The term dyspraxia is taken from the Greek word 'duspraxia'. 'Praxis' means 'to act'. Dys means impaired, ill or abnormal, so the literal meaning of dyspraxia is ill-doing or abnormal act. Dyspraxia goes by many names: developmental coordination disorder, motor learning difficulty, motor planning difficulty and apraxia of speech. It can affect the development of gross motor skills like walking or jumping. It can also affect the fine motor skills. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) describes people with dyspraxia as being 'out of sync' with their environment. In layman terms, it is basically the issues in the way the brain processes information and sends stimuli to perform actions, a portion of which may get lost or not get sent. People with dyspraxia may be over or under sensitive to certain sensory stimuli.
Experts say that about 10% of people have some degree of dyspraxia, while approximately 2% have it severely. 4out of every 5 children with evident dyspraxia tend to beboys. If the average classroom has 30 children, there is probably one child with dyspraxia in almost each classroom. Dyspraxia is closely related to autism. Children with severe autism may also get diagnosed with dyspraxia. Dyspraxia often comes with language problems and sometimes a degree of difficulty with perception and thought. Dyspraxia does not affect a person's intelligence, but it can cause difficulties with learning, especially for children..
Dyspraxia can affect different kinds of movement. It can broadly be categorized into the following four categories:
- Ideomotor dyspraxia: Makes it hard to complete single-step motor tasks such as combing hair and waving goodbye.
- Ideational dyspraxia: Makes it more difficult to perform a sequence of movements, like brushing teeth or making a bed.
- Oromotor dyspraxia, also called verbal apraxia or apraxia of speech: Makes it difficult to coordinate muscle movements needed to pronounce words. Kids with dyspraxia may have speech that is slurred and difficult to understand because they are unable to enunciate.
- Constructional dyspraxia: Makes it harder to understand spatial relationships. children with this type of dyspraxia may have difficulty copying geometric drawings or using building blocks
Source: UNESCO MGIEP, www.understood.org
Dyspraxia is a severely under-researched condition with debates on its causes, symptoms and other nuances still on-going. One common debate is whether Dyspraxia and DCD are the same condition with different names or are they separate conditions with over-lapping symptoms?
The National Health Services (UK) states that, 'While many people in the UK use the term dyspraxia to refer to the difficulties with movement and co-ordination that first develop in young children, the term is used less often by health professionals nowadays. Instead, most healthcare professionals use the term developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD) to describe the condition. This term is generally preferred by healthcare professionals because, strictly speaking, dyspraxia can have several meanings. For example, dyspraxia can be used to describe movement difficulties that occur later in life as a result of damage to the brain, such as from a stroke or head injury. Some health professionals may also use the term specific developmental disorder of motor function (SDDMF) to refer to DCD. While debate over terminology still exists, most professionals use them interchangeably. Following are websites with more information on the debate.
- http://occupationaltherapyforchildren.over-blog.com/article-dyspraxia 87698021.html
Neuroscience studies and research on the specific causes of dyspraxia still have a long way to go. Scientists believe that dyspraxia is caused because of delayed development of the motor neurons in the brain. Although the reason for the condition is not clear, there are several factors that may but a child at risk of dyspraxia. These are:
- Premature birth: Before the 37th week of pregnancy
- The baby is under-weight at birth
- Genetic history of Dyspraxia or DCD. However, it is unclear which genes precisely cause dyspraxia.
- Alcohol-consumption during pregnancy
It is not unusual for children with dyspraxia to have other learning and attention issues. Doctors refer this to as co-morbidity. If a child has dyspraxia then there is a good chance they may also be diagnosed with one of the following:
- Dyslexia: Children with dyslexia might have trouble learning to read. Dyslexia can also make it hard to write, spell and say the words you want to say.
- Dyscalculia: This causes children to have difficulties with math. Children with dyscalculia may have trouble remembering basic math facts such as 2 + 2 = 4, doing calculations and estimating quantities and times (such as how long a minute is). Dyspraxia can cause trouble with math, too.
- Dysgraphia: Dysgraphia causes trouble with writing. Dysgraphia and dyspraxia are very different, but they often have overlapping symptoms—like messy handwriting, poor pencil grip, no sense of margins etc.
- ADHD: ADHD can make it difficult for the child to keep still, concentrate, consider consequences and control impulses. About half of children with dyspraxia also have attention issues.
- A child with Autism or cerebral palsy may also be suffering from dyspraxia. In this case, the hindrances associated with the condition at that age will appear much worse than what it is supposed to be. The child will also be much slower in learning to cope. This requires an in-depth diagnosis by the child's physician and other specialists.
'When considering the brain, the cerebral cortex (the upper most part of the brain) receives impulses from sensory organs through a network of nerve fibers passing from the brain stem. As a child grows and learns, the connections between the nerve cells (neural pathways) become established and reinforced with successful learning. When a child learns a series of movement patterns, the repetition of movement reinforces the pattern so that its planning is almost reflex. The use of external sensory input such as sight and sound, together with the learned movement patterns will enable the cerebral cortex to judge the best course of action and send out appropriate motor impulses.
The cerebral cortex is divided into a right hemisphere and a left hemisphere. Each side has different functions and operates quite separately. Some functions are shared, but the sides generally work independently to provide the information that is brought together to complete the whole picture e.g. the left hemisphere receives the information in a jumbled, disjointed way and needs to work well together with the right hemisphere so that the information, images and actions are interpreted correctly for the right results.
In children with dyspraxia, the two hemispheres of the cerebral cortex are not working in harmony to produce the desired results. The basic development of the hemispheres appear reduced, and as they determine whether a person is right or left handed, you will often find that children with dyspraxia will use both hands without developing a dominant hand for some time. This affects fine motor activities even further e.g. handwriting skills,'