by Nicole Semall, OT student
Dyspraxia is a disorder that falls under the umbrella term Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). It is a condition defined as an impaired or immaturity of the organization of fine and/or gross movement in children and adults. Individuals with this disorder have a problem with planning and executing movements to achieve a predetermined idea or purpose. Those with dyspraxia do not have additional neurological or psychiatric pathologies, however they may or may not have associated perceptual-motor difficulties. In other words, difficulties are not caused by general medical conditions that could explain the coordination deficits. The exact cause of dyspraxia is unknown, but some researchers believe that it is caused by a disruption of the messages that are transmitted between the brain and body, which create uncoordinated movements. According to the World Health Organization, dyspraxia prevalence is estimated at 5 to 6% and affects boys more often than girls.
The presentation of dyspraxia varies from person to person. Additionally, difficulties may change over time depending on environmental demands and life experiences. Although difficulties present differently in each person, if inabilities or difficulties are not managed they have significant negative effects on the individual’s ability to participate fully in the daily activities of home, school, and play. For children, dyspraxia may negatively impact: learning in school, social and emotional development, time management, planning, and organizing. In adulthood, negative impacts from childhood may still be prevalent, however negative impacts may extend to an adult’s education, employment experiences, or ability to live independently. In some cases, dyspraxia can also affect one’s articulation, speech, perception, and thought.
Dyspraxia can affect different kinds of movement and are broken down into categories below:
- Ideomotor dyspraxia: Makes it hard to complete single-step motor tasks such as waving goodbye, turning a faucet on, gripping a pencil, climbing stairs and taking a sip from a cup.
- Ideational dyspraxia: Demonstrates difficulty performing a sequence of movements, like washing hair, tying shoes, riding a bike, or cleaning a space.
- Constructional dyspraxia: Makes it harder to understand spatial relationships. Skills may affect copying Lego models, doing puzzles, organizing room, copying pictures.
- Oromotor dyspraxia (verbal apraxia or apraxia of speech): Makes it difficult to coordinate muscle movements needed to pronounce words, which often presents as slurred speech or inability to enunciate. Kids with this type of dyspraxia tend to have speech which is hard to understand.
Although dyspraxia can be a single diagnosis it is commonly associated with comorbidities such as: Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD), specific speech disorders, Dyslexia, and Dysgraphia.
Children with dyspraxia typically have average or above-average intelligence, but may be immature for their age or have issues picking up on social cues. It is very important to understand that kids don’t outgrow dyspraxia. However, occupational therapy and speech therapy can assist individuals to manage their difficulties. These specialties tend to build on the child’s strengths, so that they can better navigate their weaknesses.
How to Recognize Dyspraxia
- walks unaided
- kneels and crouches down to pick up objects
- pushes ball with foot
- jumps over small objects
- rides tricycle for at least 6 feet 3–4
- buttons series of three or four buttons
- brushes teeth without assistance
- puts on socks correctly
- walks up and down stairs, alternating feet
- zips jacket zipper independently
- independent in toileting (tearing paper, washing hands, managing clothing)
- fastens all fasteners
- cuts paper along a line with scissors
- ties and unties knots
- dresses independently
- bathes or showers without assistance
- catches small ball when thrown from a distance of 10 feet
- rides bicycle without training wheels
- cuts complex shapes with scissors
- ties shoelaces independently
- use fork, spoon, and knife competently
- makes own bed when asked
Signs of Dyspraxia
Struggles at home:
- putting socks on
- fastening fasteners
- doing up zippers
- putting shoes/boots on
- tying shoelaces
- using utensils
- washing hair
Struggles at school:
- slow and/or messy printing/handwriting
- using scissors and/or glue
- drawing skills (‘immature’ drawings)
- pencil grasp
- performance in gym class
- reports of child falling-off chair in class
- bumping into things
- struggles during play:
- awkward running and/or gait
- lacking balance while climbing onto play structures
- riding bike, skating, rollerblading, skipping, playing sports, throwing/catching/kicking balls
Children with dyspraxia are typically diagnosed between the ages of 6 and 12. Diagnoses prior to 6 years old tend to be given to children with other significant developmental challenges.