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Living with a Dyspraxic Child
I have 4 sons and 2 grandsons who haveDevelopmental Dyspraxia. My third son was the worst affected, having to have surgery several times before he was 5 to correct a problem with his knees.
I currently work as Learning Support to young adults, including some with Dyspraxia.
What is Developmental Dyspraxia
Developmental dyspraxia is a motor learning difficulty that can affect planning of movements and co-ordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body.
Spotting the signs
My first son was about 2 when I began to worry about his development I went to the doctor's when James was around 2.5. I asked the doctor if it was possible that James had 'Clumsy Child Syndrome', which I had been reading about. I had red flags reading the article as James seemed to fit all the criteria. He had been born very prematurely, My waters broke when I was 29 weeks pregnant and despite intensive medical intervention James arrived into the world, tiny but otherwse healthy.
I noticed a disparity in his developmental progress. For example, he was out of nappies, day and night by the time he was 13 months He just seemed to grasp the concept of not being wet or dirty. I think he STILL struggles with shoelaces now (at 30). He could explain to someone what diabieties was and how to treat it before he was 3 (he had seen it on a documentary and remembered it all) but struggled to write his name.
The first doctor I took James to told me I was a nuerotic young mother and that I should read less.
My second son was diagnoised with ADHD when he was 18 months old. He had never slept for more than 2 hours a day from birth (I felt like my eyes were held open with matchsticks!). He was on a special diet from when he was 2, until we discovered he was allergic to bananas, which caused him to have hallucegenic fits. i questioned the doctors again about Dyspraxia and wastold it was highly unlikely.According to the NHS UK it is estimated that half of the children diagnoised with Dyspraxia also have ADHD.
When son 3, Nick was 3 years old I took him to doctors concerned because he was falling over a lot and his legs didn't seem straight He was refered to a specialist at the local hospital who recomended surgery to straighten his legs. It was this specialist who first mentioned Dyspraxia to me. He told me he believed Nick had Dyspraxia and would I bring my other 4 boys in for an assesment.
I could have cried. Finally someone wasn't dissmissing what I thought.
The day came for the testing. I took 3 of the sons to be tested. The doctor simply looked at the shape of the boys' hands and said the signs were there, but didn't I say I had 4 boys?
I had to confess that the eldest, James was in hospital with 2-3 breaks on each arm and 2 dislocated shoulder blades. When I told the doctor he had tripped over a small decorative wall at school and landed awkwardly, he laughed and said "I think we can safely put his name on the list as well'.
Symptoms of Dyspraxia in children
Information from NHS UK
Symptoms of dyspraxia
The problems caused by dyspraxia, also known as developmental co-ordination disorder, may be visible from an early stage.
An early sign of dyspraxia may be that your child does not reach the normal stages of development. For example, they may take longer than expected to:
* roll over
* toilet train
Your child's speech may be very immature or impossible to understand in their early years, and language and vocabulary skills may take longer to develop.
Problems in childhood
As your child gets a bit older, they may find it harder than other children of the same age to join in playground games and to perform fine (detailed) movements, such as handwriting. They may also have difficulty processing thoughts and concentrating.
Movement and co-ordination
If your child has dyspraxia, they will have problems with movement and co-ordination. They may find the following difficult:
* playground activities such as hopping, jumping, running and catching or kicking a ball (they often avoid joining in because of their lack of co-ordination and may be at risk of becoming unfit)
* games including shape-sorter toys, building blocks and jigsaws
* using scissors and colouring pens (their drawings may appear to be scribbled and more childish than they should be for their age)
* fine movements such as handwriting, tying shoelaces, doing up buttons and using a knife and fork
* keeping still (they may swing or move their arms and legs a lot and find it hard to sit still)
* walking up and down stairs
* getting dressed
A child with dyspraxia may also bump into objects or drop things, and may fall over a lot. This makes them appear awkward and clumsy.
Concentration and learning
If your child has dyspraxia, they will have difficulty concentrating and learning. They may:
* do better at school in a one-to-one situation than in a group
* have a poor attention span, finding it difficult to concentrate on one thing for more than a few minutes
* not automatically pick up new skills and need encouragement and repetition to help them learn
* have problems with writing stories and copying from the blackboard
These problems can be upsetting for the child.
As your child gets older, these problems may start to have a different effect on them. For example, problems with muscle movement may mean they:
* find PE (physical education) difficult
* cannot take part in team games, which may have an effect how well they make friends
* may be bullied for being 'different' or clumsy
* may avoid certain activities or subjects, such as drawing
* are more tired, as they have to use more energy than other children to complete the same activities
Your child may also have low self-esteem (the way they feel about themselves) as a result of these problems.
Children with dyspraxia may also have other conditions, such as:
* attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a group of behavioural symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness
* dyslexia: a common type of learning difficulty that mainly affects the skills involved in the reading and spelling of words
* autistic spectrum disorder: a range of related developmental disorders that begin in childhood, such as Asperger syndrome (which causes difficulty with social interaction and behaviour)
Some of the risk factors
Although it is not known what causes dyspraxia, there may be a link between dyspraxia and:
* being born prematurely (before week 37 of pregnancy)
* being born with a low birth weight
* having a family history of dyspraxia
* the mother drinking alcohol, smoking or taking illegal drugs while pregnant
My first 2 sons were both premature and had a low birth weight. However, Nick was born on his due date and was a decent size I thas later been established that this is a hereditary problem,
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- Dyspraxia Foundation
The Dyspraxia Foundation, for further info
- NHS Direct info on Dyspraxia
NHS information on the signs of Dyspraxia
- Dyspraxia Connexion
The Dyspraxia Connexion aims to provide support, information and practical help to those who have dyspraxia and their families, and to raise awareness throughout the community.