There are some children that come into my office and drop things. If they are dealing out the cards, they will always get more on the floor and their piles will be untidy. They spill their drinks and get their reward chocolate frog all over their face. Everything they touch falls over and they knock things of the shelves!
They are not just careless children. They are clumsy. They are children who are having treatment for dyspraxia, usually a combination of Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy.
Not all children with speech difficulties due to dyspraxia also have a motor dypsraxia. However, many children do have an element of motor dyspraxia that affects their overall ability to plan actions and carry them out. If they have an ideation dyspraxia then they find it hard even to conceptualise how to start an action or series of actions. These children usually are within normal range for IQ and generally understand well.
Sometimes this disorder is even called Clumsy Child Syndrome or Developmental Coordination Disorder.
Many of these children don’t enjoy constructions toys as they can’t plan out what it will look like in 3-D. They often don’t ride bikes as they can’t get their balance. Even 2-D jigsaw puzzles can be hard. Multitasking is very hard. When they eat their meals some of it always ends up on the table or the floor.
Children with these difficulties are often ‘floppy’ with low muscle tone, and this is usually noticeable from babyhood when babies have ‘floppy’ heads. By the time children are toddlers or in their early school years they would rather sit and watch TV or play on the computer than be active. As a result they can be overweight and look as though they are lazy.
Treatment needs to make sure these children learn normal movement patterns that other children learnt to do as babies. Physiotherapists or Occupational Therapists work on these areas. In our practise we have Occupational Therapists who tackle these physical body movements as well as working on such skills as hand-writing and eye-tracking. Where children find these skills difficult, in the classroom they will focus poorly and their attention will be easily distracted.
And then their academic succes is likely to be compromised, as their reading is likely to be poor. Early talking difficulties make it harder to learn the pre-literacy skills like phonological awareness. Reading also requires multi-tasking.
Poor motor control has been shown in reasearch to be correlated with poor performance at school. Both sides of the brain need to be working in a coordinated way for thinking skills to be developed.
If your child fits this picture, find a practise where Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy can work together to ensure that your child can easily make all the movements they need to get the information transfering betweent the two sides of the brain. If the dypraxia is well managed, your child will have an easier time of academic performance and a happier school life.