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Poor Coordination Affects Students’ Ability to Learn

What is dyspraxia?

In order to be able to move, we have to position ourselves in relation to the outer world. This process requires healthy and accurate body awareness that is, a clear perception of the boundaries of our body. Praxia can be defined as the adequate application of an acquired motion relating to our body and its surroundings, while dyspraxia is the absence or failure of this process. Dyspraxia is a brain-based condition that makes it difficult to organize and direct the body to perform a movement.

Intelligence, sensitivity and clumsiness

It is important to emphasize that dyspraxia has nothing to do with muscle weakness, low intelligence, poor memory or less positive social interactions. Even thought when a child is diagnosed with dyspraxia, they do have difficulties with movements and spatial orientation. Movement disorders are very strongly manifested in children’s community: PE, arts and crafts lessons seem nightmarish for these children since their body fails them during running, jumping, ball games and activities that require fine motor skills. Their reflexes are slow, they tend to struggle with balance and posture, their movements are unsteady, they may appear clumsy or “out of sync” with their environment. But planning is not the problem. It is performance that lacks perfection.

Dyspraxia can affect social skills too. Children with dyspraxia may behave immaturely even though they typically have average or above-average intelligence. These children are often stigmatized by peer students, picked last in ball games, and often become the objects of ridicule and unkindness. The parents’ behaviour can hurt these children as well, if they are not fully aware of their child’s illness or easily become impatient and pressing.

The rigid, strict and impatient atmosphere only makes the situation worse: the originally socially open children begin to lose their confidence, and become more and more insecure. By the time they reach puberty, most of the children diagnosed with dyspraxia have already become anxious and lonely teenagers. This is why early recognition and early intervention is crucial. Children don’t outgrow dyspraxia. But occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and other tools and strategies can help the children overcome difficulties and avoid potential failures. The goal is to outgrow the “clumsy” label.

Living with dyspraxia

Children with dyspraxia have difficulty learning and adapting internal models. These internal models are the blueprints within the brain that link information from the body sensors (muscles, joints, eyes) with the motor commands for activating muscle contraction at the right time, in the right order with the right amount of force for an action. Children with dyspraxia may bump into objects, drop things and fall over a lot.

They also have poorly developed spatial orientation. The early childhood movement patterns like rolling, creeping, crawling, rocking and later walking, running, climbing, swinging all build a sensory “map” in the child’s brain of where he is in space at any particular time. Spatial learning must be experienced over and over again until it is internalised and automatic.

If the child has poor spatial orientation, it will result in reversals of letters and poor memory for the shapes of words. Practice and experience allow the internal models to be updated to reflect changing circumstances and improve accuracy, but without fixing the underlying cause the condition won’t improve significantly.

There is help

When a child is diagnosed with dyspraxia parents may feel many emotions: shock, relief, isolation. They want to know how to help their child and how to plan for the years ahead. There is no cure for dyspraxia but the condition can improve as a child grows and matures. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important, because the brain changes and develops rapidly during a child’s first few years of life. It is during this time that new connections are made within the brain and nervous system, and the child starts to develop new skills and abilities. If dyspraxia is diagnosed and treated as early as possible, these children will have a greater chance of improvement.

Appropriate treatment and advice, particularly focused on how a child or adult can help to manage and deal with the difficulties that dyspraxia can cause in their everyday life, can help to improve quality of life and symptoms. Work on a child’s self-confidence, feelings of belonging and helping them to participate in daily activities is very important.

Although there is no “cure” for dyspraxia, there are several treatments that can help with motor skills. There are also lots of non-medical ways to help with this brain-based issue. Our specialists at Physio Medicine can provide a detailed assessment of your child. From the diagnosis we can prescribe a series of treatments involving movement and play based exercises. Book your appointment now to understand how your child could benefit from our natural and holistic therapies.