The symptoms of Dyspraxia vary depending on the age of the child. This article covers the symptoms of dyspraxia in children. For dyspraxia symptoms in BABIES please refer to our dyspraxia in babies pages and for dyspraxia symptoms in TODDLERS please refer to the dyspraxia in toddlers page.
By the time a child is two, they should be able to eat almost all the types of food that adults eat, including whole raw and cooked fruits and vegetables, a range of meats, and foods of all different kinds of textures. Children with dyspraxia may have accepted this or may still resist some foods and textures.
This is different to children who simply don’t like the taste of some food. They may be sensitive to having things in their mouth, such as a toothbrush. Some children this age are still drooling or dribbling.
When it comes to drinking, children with dyspraxia may have difficulty drinking from a cup without spilling, or may find it hard to use some kinds of straws or sipper cups. Blowing can also be difficult, such as blowing bubbles through a bubble wand; or putting out the tongue to lick an icecream.
Normal eating, however, does not rule out dyspraxia. If a child is eating fairly normally but has other symptoms they may still have a dyspraxia related to speech.
Children between two and five should be gaining an ever-growing vocabulary as they learn the names of everything around them and all the specific words for actions. They use describing words and experiment with putting words together to make sentences.
Their ability to use sentence structure should grow steadily as they start to use all the little words that make phrases into whole sentences. They learn to use many of the grammatical components of speech, such as words for correct tenses, plurals and gender. Sentences get longer and more correct. They learn to tell you more and more information and to tell stories.
A child with dyspraxia will find it difficult to join sounds up to make words and to join syllables up to make longer words. Syllables are the parts of words (eg banana has three syllables, ba-na-na). It can even sound like the words are more drawn out and with gaps between sounds. Some combinations of sounds seem impossible. Sometimes they may have correct or almost correct sounds, but not be able to put them in the right order.
When children learn to talk they often leave out softer sounding (unstressed) syllables, such as ‘nana’ for banana. However, by this stage, when they learn new words they should be able to mostly use all the syllables, such as kin-dy or kang-a-roo. Children with dyspraxia will continue to often leave out syllables.
They will often leave out sounds also. Sometimes they replace a harder sound with one they can say more easily. They will have difficulty in repeating a sound quickly (like p-p-p) or quickly alternating between sounds (like p-t-p-t or p-t-k-p-t-k). Saying a ‘k’ sound is probably difficult.
Children with dyspraxia may also say words differently on different occasions, or if you have them try to repeat the word three times they may say it slightly differently each time. Often they will be able to get it more accurate with subsequent attempts.
Noticeable in children with dyspraxia is that the vowel sounds in words can be distorted. In most children who are learning to talk, the vowel sounds are usually more correct than the consonants, and more consistent. So a word like “more” can sound like ‘mah’ or ‘mu’ or other variations.
So, with all these difficulties, children with dyspraxia will find it almost impossible to put sentences together and use mainly single words or short phrases to attempt to get their message across.
Some small children have quite a high level of awareness of their difficulty in talking, especially when they mix with other children and can see and hear other children talking away. These children can become reluctant to attempt fun noises or your attempts to make them say words.
As a result of dyspraxia in children they may have less opportunities to practise their language skills, especially with other children and this can slow down their language development in general.
Speech Pathologists see a high level of frustration, and the behaviour resulting from this frustration as a result of dyspraxia in children. Not being able to get your message across is probably one of the most frustrating situations in life!
Most children with dyspraxia will be able to show that they understand what they are hearing. Children with dyspraxia cover the whole range of comprehension abilities that are seen in children without dyspraxia. They can usually follow instructions, love stories, and can be interested in adult conversation. They learn to use construction toys, play imaginatively and draw. They can demonstrate very good comprehension skills.
It is very important that the dyspraxia is treated, and as early as possible, so that the practice they miss out on does not affect their overall communication development. They need to be gaining a good vocabulary and learning sentence structure so that they can put sentences together and tell stories.
By the time children go to school, they should be able to get their message across to others. Their speech should be easily understood by adults and other children. Most of their articulation errors will have disappeared, so sounds are spoken correctly and words will have all the sounds and syllables most of the time.
They should be able to speech in full sentences using all the different parts of speech in their sentences. They can retell stories using ‘story book’ language and they can ask and answer many kinds of questions. They will be able to make simple explanations in answer to “Why?” questions.
Therefore a major symptom of dyspraxia in children is when a child can understand much better than they can talk.
When they talk they can make errors in articulation. Errors are often inconsistent, which can be frustrating for children and parents, especially if the sounds are correct some of the time and not at other times. Often, though, children make different errors for the same sound at different times.
They may still have difficulty imitating your speech. Often, other people may have difficulty understanding them, even if their parents do not. However, when they do copy your speech it is more likely to be closer to accurate than when they just try to speak themselves.
Words that have more than one syllable are more difficult for children with dyspraxia. They can have difficulty in moving smoothly from one syllable to the next – their words can sound disjointed. Another reason for this is that in normal speech we emphasise some syllables more than others.
We also use a variety of pitch – the ups and downs. This contributes to the tune that we hear in English. We use different patterns of tunes depending on what kind of sentence we are saying, such as going up at the end of a questions and down at the end of a statement. Children with dyspraxia may not be reliable with stressing the right syllables at the right time, and they often do not use a natural sounding pitch intonation. Instead, their voice can sound monotone, as if they are using only a few notes of variation instead of all the expected ups and downs.
Their sentences will usually be short, and they will usually avoid more complex sentence structure. If they do attempt to use more complex structure it is more likely to have inaccurate grammar. This can be worse when a child feels under pressure or anxious. Shorter sentences or phrases are more likely to be accurate than long ones.
These children can still be having significant difficulty in using the parts of their mouth, jaw, lips, tongue and soft palate. At times they can look as if they are ‘groping’ for the way to place their mouth to speak.