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Dyspraxia – What’s That?

Over the past few years we have all become familiar with the term Dyslexia but increasingly of late a new term “Dyspraxia” has cropped up and more and more children would appear to suffer from it. The word “Dyspraxia” is derived from two sources: Dys comes from the Latin and has come to mean a difficulty with something and praxis from the Greek means action or activity. It is therefore a disorder of movement involving impairment of the ability to carry out a motor activity in the absence of paralysis or impairment of the primary motor pathways (nerves) controlling movement.

At one time called ‘the clumsy child syndrome’ it is an inability or difficulty in planning and carrying out planned movements or in orientating yourself within your environment. That is, tying shoelaces, feeding and riding a bike, are enormous challenges and not knowing exactly where you are in space means you constantly bump into things.

In the context of learning and behavioural disabilities the term developmental dyspraxia should be used to cover the signs and symptoms that occur in these young children. The condition is said to include, poor balance, difficulties in both fine and gross motor skills, problems with vision, problems with motor planning and perception, poor bodily awareness, difficulty reading, writing, and speech, together with poor social skills and emotional/behavioural problems.

Already we can see an amazing overlap between developmental dyspraxia and dyslexia as described above. In a recent study it was found that every child that was included in the study had varying degrees of developmental dyspraxia regardless of the initial primary diagnosis – dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, OCD or Tourette’s syndrome of childhood.

Primary diagnosis ADHD – 64% also had ADD, 14% also had OCD, 18% also had Tourette’s, 89% also had dyspraxia and 30% also had dyslexia.

Primary diagnosis ADD – 20% also had OCD, 18% also had Tourette’s, 32% had ADHD, 44% had dyslexia and 86% also had dyspraxia.

Primary diagnosis dyslexia – 62% also had ADD, 16% also had OCD, 6% also had Tourette’s, 21% also had ADHD and 84% also had dyspraxia.

Primary diagnosis Dyspraxia – 70% also had ADD, 21% also had OCD, 17% also had Tourette’s, 36% also had ADHD and 50% also had dyslexia.

Primary diagnosis Tourette’s – 80% also had ADD, 12% also had OCD, 38% also had ADHD, 24% also had dyslexia and 80% also had dyspraxia.

Primary diagnosis OCD – 70% also had ADD, 10% also had Tourette’s, 25% also had ADHD, 45% also had dyslexia and 84% also had dyspraxia.

It is of interest to note that dyspraxia appears as a prominent symptom in association with each of the primary “conditions” and that no case of dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD, OCD or Tourette’s syndrome was found in isolation in the study. In fact the results for the comorbidity of both Tourette’s syndrome and OCD are perhaps artificially lower than  would be expected due to the much lower incidence of these “conditions” in the general population and hence in the study.

It is the right side of the brain that deals with your position in space and it is this side of the brain that shows developmental delay in 98% of children with problems

To read case studies detailing dyspraxia click here

Researchers into the causes of these worrying conditions have established a significant genetic link. If there is a history of Dyslexia or Dyspraxia on the mothers’ side of the family there is a c. 37% chance that the disorder will be passed on. However, if it is on the fathers side of the family the likelihood rises to 60% plus. Not all children with Dyspraxia come with a parental history and other factors have been implicated ranging from maternal stress during pregnancy, foetal distress, birth trauma and food additives.

Recently neuroscientists have discovered that the human body has natural timing devices or systems. Everything the human brain does requires very precise natural timing and this unconscious capability is critical to our brains ability to plan and sequence thoughts and actions and connect them to their consequences. Thus, natural timing generated in the brainstem and thalamus of the brain is an important foundation of our ability to attend, learn, process information and physically execute actions. Both the cerebellum (back of the brain) and the prefrontal lobes (very front of the brain) rely upon this natural, spontaneously generated pulsation to make sense of both incoming sensory information and to generate appropriate motor responses. It literally puts us in step with the rest of the world, blending our inner self with our environment.

Can this system that literally turns the motor system on and off thus forming the foundation to this essential timing be assessed and if defective treated? The answer is yes. New computer assisted technology can assess the functioning of the timing devices, compare left and right and then if appropriate generate a treatment regime to reinstate the natural rhythm.

Other computer generated tests can compare the brains processing speeds, again left v right and double check that the treatment has achieved its goal.
As our knowledge of how the brain functions increases with the development of more sophisticated research methods and technologies, so our understanding of its disorders underpins our treatment rationales.

So how can we help? Click here