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Archive for February, 2013

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What Is Dyspraxia ?

people with dyspraxia often spill things

 

Many People are not aware of dyspraxia, what it is or how it affects people. So for those people who have just stumbled across this blog and are not sure about dyspraxia, I will try to explain about it. Perhaps you have a child just diagnosed with dyspraxia or you know someone who has it but are unsure of how it affects them,or perhaps you have it yourself.

 

Dyspraxia is a specific learning disorder. The dyspraxia foundation describes it as ”an impairment or immaturity in the organisation of movement,which leads to associated problems with language perception and thought.” No 2 people with dyspraxia will have the exact same difficulties.Each individual will have difficulties in some areas and not others and in varying degrees. The cause of  dyspraxia is unknown and it is a lifelong condition.

 

Over all intelligence is not affected.In fact  most people with dyspraxia are of average or above average intelligence.It is often referred to as the hidden disability because children (and adults) with the condition appear to be the same as everyone else. Only when a task is attempted can a problem be seen. They have difficulty getting their bodies to do what they want them to do when they want them to do it.This can be very frustrating.70% of people with dyspraxia are males. There are 2 types of dyspraxia verbal dyspraxia and motor dyspraxia. Occupational therapy and speech therapy can improve the symptoms but there is no cure and it is a life long condition.

 

Characteristics of Dyspraxia

 

The characteristics of dyspraxia are as follows.;
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills like drawing or writing.
  • Difficulty with gross motor skills like catching and throwing a ball.
  • Poor balance.
  • Problems distinguishing left from right even as adults.
  • A propensity to lose things
  • Poor illegible handwriting
  • Difficulty remembering instructions and deadlines.
  • A tendency  to fall trip and bump into people and things.
  • Difficulty using equipment such as scissors, ruler and compass.
  • Difficulty following a moving object smoothly without excessively moving their head.
  • Often lose their place when reading.
  • Poor visual perception.
  • Little sense of time speed distance or weight. eg the speed a car is travelling, the speed a ball is coming at them
  • Lack of awareness of body position in space. eg most people when given a cup of coffee pick it up automatically  They very rarely spill it and certainly don’t think about it every step  of the way.In fact they can pick the cup up and sit down on the chair behind them at the same time.
    A dyspraxic child (or adult) will have to consciously think about every step of picking the cup and concentrating hard not to spill it.They can’t sit on a chair at the same time. The chair is rarely where they think it is so they must visually check where the chair is before trying to sit down..They will sit down and then pick up the cup . Every individual movement must be worked  out separately so they can only do 1 thing at a time. They cannot multi task.
  • A tendency to drop things
  • They are poor at map reading. As a result they may get lost.
  • Difficulty in planning and organising thought. This means it is very distressing to be put on the spot like when a teacher asks a child an answer in class.Their brain freezes and even though they often know the answer they can’t think.
  • Poor manipulative skills.
  • Difficulty drawing
  • Poor and messy presentation of work
  • Difficulty organising files and exercise books ( or anything else for that matter)
  • Difficulty with scientific diagrams and graphs.
  • May daydream and wander around aimlessly
  • Cant tie shoelaces
  • Find it difficult to plan what to do and how to do it
  • Inadequate sense of direction
  • Have an uncontrolled pitch, volume and rate of speech
  • Poor relocating. They can’t look quickly and efficiently from one object to another eg copying work from the board
  • Poor posture
  • Poor integration of the 2 sides of the body
  • Lack of manual dexterity eg using cutlery
  • Poor pen grip
  • Fidget more then normally
  • messy eating
  • Difficulty determining the distance between them and objects
  • Poor timing
  • Struggle with visual spatial memory
  • Untidy
  • Difficulty climbing up and down stairs
  • Poor organisational skills
  • Difficulty with speech( verbal dyspraxia)

 

Dyspraxic children (and adults) are emotionally fragile and can easily be hurt. A harsh or unkind word can have a disproportionate effect.Many however have a high level of empathy towards others.
The dyspraxic child struggles socially because his inadequacy  is often pointed out and how can a child feel valued if he is constantly asked to change.The child may deal with this criticism in 2 ways. The child either loses his self esteem , withdraws and has no confidence.Or they become confrontational and aggressive.You quickly learn to avoid situations and tasks that will highlight your inadequacies. If constantly criticised shyness  and feelings of inferiority can develop. In some cases social phobia may develop.

 

Patience is needed because people with dyspraxia perform tasks slower then other people. They must think consciously about each step they take in a task. This makes multi tasking impossible and therefore it takes longer to complete a task.A simple task like carrying a tray of food or drink in Mcdonalds takes a huge amount of concentration for me. I must think about keeping the tray steady and not spilling anything the whole time I am carrying it. Yet I have seen my daughter pick a tray up in each hand and walk with them.
How awesome it would be to be able to do that.

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Introduction

Dyspraxia has been a part of my life for over 4 decades. Each day brings challenges for me just doing simple tasks others take for granted.  Because dyspraxia like many other disabilities cannot be seen, many people just dismiss it as not being real. To make it worse most people have never heard of dyspraxia let alone understand it. I recently had to go for a medical assessment and the nurse taking down my details asked me to explain what dyspraxia is. How can we expect people to understand if half the medical profession don’t?. Dyspraxia has so little recognition that my spell checker doesn’t recognise the word. For a long time I did not admit to my dyspraxia. I don’t explain myself very well verbally and found having to try to explain it to people stressful so I said nothing.

 

2 years ago I went to a TAFE college to train as an Education Assistant. Our lecturer asked us to pick a “special need” and present a report on it to the class. I hate speaking publicly. I am so socially phobic I almost pulled out of the course to avoid the talk. However with the help of a friend who encouraged me to believe in myself I decided to face my fears.Then a week before the day we would give our reports my lecturer said she thought it would be interesting  if each of us told the class why we had chosen that particular special need.  “Gulp”  I had not admitted to my dyspraxia. When we were presented with a list of special needs we could do, someone said dyspraxia, what is dyspraxia? No one seemed to know. Of course I knew but I sat quietly and said nothing to afraid to speak.

 

The girls all knew I was afraid of doing this talk.One girl lent me a stress penguin which I clutched through my entire talk. To make things worse my phone began to ring in the middle of the talk. Though it gave me an excuse to leave the room as soon as my talk was over.However I was proud of myself I had faced my fear of public speaking and admitted to my dyspraxia. I decided then that I would no longer hide the fact that I have dyspraxia. It’s a part of who I am just like having brown eyes.

 

I have knowingly only met one other person with dyspraxia. Perhaps there have been others who like me have felt uncomfortable admitting to it.There has only been 1 occasion in my life when I  have admitted to having dyspraxia and not had to explain what it is. If by sharing my experiences in this blog I can help even one person understand dyspraxia better, or give one person the comfort of knowing that they are not alone with this often frustrating condition. Then it will have been worth the effort.