When Your Child Has Dyspraxia, a Mother's Story
What Is Dyspraxia
Let me begin by saying I am in not a medical professional. My son has dyspraxia and this is what I will be writing about, my experiences with doctors, therapists, schools and friends.
Dyspraxia is sometimes called 'the clumsy child syndrome'. This is a good explanation of it, although this term is being played down now, it sums up how dyspraxia is seen by other people. For those that are living with it, everyday can be a struggle.
This affects people differently and it is still not clear exactly what causes it. I personally think it is genetic. I see similar signs in my son's father.
My son is now in his 20's and is carving out a life for himself. He works for himself, and although he still has problems related to dyspraxia, he just gets on with life. He is a dynamic, self motivated, and caring individual. Of course, being his mom I am biased.
Knowing what to expect and strategies to deal with problems is so important. Whether it is problems during school PE lessons, due to lack of coordination or in writing. Once the parent is prepared they can help ease the way for their dyspraxic child.
Balance And Coordination Problems Due To Dyspraxia
My son was always lacking in coordination but I didn't think much about it, I just thought it was a phase he was going through. Some of the areas in which he had problems were:
- Swimming. Although my son can swimmer, he isn't a strong swimmer. Learning was difficult for him. Think about all the movements required at the same time when doing the breast stroke, for example.
- Cycling: My son does ride a bike but this too was difficult. After we took his training wheels off, he kept riding about 3 feet and falling over but eventually he developed the skill necessary to ride. Balance is a problem with dyspraxia.
- Ball sports: If you think about the coordination most ball sports require, they are easy for others but not for someone with this condition. In school, one of the activities in PE was where everyone would stand in a line. The first person would pass the ball backwards between their legs to the next person in line. This person would raise the ball over their head and pass it to the next person. Over and under, down the line. This simple exercise my son couldn't do. He would usually pass it the same way he received it.
- Balance: I remember one time, my daughter and I were speaking to my son who was standing in a doorway. He just fell over! It was as though there was a mini earthquake where he was standing. In school, he was always falling off his chair. The teachers wanted to get him a chair that would be fixed to the floor to avoid this.
- Walking: When walking, he doesn't always walk straight, he will begin to veer left or right without realizing it. Being family we just gently shove him back in line and walk ahead of him.
- Keeping time to music: I never realized this was also affected until we went to a concert. Everyone was standing and clapping in time to the music, except my son. He was clapping when no one else was.
This isn't to say that someone with dyspraxia can't do these activities, it just requires more patience on their part to master the skill. Often with children, frustration can set in and they will give up.
Whilst other children would be enjoying organized activities my son tried other things such as wrestling (with friends and family) and using a punching bag. Now he enjoys going to the gym and working with weights. Sometimes people with dyspraxia become obese due to their inability to perform sports or other activities competently. It is important for their health that they find an activity which they feel comfortable doing to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
These are just some of the ways which affect a person's life with dyspraxia everyday.
Diagnosing Of Dyspraxia
My son was diagnosed when he was 10. His teacher asked an occupational therapist to come and have a look at him. His teacher knew something wasn't right because he would continually fall off his chair in the classroom.
Once we were told, I took my son to the occupational therapist once a week. He looked forward to this, not just because it was during school time, he enjoyed it. Often the therapist would have him using a medicine ball or in a ball pit catching or throwing a ball. He would swing on a trapeze, pushing or pulling various objects. These were all laid out as games for him but games with a purpose. It was exerting pressure on the muscles. The therapist suggested including weight bearing activities such as carrying shopping, and moving things that would bring various muscle groups into play.
Dyspraxia And Fine Motor Skills
My son also is lacking in fine motor skills. This has affected his writing and at school this was a problem. His work was always untidy and writing almost illegible. In math classes they were asked to show their work, he would just write down the answer. His math teachers knew he understood the concept but they still wanted to see his problem solving on paper. There were specially designed triangular pens and also the grips which helped him control the movements of his pen better.
Brushing his teeth also was problem some because he applied so much pressure, the bristles were forever becoming flattened.
This was another area which the therapist targeted on our visits to the hospital. She would have him write, move small objects and generally try to do precise work, things such as picking up beads and drawing. It was training the muscles to respond as they should normally.
Injuries due to dyspraxia
Everyone has their fair share of bumps and bangs growing up. However my son always seemed to have skinned knees . When he was young, I thought this was that he was a boy and just rambunctious.
His first visit to the hospital was when he was 9 months. He walked (both my kids were early walkers) into a door frame. He cut his head open and needed stitches.
When he was about four he came running from the back yard, tripped on a step and smashed his head on a piece of concrete. Back to the doctors to check for concussion. He had a lump the size of an egg between his eyes. His preschool teacher looked at him and said, "That is going to get worse before it gets better." She was right. Both of his eyes went black and blue. He looked like a raccoon.
Still, I didn't think anything of these accidents other than he was clumsy and a boy.
When he was about 13 he went to the public swimming pool with a friend. I received a call from the leisure center telling me there had been an accident. I thought they were going to tell me he had drown. He had chipped a tooth on the side of the pool.
When he was in secondary school he came home with a friend and went upstairs to change out of his school uniform. I heard a scream. He had a 3 inch gash in his thigh that he didn't even feel. They had been jumping over a piece of metal on the way home from school and he landed on it. Back to the hospital for more stitches.
Although he is beginning to look like a patchwork quilt with all the stitching, I didn't want to be 'overprotective'. I don't feel this does a child any good. These are just a few of the mishaps that he has had. Now as an adult, he is still bumping into things and usually has a new scar from stitches or a scratch from something.
Speech problems and dyspraxia
Dyspraxia can also be related to speech problems which my son had. His speech problems were brought to my attention when he was in pre-school. He started seeing a speech therapist at that time. This carried on through junior school.
Most of the schools my son went to were very supportive and tried to help. The problem is, the inability to express yourself as a school expects can lead to problems. There were teachers along the way that could see the potential, mostly in physics and maths. Of course without the organizational skills to submit your work and have it presentable to an acceptable standard, this leads to low grades in school. This in turn leads to dissatisfaction in school and an unwillingness to try to do better.
Between the schools and the therapists I think my son received good care. This however is a lifetime problem and will be dealt with on a daily basis. His awareness of the problem, his strengths and his weakness, are just part of his make up.