“My writing is messy
My drawings are too
I don’t like my paintings
I wish I was like you”
~ Poem by Tom, ten years -old boy who has dyspraxia
“Everyone says I’m stupid but I know I’m not. I wish someone could understand what it’s like to be me. I feel so fed up and lonely.” ~ Sarah, an eight year-old girl who has dyspraxia
When Jaimie was reassessed for the severity of her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) in October 2009, we found out that in addition to her other high sensitivities, she also had poor vestibular and propriocetive responses as well as dyspraxia. Let me tell you, so much more made sense to me when we had all of her history complete! As you all know about me by now, I spent a lot of time Online, in the library and rummaging through my own personal library (which grows every week, it seems) researching as much as I could about all seven systems and dyspraxia so I could help Jaimie 100% from now on.
A fabulous Online resource I found is the Dyspraxia Foundation. Lisa McCarthy, Membership & Local Groups Administrator, was kind enough to chat with me not only about the specifics of the disorder but also how to detect it and what help is available for our kids. Because SPD is an invisible disorder, all aspects of it are too. By addressing all areas of your child’s form of SPD, you’re setting him up for the greatest success.
CHYNNA: Can you tell us a little bit about your Foundation and what you do at the Dyspraxia Foundation?
LISA: The Dyspraxia Foundation is a charity, founded in 1987 as the Dyspraxia Trust by two mothers who met at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in 1996 the charity changed its name to the Dyspraxia Foundation.
The objectives of the Dyspraxia Foundation are:
* To support individuals and families affected by dyspraxia
* To promote better diagnostic and treatment facilities for those who have dyspraxia.
* To help professionals in health and education to assist those with Dyspraxia
* To promote awareness and understanding of dyspraxia.
Each year the Foundation answers approximately 10,000 enquiries and distributes more then 20,000 leaflets about the condition. The Foundation seeks every opportunity to increase understanding of dyspraxia, particularly among professionals in health and education.
* The Foundation is run by a fewer than six full-time equivalent paid staff and is supported extensively by volunteers. Its work is funded entirely by voluntary donation and membership subscriptions. The Foundation:
* Publishes leaflets, booklets, books and guides for parents, those who have dyspraxia and professionals.
* Organizes conferences and talks about dyspraxia and related topics for parents, carers and professionals.
* Supports a network of local groups across the United Kingdom.
* Supports a group for adults who have dyspraxia.
Members of the Dyspraxia Foundation receive:
* The opportunity to join a local support group
* A magazine, published twice yearly
* Professional members receive an annual journal.
* The Annual Report
* Reduced rates for the Foundation’s publications and events
Membership details are available on our website.
CHYNNA: That’s very impressive, Lisa. Thanks so much for sharing that. Can you tell us what dyspraxia is and who it affects the most?
LISA: Dyspraxia is generally recognised to be an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. Associated with this may be problems of language, perception and thought. Other names for dyspraxia include Clumsy Child Syndrome; Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD); Minimal Brain Dysfunction: Motor learning Difficulty; and Pereceptuo-motor Dysfunction. Problems include:
(a) Perception: People who have dyspraxia tend to have poor understanding of the messages that their senses convey and difficulty in relating those messages to actions.
(b) Thought: There may be difficulty in planning and organizing thoughts.
(c) Movement: Physical activities are hard to learn, difficult to retain and generalize, hesitant and awkward in performance.
(d) Speech and Language: Speech may be immature or unintelligible in early years. Language may be impaired or late to develop.
For some children, the primary difficulty is in making and co-ordinating the precise movements, which are used in the production of spoken language, which results in severe and persisting speech production difficulties. The condition is termed developmental verbal dyspraxia: it may occur in isolation or in conjunction with general motor difficulties.
Up to 6 per cent of the population may show symptoms of dyspraxia and 2% are severely affected by the condition. Of those diagnosed, 80% are male.
Early recognition of dyspraxia enables a child’s special educational and social needs to be identified. Action can then be taken to reduce the impact of this condition on their whole family.
CHYNNA: I think it’s so important to understand the signs of dyspraxia because it can often get ‘lost’ in the assessment and treatment process since many of them are intermingled with what our ‘sensational’ kids struggle with daily. Thank you for that insight. Why was the Dyspraxia Association created?
LISA: Dyspraxia is surprisingly common in both children and adults. It is a hidden condition, which is sill poorly understood. The Dyspraxia Foundation is committed to making the teaching and medical professions more aware of dyspraxia and improving understanding of how those who have the condition can be helped.
CHYNNA: I think that’s wonderful that you created such an amazing resource to help caregivers understand this part of SPD as well as giving us the information we need to inform others. As you may already know, Most of our readers are caregivers of ‘sensational’ children. Do you have any tips on how to detect dyspraxia in our children and when to seek help?
LISA: Here are some general facts in various age categories:
The pre-school child:
* Is late in reaching milestones e.g. rolling over, sitting, standing, walking, and speaking.
* May not be able to run, hop, jump, or catch or kick a ball although their peers can do so.
* Has difficulty in keeping friends; or judging how to behave in company.
* Has little understanding of concepts such as ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘in front of ‘etc
* Has difficulty in walking up and down stairs.
* Poor at dressing.
* Slow and hesitant in most actions.
* Appears not to be able to learn anything instinctively but must be taught skills.
* Falls over frequently.
* Poor pencil grip.
* Cannot do jigsaws or shape sorting games.
* Artwork is very immature.
* Often anxious and easily distracted.
If you have concerns about your pre-school child, talk to you GP and Health Visitor: they can refer your child to a pediatrician or a Child Development Centre. The appropriate psychologist, physiotherapist, speech and language therapist or occupational therapist can then assess your child for dyspraxia.
The school age child:
* Probably has all the difficulties experienced by the pre-school child with dyspraxia, with little or no improvement.
* Avoids PE and games
* Does badly in class but significantly better on a one-to -one basis.
* Reacts to all stimuli without discrimination and attention span is poor.
* May have trouble with maths and writing structured stories.
* Experiences great difficulty in copying from the blackboard.
* Writes laboriously and immaturely.
* Unable to remember and /or follow instructions.
* Is generally poorly organized.
If you have concerns about your school-aged child, talk to your GP, school nurse, school doctor or Special Needs Co-ordinator who can make referrals for assessments. Hospital referral may be required for special tests or treatment. There is useful information in the Department for Education and Skills booklet “Special Educational Needs: A guide for parents and carers” – call DfES Publications: 0845 60 22260 for a copy.
Adults living with Dyspraxia: Problems experienced in childhood may continue into adulthood. Initial contact should be made with your GP who may refer you to a clinical psychologist, consultant neurologist, physiotherapist or occupational therapist. The Foundation’s Adult Support Group may be able to help.
CHYNNA: Thanks for breaking that down for us, Lisa. How can parents cope with a child with dyspraxia? What strategies or coping methods would you recommend?
LISA: Dyspraxia is a complex condition and affects each individual in a unique way and what may work for one family may not be beneficial to another, we would suggest the parents discuss any behavioural issues with the medical professional who made the diagnosis who should be able advise them further.
CHYNNA: As a final question, do you have any final pearls of wisdom for teachers with children living with dypraxia in their classrooms? Professionals? Caregivers?
LISA: We have available on our website (downloads are free) Dyspraxia Friendly Classroom Guidelines for Junior Schools’ and Dyspraxia Friendly Guidelines for Senior Schools’. There is also a wide range of books and resources available from our on line shop.
Thank you so much to Lisa and the Dyspraxia Foundation for answering my questions about this often misunderstood and overlooked disorder. I hope concerned caregivers, teachers or other individuals helping to raise a child with dyspraxia, or know an adult living with it, are able to venture over to the Foundation’s Website and check out their fantastic resources.