Dyspraxia Symptoms in Children – Clumsiness may be a brain disorder.
For every step forward a child takes there are many more that won’t be taken because of the dypraxia symptoms in children. At least not taken when you expect! NO these children are not just clumsy, there is something going on and it involves how the brain is sending and receiving messages to muscles.
You may notice the following symptoms:
- Delays when turning over as an infant
- Delays when sitting up
- Does not crawl, maybe ever
- Walks much later than other kids
- Appears to frequently stumble
- Problems with sucking and swallowing foods in their first year of life
- Difficulty handling foods in their mouth, possible gagging problems
- Problems with gross motor accomplishments (jumping, standing on one foot, hopping)
- Problems with fine motor abilities (grasping a pencil to write, using scissors, tying their shoes, buttoning& zipping things)
- Potty training may be really, REALLY hard
- Reacts to all stimuli equally (does not filter out that which is irrelevant)
This is a condition that may not be diagnosed until a child is around 5 years old, sometimes much later. I expect you are already seeing the signs of it, yes long, long before you get a diagnosis. In fact, I have never had one of the professionals I work with ever suggest this is a possible issue for my little one. However, to this day, my little girl can get pretty bruised up. from all of the random falls she experiences. She seems to trip over the air and collapses in a jumble on the floor. Hopping on one foot, wow did we work on that one for a long time, and riding a bicycle, well she still doesn’t get that even though she likes them, she will just push herself around on the tricycle, she does not peddle it around.
This Condition Reminds Me of the Proprioceptive Disorder
Many of the symptoms of this disorder remind me of the condition known as proprioceptive disorder. We never had a doctor’s diagnosis for that condition but everything I read about it fit my little one to a T. From when she was very, very little she would flail and be in constant motion to how fast she would scoot on the floor and then when walking she was more like running, all of the time. And when she fell, she would hit hard, bounce right back up and go right into whatever she was doing, as though she did not feel one iota of pain. But oh how she must have been hurting because you should have seen how black and blue she would get. While I have not read anything in the literature that links dyspraxia with the proprioceptive disorder, to me they certainly seem related.
Dyspraxia is also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder
The two names are for the same condition. Sadly in years gone by it was also called, Clumsy Child and/or Minimal Brain Damage Syndrome. Like the label ‘mental retardation’ these terms have gone by the wayside. Aren’t we glad these ‘labels’ don’t exist anymore?
So a child who has the above symptoms is dealing with a neurological condition characterized by poor muscle control that affects their coordination and movement in their world and often affects language and speech. Their judgment and cognitive skills are also impaired. And here is something significant I have learned. Research has substantiated their immune system is also affected. This is an ‘ah ha’ point of interest for me because I have felt for some time that my little one’s immune system is somehow compromised. She can get sick and then stays sick for far too long, seemingly getting better but then dropping back down with fever and illness in sequence to the first illness and spend an entire week away from school because of it.
Here is James’s story as shared by his mother and through the NHS Choices (National Health Service of the United Kingdom)
Needless to say, all of this can affect their learning abilities even though this condition is not considered to be a learning disability. That doesn’t matter too much because the fact is it’s often associated with ADHD, dyslexia and dyscalculia (which we will write about another day) and these are learning disabilities.
What’s happening in that little brain, anyway?
This is another in the array of brain disorders we have addressed in this series of articles. Understanding a bit more about the architecture of the brain will help us have more insight. The cerebral cortex of the brain has a left and right side and these two parts working together interpret information received through the sensory inputs of hearing, seeing, and feeling, to establish a coordinated response. The two hemispheres should be working seamlessly, in a simultaneous fashion.
In a dyspraxia condition this coordination does not function correctly. What determines if a child is left or right handed is also associated with the development of the two hemispheres which is precisely why our special person may not develop a dominant hand for some time, using both as if there is no preference. No wonder they have a hard time learning to write!
In gaining better understanding of the brain, here is a Tedx presentation that discusses the emerging science of brain mapping. This is fascinating!
And here is another fascinating point I have picked up in researching this condition…
The limbic brain is surrounded by the cerebral cortex and includes the brain structures of the thalamus, hypothalamus and pituitary gland which make up the limbic system of the brain. Why, for goodness sakes, is this important, you ask? It is because if not fully or correctly developed it can be the reason this ‘special’ person is responding with such emotion to external stimuli and sensory input. My little one can hardly bear the sound of a flushing toilet, fire/smoke detectors, fire drill noise, loud music, loud audiences, and the like. It has been apparent to me that she does not filter noise and THIS could be why. The correctly developed cerebral cortex puts a damper on these parts of the brain, and would therefore reduce her extremely sensitive responses an end result of a brain that did not normally develop.
What Can a Good Mom and Dad Do?
Get to know the symptoms we have discussed here and begin to make a log of your observations involving your little loved one, adolescent, or teen. They are NOT going to grow out of this! So helping them to get a diagnosis and therefore, be more likely to receive help is very, very important.
Establish outside play time or at least great inside “active play” situations. Do this as soon as possible, especially starting with your 3 to 5-year-old child. It is in the doing of ‘active play’ that those brain neurons set down good neural pathways. Spatial awareness, physical and emotional learning, language, and the acknowledgment of what their senses are, all comes together in the active play they engage in. Just be sure that you have a watchful eye on them outside. They often do not have the capacity to judge distances and to manage their bodies so they can remain safe. Many times I had to be ‘johnny on the spot’ to guard open walkways in playground systems. Thank goodness we never experienced a devastating fall from a height.
Consider Equine Therapy
Children ages 6 – 15 were studied and it was found that horseback riding comes with many benefits. Talk about being stimulated. It was found that the riding improves their cognitive abilities, their moods, their posture, and the cadence of their walk.
And remember that the developmental coordination disorder treatment is very similar to what is already known about treatments for dyslexia or dysgraphia.
It should include the following:
- Occupational therapy to help them develop their fine motor skills for holding writing instruments, using scissors, handling eating utensils, and brushing their hair or teeth.
- Speech and language therapy, especially if there are problems with dyspraxia of speech, poor formation of words, poor management of food in their mouth, unusual drooling and the like.
- Perceptual motor training which helps a child coordinate actions along with instructions which engages their visual and auditory skills along with their language and movement capabilities such that it challenges them but doesn’t overwhelm them.
So What Will You Do?
Is your precious person always falling as if over nothing at all? Does he scream as if in pain when he is exposed to loud noises, even momentary noise, like a flushing toilet? Is your little girl still struggling with trying to control her bladder and at 6 or 7 years old is still not potty trained? Is your baby meeting their developmental milestones turning over, crawling, and walking on time? Does your little one use both hands interchangeably rather than having a predominant hand for writing or other hand coordination things like throwing a ball?
You may have a little one who has the condition of dyspraxia!
Don’t despair. This is not the worst thing to be facing because with the correct diagnosis and advocating for the correct supports in school, they can work through the challenges of this ‘developmental coordination disorder’ and lead happy and fulfilling lives.
How can I help? You can contact me here.
I will get back with you as quickly as possible and at least within 24 hours.