Help! My Child Is Dyspraxic
by Annelize Clark, Occupational Therapist and Remedial Teacher at Bellavista School
Dyspraxia is not a very common word in parenting conversations, mostly because it exists as part of, or together with, other neuro-developmental disorders like ADHD and Dyslexia. These difficulties are often diagnosed first, with dyspraxia as the bystander. However, it is a very real difficulty, and children with dyspraxia require a lot of patience, explicit instructions and scaffolding of tasks to support them.
Dyspraxia, also known as developmental co-ordination disorder, is a motor planning difficulty, and often affects visual perceptual memory and the processing of information. Children with dyspraxia struggle with day-to-day functioning. They may get their clothes inside out at age 8, struggle to co-ordinate a knife and fork when eating, have difficulty learning to ride a bike, or catch a ball. They may be easily distracted, for example if you ask a child with dyspraxia to fetch a glass of water from the kitchen, they may start playing with the cat or inspect the water running out of the tap instead of fetching the glass of water. Often they don’t enjoy sport because they struggle to run or swim, and find themselves in trouble for losing their belongings. Children with dyspraxia often bump into things, seem clumsy and appear to not be listening.
Dyspraxia can manifest in so many different ways, but this is a list of challenges a child with dyspraxia may be experiencing:
- Difficulty judging heights and distances
- Poor sense of timing and direction
- Difficulty with planning and organising thoughts
- Limited concentration and poor short term memory
- Difficulty with gross and fine motor skills – limited sporting ability and poor handwriting
- Difficulty with daily activities such as dressing, brushing teeth and hair and feeding oneself
- Speech may be poor or intelligible in the early years due to poor oral motor planning
- Taking things literally – may listen, but doesn’t always understand
- Can get easily frustrated
- Can be slow to adapt to new situations
- Difficulty following instructions
It is important to know that these children are not defiant, but rather that they struggle with compliance. It is not out of choice that they miss an instruction or lose their belongings, and it is our job to help them. Dyspraxia is a lifelong condition. However, with support from parents, Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists, children with dyspraxia can learn to adapt and work around their difficulties. For more information on Bellavista School, visit www.bellavista.org.za
Next: 5 ways to help your child with dyspraxia.
About Bellavista SHARE
Bellavista S.H.A.R.E. is the Education Resource Centre of Bellavista School, an independent school in Johannesburg that is widely regarded as a centre of excellence in the field of remedial education. With the Bellavista S.H.A.R.E initiative, the school harnesses the collective capacity it holds within its own staff to improve the quality of educational delivery in Southern Africa by sharing its wealth of professional knowledge, experience, and collective expertise with the community of educators and health professionals working with children in the region.