While most people have heard of dyslexia (see our recent guide), fewer are aware of a condition called dyspraxia. In this rough guide we give an overview as to what dyspraxia is, how it affects children, how to spot the signs of it and what can be done to mitigate its effects.
What is Dyspraxia/DCD?
In essence, dyspraxia (DCD) is a condition that causes problems with movement and co-ordination. When children have this, they may appear more clumsy than their peers and the condition will adversely affect how well they execute physical activities. For this reason, they may reach some of their key developmental milestones later than expected. There are varying degrees of the condition, so children who have it may exhibit symptoms sooner, later or more/less severely than others.
- The condition cannot be cured, so needs to be managed (usually right into adulthood) in order to mitigate its effects.
- Dyspraxia affects 3 to 4 times more boys than girls.
- It’s not usually possible to get a definitive diagnosis before a child is at least 4 to 5.
- The condition is also sometimes referred to as Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function (SDDMF).
- Children with dyspraxia often have other conditions including ADHD, autism, dyslexia and/or sometimes problems with speech.
How Does it Affect Children?
Although dyspraxia usually has nothing to do with intelligence or the ability to think, the condition can really hold children back. As well as the innate inconvenience of not being good at co-ordinating movements and physical tasks, it can leave children prone to being less fit. This is simply because they’re not naturally co-ordinated enough to be good at sport and physical activities, so are less likely to partake in them.
Children with dyslexia/DCD may also have trouble with concentration, low attention spans, following instructions, copying information and organising themselves or other items. Due to the issues around the condition, they are often slower at picking up new skills. All of this can be very frustrating for them, so sometimes they develop behavioural problems too. Dyspraxia/DCD can make a child feel different, feel isolated, sometimes become the focus for bullying and often have trouble making friends. All of this can lead on to give sufferers a low sense of self-esteem.
Signs to Look Out For
Babies and toddlers with dyspraxia may start to exhibit a delay in starting to crawl, roll or sit. Before they’re one, they may also end up in odd body positions or have strange posture.
As they develop and grow older, they may show difficulty when they eventually walk, feed themselves, dress, draw and/or write. They may have trouble stacking things, playing with certain toys, using pencils, using cutlery, eating and generally co-ordinating their movements. Playground activities like running, jumping, and kicking or catching a ball may be difficult for them to co-ordinate correctly. Trouble with buttoning clothing when they’re older and tying show laces is also a classic sign.
Why Children Develop Dyspraxia
It’s not known why children develop dyspraxia/DCD but children are more likely to develop it …
- if they were born prematurely;
- if they were low in weight at birth;
- if they come from a family with a history of it;
- if their mothers drank alcohol or took illegal drugs whilst pregnant.
If you suspect that your baby, toddler or child may exhibiting possible symptoms of dyspraxia/DCD, you should consult your GP, Health Visitor or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child’s educational setting. Your child may then be referred to a specialist healthcare professional who can assess them. Diagnosis itself is usually undertaken by a paediatrician, often in tandem with an occupational therapist who will later be involved in treatment if the diagnosis turns out to be positive. Much more detail about dyspraxia/DCD diagnosis is available on the NHS website.
How to Help Children with Dyspraxia/DCD
While dyspraxia cannot be cured, there are ways to help children with the condition and indeed they may well require help for the long term. A tailored help plan is usually generated by a combination of healthcare and educational professionals in tandem with parents and the individual concerned. The plan will be designed to mitigate the specific challenges that a child is facing, so will differ from case to case. For example, a child may need help from a paediatric occupational therapist to master use of cutlery, writing, playing and dressing etc. And/or a clinical psychologist may be needed to help with the child’s mental health. An educational psychologist may be able to help the child overcome barriers to them progressing their education … and so on. Learn more about the types of treatment available for children with dyspraxia here.
The following video may also be useful as an illustration of how one family deals with childhood dyspraxia.
Dyspraxia & Special Educational Needs at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham
It’s important for nursery staff, education professionals and parents to look out for the signs of possible dyspraxia, and any other conditions, in children under their care. The earlier symptoms are spotted, the more likely the child can be helped to best effect. While it’s not possible for children under 4 or 5 to be positively diagnosed with dyspraxia/DCD with full certainty, should a positive diagnosis be suspected, then a tailored learning and development programme can be put in place at the earliest opportunity. In this way, the child will be supported where needed and any adverse effects of the possible condition can be reduced to a minimum. Using this approach means that even children with special educational needs can thrive, achieving personal bests as they progress through their learning and development milestones.
Little Cedars is one of the best nurseries in the area around Streatham, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting and Balham. We’re based at 27 Aldrington Road, Streatham, SW16 1TU and offer outstanding, weekday childcare services for babies, toddlers and preschoolers up to the age of 5. So, if you are looking for a high quality nursery or pre-school in any of these south west London areas, please make contact with us while a few places are still available (please choose a button):