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Dyspraxia is a condition, generally present in early childhood, that affects motor skills. Occasionally, it can be caused by traumatic brain injury, but in most cases, the cause is unknown. It affects many aspects of development and learning, and in infants, a hesitancy to crawl, difficulty learning to use cups and utensils, and walking delays may signify early symptoms. Since each child is unique, however, developmental delays may not be noted.
Specific statistics on how many people are affected by dyspraxia are difficult to find because the condition is often undiagnosed. Estimates range from 2% to 10% of the population. Males make up about 70-80% of diagnosed cases.
As the child ages, other aspects of this condition can develop. Children may be hypersensitive to clothing, or brushing teeth or hair. Writing is very difficult. Peer relationships are frequently stunted because of obsessive or paranoid behaviors. Other kids often single out dyspraxic children in the school setting, which can lead to a lifetime of loneliness.
Additionally, maintaining focus in the classroom is challenging for dyspraxia sufferers. Most marked is the tendency towards clumsiness, and the condition was at one time labeled “clumsy child” syndrome. Fortunately, this term has largely been dropped, since it merely contributes to the social stigma these children may face.
Since both their fine and gross motor skills are affected, dyspraxic children have difficulties in competitive sports, learning to ride a bike, and navigating through busy public forums like malls or schoolyards. Learning to tie shoes or dress easily can also be affected. These skills, which seem so difficult to attain for a child with this condition, cause increasing frustration for the child. Undiagnosed children may act out and display immaturity in social settings.
Children with this condition are often accused of not trying, though in fact, they are often trying very hard. They are typically quite intelligent, and fully capable of understanding that despite their best efforts, their work is not comparable to the work of other children. Poor organizational skills, difficulty with spelling, and laborious writing increase the frustration of the child and can lead to significant depression. Dyspraxia is also linked to ADHD, which can increase problems at home and at school.
Dyspraxia in adults can create challenges with everyday activities and expectations. Driving is often difficult, and cleaning and cooking can be demanding, as can remembering appointments. Dyspraxic adults can also have difficulty controlling the pitch and articulation of their voice and are easily misunderstood by others. Keeping a job can be one of the most taxing hurdles and can cause great frustration and depression.
An early diagnosis of dyspraxia is key to helping both children and adults manage this condition. Neurologists diagnose this condition by studying the child's development and physical history, and by performing learning tests. Since the problem does not signify a lack of intelligence, those who evolve coping skills can be extremely successful later in life. Early interventions include occupational therapy to address motor coordination, speech therapy, and possibly play therapy for children, or traditional therapy for adults. Parenting the dyspraxic child requires a great deal of patience and understanding.
Dyspraxic adults who understand and are able to communicate with employers and friends about their condition often lead normal lives and have productive and satisfying jobs and relationships. If undiagnosed until adulthood, however, the long burden of social stigma and the sense of failure may require therapy before success is achieved. Many support groups exist for both adults and children to assist in coping.