to a delay in the development of the nervous system or to a problem with the structure of certain brain cells. Dyspraxia is often diagnosed in childhood, but it can also affect adults.

However, for any human ability, there is a wide range of “normality”, with an average, and some of us are more or less capable than others. Just as some children have much better than average coordination (including some who, for example, become accomplished athletes or dancers), others may have much worse coordination. So there is a wide range of motor coordination development, from very poor to very good. When this development is markedly impaired, we speak of dyspraxia, because we know that this presents a real challenge for your child.

A number of things have been suggested that may increase the risk of dyspraxia:

  • Dyspraxia seems to be hereditary, so it seems to have a genetic component – ​​the way your child is “made”. This suggests that, in some children, less efficient motor nerve development could be something pre-programmed in their genes.
  • Premature babies, especially those with very low birth weight, appear to be at increased risk for dyspraxia.
  • There is evidence that exposure to high levels of alcohol or illegal drugs during pregnancy can cause dyspraxia, although exposure to these toxins has many other effects as well.

What are the symptoms of dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia affects children in various ways and to varying degrees. Sometimes some children only have minor problems with timing their movements, while others have more serious problems. The problems can interfere with the child’s ability to participate and function in daily activities and life skills, including education. For many people, dyspraxia continues into adulthood, which can have implications for work and employment. Dyspraxia does not mean that the child is less intelligent, but that his ability to learn is affected.

Symptoms of dyspraxia in preschool children:

  • Delay in reaching developmental milestones – for example, sitting, standing, walking, going to the toilet and talking (although most children who are late for certain milestones do not have dyspraxia).
  • Difficulties eating and sleeping in early childhood.
  • Lack of interest in construction toys like Lego® and stacking toys.
  • They may not be able to run, jump, catch or kick a ball as their peers do.
  • Misunderstands concepts such as “in”, “on”, “in front”, etc.
  • Can’t get dressed.
  • Clumsy – does not pick up small things well; tends to break small toys.
  • Slow and hesitant in most actions; tends to stumble.
  • Doesn’t seem to be able to learn anything instinctively, but needs to be taught.
  • Poor pencil skills – drawing, holding a pencil.
  • Cannot do puzzles or shape sorting games.
  • The drawings seem very immature compared to those of other children.
  • Can seem easily distracted.
  • Muscle tone may be elevated (muscles feel hard or tense).
  • Muscle tone may be weak (a baby may look limp when held).
  • Delay in language development or speech problems. For example, the language is weird and inconsistent, making it difficult to understand.

Symptoms of dyspraxia in school-aged children:

  • Problems similar to those mentioned above may persist.
  • Difficulties in group situations.
  • Difficulties in mathematics and writing.
  • Having difficulty copying items from the blackboard at school.
  • Appear disorganized.
  • Have poor concentration and listening skills.
  • Being unable to follow instructions.
  • Avoid physical education and games.
  • Feeling angry, upset or frustrated with themselves.
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