Brian and Sam Elbers’ son was just a little slow to meet his milestones. They initially put it down to constant ear infections and glue ear, so it wasn’t until he started school that concerns were raised.
“Our son had a hearing test and an auditory processing test and it said that he had Auditory Processing Disorder. We felt relieved as parents that we finally had an answer, however the school thought he needed further testing and that led us to frustration once again,” Sam says.
“We weren’t seeing what they were seeing, and the communication and acceptance as parents that there was something wrong with our only child was emotional and difficult to process.”
In Year 1 Sam took her son to a paediatric neuro-psychologist and the diagnosis was clear – Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).
DCD (sometimes referred to as dyspraxia) is a common disorder with estimates that it affects around 5-6% of children.1
When I was aged 16 and an office assistant, I put the company I worked with in a near-criminal position. My job involved “simple” admin tasks, which I processed with the success of a malfunctioning computer, spitting out wrong answers no matter what combinations I tried. Once, I was seconds away from shredding some crucial documents before a colleague stopped me.
Years later I was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder. Suddenly, my life made sense. Growing up, it was like I was on a different page, reading sentences from angles nobody else understood. Dyspraxia is a specific learning difficulty which affects up to 10% of the population. We tend to fob off dyspraxia as dyslexia’s lesser-known “clumsy” cousin, with stereotypes of knocking over cups and getting bruises from missed balls. However, dyspraxia is about mental processing as much as physical coordination, and affects everything from the way I read to how I organise my thoughts.
It took 26 years of my life for me to realize that I had dyspraxia. Before then, I had spent 26 years of my life wandering through life being diagnosed with ADHD and an “undiagnosable” learning disability. I was extremely clumsy, often tripping up and down stairs, constantly walking into strangers, and even dropping stuff constantly.
Dyspraxia, referred to as DCD in the United States, is a neurological disorder. It primarily affects motor function(the ability to eat, speak, and move). Symptoms range from; poor balance, difficulty planning or organizing ones thoughts, to tendencies to bumping and falling into things or people. Many people with dyspraxia are prone to having low self-esteem, and depression. It is estimated that between 2-10 percent of the population has dyspraxia. Dyspraxia can also be common in people who were premature at birth, and had low birth weight.
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This little known developmental disorder can affect people in different ways, but you can help your child handle it
What is dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia or Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), is a condition which affects fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. ‘While DCD is often regarded as an umbrella term to cover motor coordination difficulties, dyspraxia can also refer to people who have additional problems planning, organising and carrying out movements in the right order in everyday situations,’ says Michele Lee, Chair of the Dyspraxia Foundation. For example, following directions or getting dressed properly.
Dyspraxia is a disability in which, despite no physical impairment, the person’s brain has trouble planning out movements. As a result, they can be clumsy, have difficulty starting or stopping movements, have poor balance, and/or struggle with learning new motor skills.
Top 20 things every dyspraxic should know about…
We hope you enjoy these tips and that you find at least a few good ideas to use.
1. Schoolvision assessment. Is there a cure for Dyspraxia? Sadly, no one truly knows what causes Dyspraxia but personal experience and research emerging from schoolvision points to the fact that undetected visual issues may lead to dyspraxia, making dyspraxia a symptom, not a cause. I personally believe that the brain and sensory system are impressioned largely from the start by the quality of our eyesight and the effectiveness of all our senses. If your child is affected with any kind of visual difficulties I believe the brain will start to adapt, to compensate, and that is why the brains of dyslexic, dyspraxic and ADHD children work so differently. 80% of what we learn is visual, so it stands to reason that if something is wrong with the visual system that our children will find it more difficult to learn and will be forced to learn in different ways. I have had my childs’ eyes tested, no problems there…. that’s what we thought too… Infact, Oliver had an NHS eye test telling us he had 20/20 vision, perfect! The occupational therapists said his eye tracking looked fine. How wrong they were…
I was discussing my son’s dyspraxia and other diagnosis with an optometry friend of mine, that was when she recommended to me the man that would change Oli’s future forever. He is here in the UK and probably offers the cheapest and easiest step forward your child will ever make against dyspraxia, ADHD and dyslexia. She recommended to me a man named Geraint Griffiths, an optometrist who understands the senses. He has introduced new comprehensive eye tests and eyeglasses treatment that is changing the lives of dyslexics, dyspraxics and children with ADHD (even some with Aspergers).
Having a hidden disability means that I’ve heard a few comments, some of which are ignorant and annoying, others are fairly amusing.
So I thought I’d make a list of some of the things people have said to me. You may find some of them relatable if you don’t have dyspraxia but have a different disability or condition. I’ve also included some examples of what would be better to say instead. So here’s my list of 10 things I don’t think you should say to someone with dyspraxia:
Most of us learn to tie our shoelaces, eat with cutlery and use a pencil with relative ease. But for children with dyspraxia (also known as developmental coordination disorder or DCD), these tasks are incredibly difficult to master.
Dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it affects brain function and unfolds as the person grows. It is diagnosed when a child’s movement skills are below that expected for their age and this impairment impacts on their everyday living or education.
Children with dyspraxia are more than just clumsy. They may have difficulty with tasks requiring involvement of their whole body (such as catching, running, riding a bike), their hands (writing, tying shoelaces) or both. It takes much more effort to learn skills, to retain them, and to transfer them to other contexts.
Roughly one child in every classroom has dyspraxia, though the majority remain undiagnosed. While some children outgrow the condition, up to 70% continue to experience movement difficulty as adolescents and adults. Tasks that require spatial awareness, such as driving therefore present new challenges.
Compared to other specific learning difficulties, major research into dyspraxia – or developmental coordination disorder (DCD) as it is more formally known – has only begun fairly recently.
DCD is the term used to diagnose children who have motor skills substantially below what is expected for their age. They are not lazy, clumsy or unintelligent – in fact, their intellectual ability is in line with the general population – but they do struggle with everyday tasks that require coordination.
Take a typical boy with DCD: he is a bright and capable 10-year-old boy, but he struggles to tie his shoe laces and needs help to fasten the buttons on his school shirt. He can’t ride a bike and no one passes him the ball when he plays sports. His teacher has told his parents that while he is a clever and very able student, his handwriting is slow and difficult to read. He finds it hard to keep up in class or to complete his homework – and his performance at school is deteriorating.
Dyspraxia is a disorder associated with the area of motor skill development. Dyspraxia is a life-long condition that occurs in about two percent of the general population. About 70 percent of dyspraxia sufferers are male. It is very possible that those with this disorder will learn to succeed and function independently. But it is important that they be provided with alternate learning methods that include repeated practice. Successful advancement will also require physical and speech therapy.