What is Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is defined as a variant of a developmental coordination disorder affecting the fine and gross motor coordination in children and adults. The speech is also affected in some cases. Dyspraxia is a problem that may linger throughout the life of a person. It makes it difficult to carry out routine daily activities. People with Dyspraxia also have difficulty in school, college, or place of work due to coordination problems. In cases of children, they find it tough to write, ride, play, or participate in other recreational activities. These difficulties linger until they become fully grown adults where they find problems with other skills like driving or being gainfully employed .
These difficulties have significant impact on the confidence level of the child or adult. They tend to become socially withdrawn. They are not able to plan and manage things properly. They have organization problems which affect the way they go about their activities at school or at work. Dyspraxia in many cases also causes problems with memory, cognitive function, and processing information .
In fact, the national Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines Dyspraxia as a condition in which people become disconnected with their environment.
Researchers believe that about 10% of people have dyspraxia to some degree and only about 1-2% actually has symptoms arising out of it. They suggest that Dyspraxia is seen commonly in boys even though many have argued that this disorder may be under diagnosed in girls .
What Causes Dyspraxia?
The primary cause of Dyspraxia is not known but research experts opine that there is some problem with the development of the nerve cells that control motor function which is responsible for Dyspraxia. If the nerve signals do not transmit signals to the brain in a timely fashion, it is quite natural for the brain to take time in processing data. They do not believe that any brain damage can cause dyspraxia .
Some studies have suggested a genetic link to the development of Dyspraxia. There are many cases where many members of the same family have a known diagnosis of Dyspraxia .
What are the Symptoms of Dyspraxia?
The symptoms of Dyspraxia are quite variable and depend on the age of the patient. In general, a person with Dyspraxia will have problems with balance and posture.
There will be persistent fatigue with little energy to partake in any activity. The patient will feel clumsy and there will be clear difference in speech pattern. The hand eye coordination will also be questionable in people with Dyspraxia .
People with this condition also are extremely sensitive to noise, touch, and taste. Such people cannot even sense any potential threat or danger due to delay in processing. Mood swings and abnormal behavior is also quite common in Dyspraxia. Researchers believe that children with Dyspraxia tend to listen but it is not necessary that they understand everything of what is being said or instructed to them .
How is Dyspraxia Diagnosed?
The symptoms that a child or an adult shows is an indication that the person may be having Dyspraxia. The diagnosis is made after evaluation by a psychologist or a pediatrician in cases of a child. The physician will take a detailed history of the child and will inquire as to whether there was any delay in attaining developmental milestones .
The physician will also assess the gross motor and fine motor coordination and the intellectual ability of the child. With regard to gross motor skills, the physician will check how well the child is able to use the large muscles of the body for activities like jumping, walking, balance and throwing. Any abnormality in any of these activities will point towards Dyspraxia .
For fine motor coordination, the physician will check how well the child uses the smaller muscles like tying shoelaces, use scissors to cut shapes, buttoning buttons, holding a pencil and writing. Any abnormalities on the tests mentioned above will confirm a diagnosis of Dyspraxia .
How is Dyspraxia Treated?
Dyspraxia is a condition that cannot be cured. However, with proper treatment the quality of life of the patient can be significantly improved. The earlier the condition is diagnosed the better will be the outcome of treatment. The management of Dyspraxia is basically done by the following specialists :
Occupational Therapist: This is required to analyze how the child is able to carry out daily functions at home and at school. They can help the child with any problems they face while performing any tasks .
Speech/Language Therapy: This is helpful for assessing the speech of the child and teaching the child effective means of communication
Motor Training: This treatment focuses on improving the movement, auditory skills, and visual perception of the child. The child will be asked to perform a series of tasks and with time as the treatment advances the tasks will become complex so that the child is able to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously. The primary aim of this treatment is to train the child on facing challenges but not to the level where it becomes stressful for them .
Riding Therapy: This is a novel method identified by researchers where a group of children with dyspraxia in the age range of 6 to 15 years participated in horse riding session lasting for half an hour every day along with half an hour of audiovisual sessions. After a few weeks of the session, there was a significant improvement in the cognition, gait, and overall mood of the children. This further substantiated the fact that audiovisual therapy played a crucial role in improving the symptoms of dyspraxia .
Physical Activity: For children with dyspraxia, it is essential for them to get exposed to play session which involves significant level of physical activity. This improves motor coordination. This is seen especially in children between the age group of 3 and 5 years. These activities can be arranged both within the confines of the home or outside in the community park .
Through active play, children not only get exposed to the environment and learn to tackle various challenges they also learn more about themselves and what their likes and dislikes are. This is why the more a child with dyspraxia is exposed to active play the more are the chances of the child improving and dealing with the symptoms of dyspraxia .