Dyspraxia is primarily a disorder of motor coordination and children with dyspraxia can be quite clumsy. It is important that dyspraxia is identified early on so that intervention can be offered. Early intervention and identification of the disorder can prevent a child becoming frustrated at school and enable teachers to provide sympathetic support. So what are the symptoms of dyspraxia? Children with dyspraxia may have taken longer to roll, sit, crawl, walk, speak and toilet train. They can have problems with gross motor skills such as jumping and kicking a ball even when they have mastered fine motor skills such as copying letters or vice versa. They may also have problems getting dressed and using a knife and fork. School can present further challenges for a dyspraxic child as they may have difficulty concentrating and learning.
So what can a parent do to help their child with dyspraxia? Getting your child assessed is very important as early intervention is believed to be more successful. Children who are diagnosed early are likely to receive help from their teachers rather than being labelled as disruptive or attention-seeking. Sugden and Chambers (1998) assessed the effectiveness of different types of interventions for dyspraxia such as getting children to repeat specific motor skills over and over again. They concluded that most interventions work leading to significant improvements compared with control group or pre-treatment measures. Schoenmaker et al (1994) found that clumsy children can benefit from individualised physiotherapy. However, research suggests that children can equally benefit from school-based intervention.
Parents can also help their dyspraxic child at home. For example, you can play games such as the statues game which emphasise control of movements. Physical activities can be broken down into simpler movements so that the child can learn how to carry them out step-by-step. Parents can also encourage their children to reflect on their actions, for example, they might be asked whether they think they should kick the ball with the side or the front of their foot or whether to hold their fork more or less tightly. Parents can also raise their child’s self-esteem through recognising and praising small improvements in their child’s abilities (Bowens and Smith, 1999).
Parents may feel that looking after a dyspraxic child is particularly challenging as their child may behave badly at home as a mechanism to cope with frustrations at school. Parents can seek emotional and social support from the Dyspraxic Foundation.