Some of the possible causes of poor gross motor skills include slow development, health issues, diseases such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy and even complications experienced by the mother during pregnancy and delivery. Dyspraxia can affect a child’s ability to do a wide range of everyday physical tasks like jumping, speaking clearly or gripping a pencil. Some children have mild symptoms and others more severe.
Dyspraxia goes by many names: developmental coordination disorder, motor learning difficulty, motor planning difficulty and apraxia of speech. It can affect the development of motor skills like walking or jumping. It can also affect fine motor skills like the hand movement to write clearly and the mouth and tongue movements needed to pronounce words clearly.
It is not a sign of muscle weakness or of low intelligence. Rather it is a brain-based condition that makes it hard to plan and coordinate physical movement, balance and posture.
Different kinds of dyspraxia include:
- Ideomotor dyspraxia: makes it hard for the child to complete single-step motor tasks like combing hair or waving
- Ideational dyspraxia: Makes it hard to complete or perform sequence of movements like brushing teeth or making a bed.
- Oromotor dyspraxia: also called apraxia of speech. This makes the child slur and difficult to enunciate what they want.
- Constructional dyspraxia: Makes it harder to understand spatial relationships. Children may have difficulty copying geometric drawings or using building blocks.
Here are some common symptoms for different age groups. Some or all of these symptoms may be present.
Signs in a toddler
- Is a messy eater.
- Is unable to ride a tricycle or play ball.
- Is delayed at becoming toilet trained.
- Avoids playing with construction toys and puzzles.
- Does not talk as well as children the same age and might not say single words until age 3.
Signs in a pre-schooler
- Often bumps into people and things.
- Has trouble learning to skip and jump.
- Is slow to develop left or right hand dominance.
- Has trouble grasping pencils and drawing and writing.
- Often drops objects or has difficulty holding them.
- Has difficulty working buttons, snaps and zippers
- Speaks slowly or does not enunciate words
- Has trouble speaking at the right speed, volume and pitch.
- Struggles to play and interact with other children.
There are a number of therapies that can help children with dyspraxia.
- Occupational Therapy
- Speech therapy
- Perceptual motor training
Parents should be patient while dealing with a child with dyspraxia. They can do the following to help the child.
- Learn as much as you can.
- Encourage physical activity. This will help your child develop motor skills.
- Do jigsaw puzzles to help the child work on visual or spatial perception. Also helps improve fine motor skills.
- Toss a ball to help develop hand-eye coordination
- Get some pencil grips. Give the child a variety of pens, markers, to keep things interesting.
- Get some play-dough to help strengthen the child’s hand muscles.
The child may need help with grooming and other everyday activities long after peers have mastered those skills. By recognising the child’s challenges, parents will be able to give genuine praise when he/she completes a task. Celebrate even the smallest bits of progress.