Dyspraxia

What is Dyspraxia?

Sometimes related to environmental and lifestyle factors, dyspraxia is a condition that affects gross-motor or fine-motor skills. More common in children, the condition sometimes co-exists with other developmental and behavioral disorders, including ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). There is no cure for dyspraxia, although therapy and adaptions based on abilities may help improve quality of life.

Diagnosis

Dyspraxia is often suspected by parents or teachers who observe a child when they become old enough to start school and notice developmental or motor skill issues. A primary care physician will perform an exam and may recommend further testing to check motor and coordination skills or offer a referral to a specialist.

What are the Symptoms of Dyspraxia?

While no specific cause of dyspraxia has been identified, it’s believed to be related to an interruption with how messages are transmitted from the brain to the rest of the body. As a result of this disruption, movements the brain wants to make aren’t executed smoothly.

Symptoms for children include

  • Developmental delays in sitting or walking
  • Difficulty tying shoes
  • Trouble jumping with accurate coordination and balance
  • Poor grasping abilities

Symptoms for adolescents and adults include

  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Exaggerated movements (i.e., flapping arms while running)
  • Trouble standing for long periods of time
  • Difficulty with daily dressing and grooming habits

Dyspraxia Causes

It isn’t fully understood what causes dyspraxia. Researchers believe that it could be caused by immature development of neurons, which are cells that transmit nerve impulses. If neurons do not develop correctly, they may be unable to send messages from the brain to different parts of the body, which could result in poor coordination and movement.

People with dyspraxia do not appear to have any type of neurological disorders or abnormalities, which makes it difficult to fully understand why dyspraxia occurs. In most instances, it is first diagnosed in childhood, which reinforces the theory that immature neuron development is to blame.

However, in some cases, the condition appears to occur suddenly and later on in life, usually after an illness or injury. In these instances, it could be that the illness or injury caused damage to neurons which prevent them from functioning correctly.

How is Dyspraxia Treated?

Children with dyspraxia often need more time to learn certain skills, so offering praise as achievements are made can encourage further learning. Encouraging appropriate physical activities may facilitate motor skill development. Therapeutic measures such as using putty to increase gripping strength, using jigsaw puzzles to improve visual and spatial perception, and encouraging use of a keyboard to make writing easier can also be helpful.

Management of dyspraxia often involves physical and occupational therapies to improve coordination and other issues with motor functioning. Children who have dyspraxia often continue to deal with similar developmental challenges into adulthood. Some individuals with the condition may present symptoms slowly over time, or experience a different set of difficulties with each stage of life.

Dyspraxia Prevention

Since the causes of dyspraxia aren’t completely understood, there is no known way to prevent the condition. However, people who have been diagnosed with the condition may be able to prevent it from inhibiting normal daily life by pursuing treatment as soon as possible.

There is no treatment available which completely cures dyspraxia, but regular, intensive therapy may help to improve movement and coordination. In cases where speech is badly affected, speech therapy may help patients to improve their speech and communicate more effectively. If other areas of the body are affected, physiotherapy may be helpful.

Occupational therapy may be useful for helping people with dyspraxia to overcome specific aspects of the condition which inhibit normal daily activities. For example, for children the goal of occupational therapy may be to improve their writing ability, to use the bathroom unaided, or to take part in hobbies or pastimes with friends. For adults, the focus may be on activities involved in their work, such as being able to use a computer, or on improving skills which would allow them to enter a workplace.