As I said I would, I am going to tell you about my special needs disability and I have dyspraxia.
Dyspraxia can affect any or all areas of development – intellectual, emotional, physical, language, social and sensory – and may impair a person’s normal process of learning. Usually, it’s said to be an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement, but associated with this may be problems of language, perception and thought.
Problems arise in the process of forming ideas, motor planning and execution, since people with dyspraxia have poor understanding of the messages their senses convey and difficulty relating those messages to actions.
This means physical activities are hard to learn, difficult to keep, and hesitant and awkward in performance.
Dyspraxia affects each person in different ways and at different stages of development. How an individual is affected is inconsistent, too. For example, one day they may be able to do a specific task, the next day they can’t.
Developmental dyspraxia is an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. It is an immaturity in the way that the brain processes information, which results in messages not being properly or fully transmitted. The term dyspraxia comes from the word praxis, which means ‘doing, acting’. Dyspraxia affects the planning of what to do and how to do it. It is associated with problems of perception, language and thought.
Dyspraxia is thought to affect up to ten per cent of the population and up to two per cent severely. Men are four times more likely to be affected than women. Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families. There may be an overlap with related conditions.
Other names for dyspraxia include Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), Perceptuo-Motor Dysfunction, and Motor Learning Difficulties. It used to be known as Minimal Brain Damage and Clumsy Child Syndrome.
Statistically, it is likely that there is one child in every class of 30 children. We need to make sure that everyone understands and knows how best to help this significant minority.
Gross motor co-ordination skills (large movements):
- Poor balance. Difficulty in riding a bicycle, going up and down hills (Couldn’t ride a bike till I was 15)
- Poor posture and fatigue. Difficulty in standing for a long time as a result of weak muscle tone. Floppy, unstable round the joints. Some people with dyspraxia may have flat feet (I have hypermobility)
- Poor integration of the two sides of the body. Difficulty with some sports involving jumping and cycling
- Poor hand-eye co-ordination. Difficulty with team sports especially those which involve catching a ball and batting. Difficulties with driving a car
- Lack of rhythm when dancing, doing aerobics
- Clumsy gait and movement. Difficulty changing direction, stopping and starting actions
- Exaggerated ‘accessory movements’ such as flapping arms when running
- Tendency to fall, trip, bump into things and people
Fine motor co-ordination skills (small movements):
- Lack of manual dexterity. Poor at two-handed tasks, causing problems with using cutlery, cleaning, cooking, ironing, craft work, playing musical instruments
- Poor manipulative skills. Difficulty with typing, handwriting and drawing. May have a poor pen grip, press too hard when writing and have difficulty when writing along a line
- Inadequate grasp. Difficulty using tools and domestic implements, locks and keys
- Difficulty with dressing and grooming activities, such as putting on makeup, shaving, doing hair, fastening clothes and tying shoelaces
Poorly established hand dominance:
- May use either hand for different tasks at different times
Speech and language:
- May talk continuously and repeat themselves. Some people with dyspraxia have difficulty with organising the content and sequence of their language
- May have unclear speech and be unable to pronounce some words
- Speech may have uncontrolled pitch, volume and rate
- Tracking. Difficulty in following a moving object smoothly with eyes without moving head excessively. Tendency to lose the place while reading
- Poor relocating. Cannot look quickly and effectively from one object to another (such as, looking from a TV to a magazine)
Perception (interpretation of the different senses):
- Poor visual perception
- Over-sensitive to light
- Difficulty in distinguishing sounds from background noise. Tendency to be over-sensitive to noise
- Over- or under-sensitive to touch. Can result in dislike of being touched and/or aversion to over-loose or tight clothing – tactile defensiveness
- Over- or under-sensitive to smell and taste, temperature and pain
- Lack of awareness of body position in space and spatial relationships. Can result in bumping into and tripping over things and people, dropping and spilling things
- Little sense of time, speed, distance or weight. Leading to difficulties driving, cooking
- Inadequate sense of direction. Difficulty distinguishing right from left means map reading skills are poor
Learning, thought and memory:
- Difficulty in planning and organising thought
- Poor memory, especially short-term memory. May forget and lose things
- Unfocused and erratic. Can be messy and cluttered
- Poor sequencing causes problems with maths, reading and spelling and writing reports at work
- Accuracy problems. Difficulty with copying sounds, writing, movements, proofreading
- Difficulty in following instructions, especially more than one at a time
- Difficulty with concentration. May be easily distracted
- May do only one thing at a time properly, though may try to do many things at once
- Slow to finish a task. May daydream and wander about aimlessly
Emotion and behaviour:
- Difficulty in listening to people, especially in large groups. Can be tactless, interrupt often. Problems with team work
- Difficulty in picking up non-verbal signals or in judging tone or pitch of voice in themselves and or others. Tendency to take things literally. May listen but not understand
- Slow to adapt to new or unpredictable situations. Sometimes avoids them altogether
- Impulsive. Tendency to be easily frustrated, wanting immediate gratification
- Tendency to be erratic and have ‘good and bad days’
- Tendency to opt out of things that are too difficult
Emotions as a result of difficulties experienced:
- Tend to get stressed, depressed and anxious easily
- May have difficulty sleeping
- Prone to low self-esteem, emotional outbursts, phobias, fears, obsessions, compulsions and addictive behaviour
The bold ones are all the ones that I have.
But just because I have this special needs problem, it doesn’t make me and just because I have dyspraxia doesn’t mean that dyspraxia has me. I was diagnosed when I was 15 and due to the fact that I had lived with this for so long meant that I had found ways around it. Dyspraxia has helped me to answer a lot of questions about myself and the support that I now get is helping me to cope more with it.
It’s not a bad thing to have a special need because you have the need, the need does not have you and you can find ways around it.
- Dyspraxia can be serious – it deserves more recognition | Maxine Frances Roper (guardian.co.uk)
- Always someone out there… (keepbeingstrong.wordpress.com)
- It’s Dyspraxia Awareness Week – be alert for early signs (specialneedsjungle.com)
- Incomplete thoughts around co-existing Asperger’s and dyspraxia (catastraspie.wordpress.com)