Melissa (9 years old) has been diagnosed as having dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a lifelong developmental coordination disorder (DCS) which affects fine and/or gross motor skills. In some cases it also affects speech. The coordination difficulties have a huge impact on individual’s participation in everyday activities and functioning of life skills in education and work. Children and young people may have problems with self-care, physical activities (exercising), writing and playing with peers. They often experience educational problems. Many of these difficulties continue through adulthood, e.g. people may be unable to drive a car or learn new skills. (Dyspraxia Foundation, 2015)
Dyspraxia can be associated with other difficulties such as speech or memory problems, time management, planning and organising which have massive impact on education and employment.
The exact causes of dyspraxia are unknown but it is thought that the condition is an effect of disruption of the way that messages are transmitted from human’s brain to the body. This affects person’s ability to perform in a smooth and coordinated way.
There is no specific ‘cure’ for dyspraxia although children can be helped and supported in managing all difficulties. Some children with mild signs of dyspraxia may grow-out of these symptoms. Many of them however need long-term support and they will continue to be affected as teenagers and adults.
Once dyspraxia has been diagnosed an individual treatment plan can be established. This may involve help from variety of specialists such as educational psychologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist or paediatric. This professional care along with extra support at school and from family can help children to overcome physical difficulties, increase self-confidence and self-esteem and grow up as independently as possible.
Dyspraxia affected Melissa’s development in several areas making her first few years at school difficult and stressful. Her condition has huge impact on physical abilities. She suffers from poor coordination what limits her participation in many school activities related to sport. She might have felt embarrassed when other children were exercising without any problems. For Melissa even the basic skills like tying shoes, zipping up jacket, assembling puzzles or drawing were challenging. She could have been exposed to unpleasant comments, being derided or considered as lazy. This could seriously affect her emotional development. She could feel ashamed that her school performance was different and much worse than her peers. She might develop a guiltiness and blamed herself for low achievements. Inability to follow demands leads in her case to stress, anxiety, frustration and negative behaviour. As a consequence Melissa can have low self-esteem and avoid or be unwilling to attempt any social interaction. Another factor affecting her social development is poor speech peculiar to people with dyspraxia. Melissa’s speech can be slow and difficult to understand by others. Included in mainstream school she may have problems with joining groups, making friends and interact verbally with them. She is also very vulnerable what can be easily used against her by school bullies. Eventually she can withdraw herself from social life. Dyspraxia also affects Melissa’s cognitive development. Due to very low concentration span (easy to distract), memory problems (may be excellent for some things but unreliable) and inability to plan tasks (play with Lego or blocks) she experiences many learning difficulties. She can have problems with making choices, follow a set of instructions to complete activities or to do things in the right sequence. Melissa needs predictable and stable environment and constant task repetition to be able to learn and perform better. For the first few years she has not been diagnosed so expectations of her were inadequate to her abilities. This led to lack of appropriate support in