Understanding Developmental Dyspraxia

Developmental dyspraxia is a developmental disorder that may affect fine and gross motor skills, receptive language processing, and speech. As with any developmental disorder, the effects of developmental dyspraxia can range from mild to severe. The disorder affects an estimated 5% of the population.

What Causes Developmental Dyspraxia?

child in therapy

The cause of developmental dyspraxia is not fully understood. Researchers believe it is a neurological disorder with a hereditary component. However, brain imaging research has not confirmed a connection between dyspraxia and specific areas of the brain or differences in brain development. In most cases, children with developmental dyspraxia are born with the disorder, and it occurs more frequently in males than females. Brain injuries or diseases affecting the brain and neurological system can produce apraxia symptoms.

What Are the Characteristics of Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia may affect fine and gross motor skills with or without accompanying language processing and speech disorders. People with dyspraxia related motor problems often have difficulty making a purposeful movement with precision. They appear to have the physical strength necessary to create those movements, but their coordination, balance, and ability to manipulate objects are affected. People with dyspraxia may or may not have learning disabilities. Speech and language production and processing, however, are often significantly affected.

Dyspraxia's Effects on Motor Skills

Dyspraxia's effect on motor skills varies from person to person. Dyspraxia may affect gross motor skills such as walking without stumbling, standing up and sitting down, running, bending and stretching.

Dyspraxia's Effects on Communication Abilities

Dyspraxia's effect on language may include speech disorders and articulation difficulties such as oral motor movement and coordination. It can also affect language processing. Language processing weaknesses may include difficulty hearing and following simple directions and short term memory problems. Dyspraxia may also impact a person's ability to choose the right words for a response to questions, and the ability to form words into understandable responses. The more severe a person's language processing difficulty, the more likely a learning disability may also be present.

Early Signs of Dyspraxia in Infants and Children

Babies and young children with dyspraxia may show evidence of dyspraxia through developmental delays. Children with dyspraxia may not reach developmental milestones within expected time periods. Unlike developmental delays, dyspraxia is not just a delay in skill attainment. Intensive interventions may be needed to remediate the disorder, which will always be present to some degree. Often, the disorder can be improved with comprehensive multidisciplinary interventions such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and special education services.

Typical Concerns With Dyspraxia in Adolescents

Adolescents with moderate to severe dyspraxia may struggle more than other students with issues of self-esteem and self-consciousness because of their differences. Their poor motor coordination and communication difficulties may make them "stick out" more and place them at risk for mistreatment or bullying from others. They may feel uncomfortable participating in class discussions and may withdraw from social interaction.

Dyspraxia in Adults and Senior Citizens

Adults with dyspraxia will likely experience motor and communication difficulties as to adolescents. It is important for friends, family, and employers to maintain a positive and supportive environment to provide adults with dyspraxia the assistance they need to lead fulfilled and productive adult lives. Adults with dyspraxia will need to:

  • Learn about anti-discrimination laws affecting their workplace and working with a disability;
  • Learn about assistive technology for college or work; and
  • Continue speech, physical therapy, and occupational therapy as recommended.

Dyspraxia may become more pronounced in seniors. Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle can help seniors enjoy the highest quality of life possible for them.

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