Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), also known as Dyspraxia, was first observed in children in the early 1900s and was termed ‘Congenital Maladroitness.’ In 1925, French doctors described it as ‘motor weakness’ and in 1937, Dr Samuel Orton began to focus on the condition alongside dyslexia, to which it is often associated. It wasn’t until 1972 when Dr Sasson Gubbay published a book called ‘The Clumsy Child’ – a less than sympathetic label which was removed in the 1980’s and replaced with the term Dyspraxia that awareness campaigns were then put into place with the Dyspraxia Foundation which endeavoured to change public perception about the disorder.
Dyspraxia or DCD, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination and occasionally speech and executive functioning such as time management and personal organisation. It is 4 times more common in boys than girls, and causes are thought to range from low birth weight to genetic factors.
Developmental verbal dyspraxia (DVD) is a type of neurological motor disorder which impairs speech and language. This form of dyspraxia can be helped with appropriate intervention but as with DCD, there is no cure.
Although it is a lifelong condition, there are many strategies that can be put in place to help improve a child’s day to day quality of life. Dyspraxia impacts the ability to carry out new tasks, and symptoms such as delayed early milestones including crawling, walking, drawing, writing, difficulties with sport, etc. may suggest the presence of the condition. A diagnosis, however, is rarely made until the child is at least 5 years old.
In some cases, children may suffer from sensory overload and panic attacks, hypotonia (low muscle tone) and it can affect proprioception (spatial awareness) which can give rise to the perception of ‘clumsiness.’
Dyspraxia can often be associated with ADHD, Autism and dyslexia among other disorders, but like many children with these conditions, they can often display great strengths such as empathy, resilience, humour and creativity.
Known sufferers of Dyspraxia include Albert Einstein, Daniel Radcliffe, Cara Delevigne, Ernest Hemingway and Sir Richard Branson, demonstrating that such a diagnosis in no way impairs intelligence or extraordinary creativity!
Supportive measures which can be implemented can include keeping distractions to a minimum when the child is working on a task and allowing frequent breaks from those tasks to refresh concentration.
Reducing the need for written activities and using audio books will also take away a considerable amount of pressure, as will the use of written and visual aids which break down into manageable chunks of information.
Applying rubber grips to pens or pencils and using lined paper to guide the writing are also useful supports.
Sensitivity is required when assessing a child with a diagnosis of Dyspraxia in order to help steer the child towards particular activities which will build confidence in their own abilities, rather than pushing them into a physical activity which will undermine their faith in themselves owing to a lack of strength in that subject.
As always, patience and kindness are qualities necessary to bring out the best in children with learning difficulties such as dyspraxia, rather than plunging them into a sense of failure and isolation so common from the misunderstandings of the past.
‘Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.’
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