Dyspraxia is a developmental coordination disorder that affects motor coordination and learning abilities.
The symptoms that characterize the condition may vary with age of diagnosis and presentation. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Before 3 years of age
Babies may often show initial symptoms such as irritability, feeding problems etc. They may be slow developmentally.
There may be avoidance of motor activities like crawling or rolling on their backs.
The child takes longer than other children to roll over, sit, crawl, stand, walk, and speak or toilet train.
Preschool children between 3 and 5 years
These children typically avoid playgrounds and peers. They are unable to hop, jump, run and catch or kick a ball due to lack of coordination.
There may be some characteristic high levels of activity. This includes feet swinging and tapping, hand-clapping or twisting etc. The child is unable to sit still.
This may be accompanied by high excitability, with a loud/shrill voice, proneness to temper tantrums and distress, constantly bumping into things and falling over, hand flapping on running, difficulty with a tricycle, lack of sense of danger, messy eating etc.
These children avoid constructional toys like jigsaw puzzles and building blocks and may have difficulty in holding fine things between fingers like pencils, scissors etc.
There may be lack of creative or imaginative play, rejection from peers and isolation.
Other notable problems are lack of establishment of handedness, language difficulties, sensitivity to sensory stimulation like noise, touch etc., lack of response to verbal instruction, lack of comprehension and concentration required to finish a task at hand.
They may find it hard to walk up and down stairs and language may be immature or ill-developed.
Between 5 and 7 years of age
Apart from initial problems there may be others like:
- difficulty in adapting to structured school routine
- Physical Education lessons
- difficulty in dressing oneself
- illegible handwriting
- lack of drawing and copying skills
- lack of concentration
- memory and use of language in the literal sense
At school, a child with dyspraxia may have difficulty with maths and writing stories.
These children are slow to complete work but show high levels of motor activity, excitability, easily distressed or emotionally weak and show inability to form relationships with peers.
They have difficulty using a knife and fork and may complain of sleep problems like wakefulness at night and nightmares. Some may develop features of migraine, headaches, and nausea.
Between 7 and 9 years of age
Symptoms are similar but academic performance and daily attendance becomes progressively poorer.
The children appear more tired, as they have to use more energy than other children to complete the same activities.
There is also low self-esteem and sometimes depression as a result of these difficulties.
These children often get bullied at school by their peers or are rejected and isolated by their class mates.
These children may have other associated conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder that is characterized by hyperactivity, inattentiveness and difficulty in concentration.
They may also suffer from dyslexia that is a learning difficulty affecting ability to read, write and spell.
Some of these children may suffer from Autism Spectrum disorders. These are developmental disorders affecting social interaction and behaviour.
Adults with dyspraxia
Adults with dyspraxia show difficulty in regular tasks and personal grooming.
They find difficulty in household chores and driving.
They have difficulty at work and may often find it difficult to keep a job.
Their gait may also be clumsy.
They may have trouble with speech control that includes volume, pitch and articulation.
Most of the teenagers and adults with dyspraxia have difficulty in writing. (2)
Characterisation of dyspraxia based on symptoms
Dyspraxia is often categorized based on specific symptoms. These may be summarized as follows (5) -
- Ideomotor dyspraxia – This involves difficulty in completing a single-step motor task. This could be activities such as combing hair or slipping on shoes.
- Ideational Dyspraxia – This involves difficulty in performing multi-step tasks like brushing teeth, putting clothes on in order, tying shoe laces or buckle up.
- Oromotor Dyspraxia – This affects speech more than other motor functions. Difficulties coordinating the muscle movements needed to pronounce words and syllables.
- Constructional Dyspraxia – This type of dyspraxia affects the ability to understand spatial relationships. Movement of objects from one place to another becomes difficult.
Edited by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
What is Dyspraxia?