All children are clumsy sometimes, but if it’s a frequent occurrence for your child, along with other symptoms, then dyspraxia could be the cause.
Dyspraxia is a neurological problem that impairs the organisation of movement, which is why some children with the condition are just regarded as being clumsy. With the condition, the way the brain processes information is immature, which means that messages aren’t fully or properly transmitted. It can affect any or all areas of development, but it’s particularly associated with problems involving thought, perception and language.
Statistics suggest that up to 10% of the population are affected by dyspraxia, with 2% having it severely, and one in every class of 30 schoolchildren likely to have it. It’s more likely to affect men than women and often runs in families.
Understanding the Symptoms
The symptoms of dyspraxia usually exist from an early age, but it’s not always picked up until a child is a bit older. If it isn’t identified, it can have a great impact on a child, particularly when they’re at school, cause frustration at not being able to do things properly and may lead to self-esteem problems.
Symptoms to look out for in babies include:
- Feeding problems.
- Failing to meet the expected developmental milestones and being slower to develop than other children.
- Not crawling – many dyspraxia babies prefer to shuffle, then walk, without crawling in between.
In pre-school children, aged 3-5 years old, symptoms may include:
- Bumping into things frequently and falling over.
- Being very excitable.
- Messy eating, often spilling things.
- Problems holding a pencil or using scissors.
- Limited creative and imaginative play.
- Language difficulties.
- Poor concentration, often abandoning tasks quickly.
- Prefers adult company to other children.
- Difficulty pedalling a tricycle.
- Unable to sit still or keep arms, hands or feet still.
As children get older, the symptoms progress. In 7 year olds, for example, the symptoms may include aspects such as:
- Not being able to tie shoe laces.
- Poor handwriting.
- Poor drawing and copying skills.
- Poor listening skills.
- Poor memory and not being able to remember more than one thing at a time.
- Slow in class, compared to other children.
- Problems using a knife and fork, particularly co-ordinating them.
- Sleeping difficulties.
- Becomes easily upset and emotional.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Parents can play a key part in looking out for the symptoms. It can be really frustrating if you think there may be a problem with your child, but it hasn’t been formally identified. Getting a diagnosis is important, as it will aid your child in getting the help they need, particularly at school.
Although dyspraxia can’t be completely cured, the good news is that there are ways of coping with it and ensuring children achieve their full potential. Once a child has been diagnosed, it’s likely that you’ll work with a team of different specialists, such as occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, specialist teachers and psychologists, and together they’ll help with ways of dealing with the condition.
Dyspraxia can be draining for all those involved, not least the child affected, but with help and support, the difficulties can be minimised effectively.