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Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a common condition that affects movement and coordination in children and young adults. It can also affect speech, learning, and daily living skills. Dyspraxia is not related to intelligence, but it can cause difficulties in academic, social, and emotional development. Dyspraxia is a lifelong condition that has no cure, but there are therapies and strategies that can help people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
The causes of dyspraxia are not fully understood, but some risk factors have been identified, such as being born prematurely, having a low birth weight, having a family history of dyspraxia, or being exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy (NHS, n.d.-a; NHS, n.d.-b). Dyspraxia is more common in males and often runs in families. It may also co-occur with other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, dyscalculia, depression, or anxiety (NHS, n.d.-b).
The symptoms of dyspraxia vary from person to person and may change over time. They usually become noticeable in early childhood, when developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, self-feeding, and dressing may be delayed or difficult to achieve. Children with dyspraxia may also struggle with fine and gross motor skills, such as writing, drawing, playing sports, or learning to drive. They may have problems with planning, organizing, sequencing, remembering, following instructions, or processing information. They may also experience social and emotional challenges, such as making friends, expressing feelings, coping with stress, or maintaining self-esteem (Dyspraxia Foundation, n.d.; NHS, n.d.-a).
Diagnosing dyspraxia can be challenging because there is no single test or criteria that can confirm the condition. A diagnosis usually involves a comprehensive assessment by a multidisciplinary team of professionals, such as a paediatrician, an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, a speech and language therapist, a psychologist, or an educational specialist. The assessment may include observations of the child’s movements and behaviours, interviews with the child and their parents or carers, standardized tests of motor skills and cognitive abilities, and screening for other conditions that may affect coordination (Dyspraxia UK, n.d.).
Treatment for dyspraxia aims to help the child develop their skills and abilities, reduce their difficulties and frustrations, and enhance their well-being and independence. Treatment may include occupational therapy to help the child learn practical ways to perform everyday tasks; physiotherapy to improve the child’s posture, balance, strength, and flexibility; speech and language therapy to address any communication or swallowing problems; cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help the child cope with their emotions and thoughts; and educational support to help the child access the curriculum and achieve their potential. Treatment is tailored to the individual needs and goals of the child and their family (NHS, n.d.-a).
Treatments for dyspraxia
Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a condition that affects physical coordination and movement. Children and young adults with dyspraxia may have difficulties with daily activities, such as dressing, writing, playing, or sports. Dyspraxia cannot be cured, but there are ways to help manage the problems and improve the quality of life of those affected. Some of the common treatments for dyspraxia in children and young adults include:
- Occupational therapy: This involves working with a therapist who can assess the abilities and challenges of the individual in performing daily tasks, such as using cutlery, dressing, or using the toilet. The therapist can help find ways to overcome these difficulties, such as breaking down complex movements into smaller steps, practising them regularly, or adapting the tasks to make them easier (for example, using special grips on pens or shoes with Velcro fasteners). Occupational therapy can also help with fine motor skills, such as writing or drawing (NHS, 2021a).
- Physiotherapy: This involves working with a therapist who can assess the physical abilities and create a therapy plan tailored to the individual’s needs. The plan may include exercises and activities to improve walking, running, balance, and coordination. Physiotherapy can also help with gross motor skills, such as throwing or catching a ball (NHS, 2021a).
- Educational support: This involves working with teachers and educational psychologists who can help the individual cope with learning difficulties and academic challenges. The support may include providing extra time for exams, using assistive technology, such as computers or tablets, or modifying the curriculum or teaching methods to suit the individual’s learning style and pace. Educational support can also help with cognitive skills, such as memory, attention, or planning (NHS, 2021a).
- Psychological support: This involves working with counsellors or therapists who can help the individual deal with emotional and social issues that may arise from having dyspraxia. The support may include providing a safe space to express feelings, building self-esteem and confidence, or developing coping strategies for stress and anxiety. Psychological support can also help with mental health issues, such as depression or low mood (NHS, 2021b).
These treatments are not mutually exclusive and may be combined to provide a holistic approach to help the individual with dyspraxia achieve their full potential and enjoy their life.
Verbal dyspraxia is a speech sound disorder that affects the ability to plan and execute the movements of the mouth, tongue, lips and palate to produce clear and accurate speech (Speech and Language UK, n.d.). It is also known as childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) or developmental apraxia of speech (DAS) (Wikipedia, n.d.). Verbal dyspraxia can cause inconsistent errors, difficulty with transitions and blending between sounds, unusual prosody and variations in speech rate (Dyspraxia Foundation, n.d.). Verbal dyspraxia can be diagnosed by a qualified speech and language therapist with experience of children’s speech sound disorders, who will look for certain features within a child’s speech (Speech and Language UK, n.d.). The cause of verbal dyspraxia is unknown in most cases, but it can be treated with regular and direct speech therapy (Dyspraxia Foundation, n.d.).
Dyspraxia Foundation. (n.d.). Dyspraxia at a glance. https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/what_is_dyspraxia/dyspraxia-at-a-glance/
Dyspraxia Foundation. (n.d.). Developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD). https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/what_is_dyspraxia/developmental-verbal-dyspraxia/
Dyspraxia UK. (n.d.). Diagnostic criteria. https://www.dyspraxiauk.com/diagnosticcriteria.php
NHS. (2021a). Developmental co-ordination disorder (dyspraxia) in children – Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/developmental-coordination-disorder-dyspraxia/treatment/
NHS. (2021b). Dyspraxia in adults – NHS. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/developmental-coordination-disorder-dyspraxia-in-adults/
Speech and Language UK. (n.d.). Verbal dyspraxia factsheet. https://speechandlanguage.org.uk/media/3304/verbal-dyspraxia-factsheet-may-2016.pdf
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Developmental verbal dyspraxia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developmental_verbal_dyspraxia