Developmental Dyspraxia

What is Developmental Dyspraxia

Developmental dyspraxia is a muscle control (motor skills) condition in children. Developmental dyspraxia may affect your child’s coordination, balance, hand-eye coordination, and behavior.

Children born with this disorder may be clumsier than other children.

Your child may outgrow mild symptoms, but most children do not outgrow developmental dyspraxia completely. Having developmental dyspraxia does not mean your child is less intelligent or has a brain disease.

What are the causes?

The cause of developmental dyspraxia is not known.

What increases the risk?

Risk factors include:

  • Having a family history of developmental dyspraxia.
  • Being born before the 37th week of pregnancy (prematurity).
  • Having a low birth weight.
  • Having a mother who used alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.
  • Being a boy.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Some signs and symptoms of developmental dyspraxia begin in early childhood. Others start later. Early symptoms may include:

  • Feeding problems.
  • Uncontrollable crying (colic).
  • Irritability and trouble sleeping.
  • Delay in reaching developmental milestones, like sitting, crawling, or walking.
  • Sensitivity to noise.
  • Movements that are stiff or floppy.
  • Repetitive movements, like head rolling or banging.

Later symptoms may include:

  • Delayed toilet training.
  • Poor fine motor skills, such as tying shoelaces.
  • Sensitivity to touch.
  • Clumsiness.
  • Being messy while eating or drinking.
  • Flapping hands while running.
  • Being very sensitive and easily upset.
  • Constant movement.
  • Short attention span.

How is this diagnosed?

Your child’s health care provider may diagnose developmental dyspraxia based on your child’s symptoms. The diagnosis is usually made by age five. For a diagnosis of developmental dyspraxia, a child should have had symptoms since early childhood. Your child may also see a child development specialist for an assessment of:

  • Motor skills. This is to determine whether motor skills are less than expected for your child’s age. A lack of motor skills that affects your child and interferes with school or activities is key to diagnosis.
  • Mental ability. This is done to check whether mental ability is at the level expected for your child’s age. The specialist also checks to make sure that any symptoms are not caused by a learning disability or a nervous system disease.

How is this treated?

Treatment helps your child manage his or her condition. Your child’s treatment plan will be designed to fit his or her needs. Very mild cases may not need much treatment. Treatment may include.

  • Occupational therapy. This helps your child learn basic skills, such as eating neatly or tying shoes.
  • Academic support at school. This may include getting your child into special education classes. A therapist can also help your child learn skills for being organized and completing tasks.
  • Physical therapy. This may help improve your child’s balance and movement while walking, running, and playing.
  • Speech therapy. This helps your child if he or she is struggling with language.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Learn as much as you can about the disorder.
  • Work closely with your child’s doctors, therapists, and teachers.
  • Avoid loud noises at home.
  • Help your child keep to a routine for eating, sleeping, and playing.
  • Provide a quiet place at home for your child to read, play, or do schoolwork.
  • Speak to your child in a calm, soft voice.
  • Avoid suddenly touching your child if he or she is sensitive to being touched.
  • Let your child wear loose, comfortable clothing. Be aware of clothes with tags and itchy fabrics.
  • Get your child shoes with self-gripping straps if tying shoelaces is a problem.
  • Be patient. Many children learn to manage their symptoms as they get older.

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