Dyspraxia, or developmental coordination disorder (DCD) as it is sometimes referred to, is a neurological condition that affects movement and coordination in children and adults. Dyspraxia is a lifelong condition; it is not something that a child can grow out of. It affects all areas of life, which can create challenges with everyday activities such as writing, using cutlery and tying shoelaces. It is interesting to note that it is not a learning disability in itself; most people who have dyspraxia are actually of average or above average intelligence.
What causes dyspraxia?
The exact cause of dyspraxia is not really known; however, it is thought to be due to a disruption in the way that messages are sent from the brain to the rest of the body. For example, in order to pick up an object, the brain sends a message to the hands and fingers to create the movement needed to grasp. In a person with dyspraxia, the message takes longer to reach the fingers, which may result in either a slow reaction or dropping the object in question.
What tasks might be difficult for someone who has dyspraxia?
People who have dyspraxia can struggle with activities that involve gross motor skills, such as running, hopping, throwing and catching a ball or riding a bike. Actions requiring fine motor skills, like doing up buttons or zips, tying shoelaces or using scissors may also prove difficult. Poor pencil grip and handwriting are common in school-age children. Dyspraxia also affects organisation and planning, so homework or school books may be frequently forgotten or misplaced. Children with dyspraxia may find it difficult to concentrate on tasks or become easily distracted by what is going on around them. There can also be sensory processing issues, such as sensitivity to sound or touch.
How can I help someone who has dyspraxia?
The key to supporting a person who has dyspraxia is patience and understanding. It may be that someone needs a little more time to process what has been asked of them before they can complete a task. Children often find visual prompts easier to understand than verbal instructions, so using pictures to show the sequence of getting dressed or what needs to be packed in a school bag are really helpful. Simple classroom adaptations, such as pencil grips or even specially shaped pencils that are easier to hold, are a great aid to those who struggle with handwriting.
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