Overcoming the Obstacles: Commands – actions. Children usually obey. They take out their pencils in class and write down notes from
the blackboard. They put on their shoes, fasten their buttons, throw a ball around with their friends, take the dogs for a walk, and sip water from their bottles.
But there are some children who can’t. Not because they’re inattentive or disobedient. But because they really just can’t.
These children suffer from dyspraxia, also called Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD), developmental apraxia, or motor learning isability. Another name for it is also the ‘clumsy child syndrome’ – but that’s a rather derogatory way of putting it.
Dyspraxia is the partial loss of the ability to perform coordinated acts. Messages to and from the brain are not properly or fully transmitted along neural pathways due to an immaturity in the way that the brain processes information. People with dyspraxia have trouble planning and completing fine motor tasks. This can vary from simple motor tasks such as waving goodbye to more complex ones like brushing teeth.
As a result, the child may be awkward and uncoordinated – clumsy if you will – when compared to his peers. Dyspraxia is usually a condition the child is born with; even when acquired, it is acquired at a very young age.
Signs to watch out for In early childhood, before the age of two, the dyspraxic child takes longer than other children to:
- Sit up
- Crawl (some never go through crawling stage)
- Be toilet-trained
- Build vocabulary
- Speak in a clear and articulate way
By the age of three, difficulties become more evident, with the child finding it difficult to:
- Employ fine motor skills in tying shoelaces, doing up buttons and zippers, using cutlery, and writing
- Jump, play hopscotch, catch or kick a ball, hop and skip
- Use scissors, colour, draw, and complete jigsaws and puzzles
Dyspraxic children also have a higher tendency to bump into things, fall over, and drop things. Additionally, they have a short attention span.
If the condition is not diagnosed and treated correctly, these symptoms will persist into adolescence and adulthood, and worsen as well. The dyspraxic then:
- Tries to avoid physical activity
- Does not learn well in class when surrounded by other children (though he can learn well on a one-to-one basis)
- Finds mathematics and reasoning difficult
- Spends a long time on writing assignments
- Neither remembers nor follows instructions
- Is disorganised
- Reacts to all stimuli equally (the brain does not filter out irrelevant stimuli automatically)
This inability to perform in class at par with his peers can cause the dyspraxic child to be labelled slow, clumsy, lazy and disobedient, and lacking discipline. The result – a sense of failure, withdrawal, and social alienation.