Most times, dyspraxia does not manifest on its own. The comorbidity rate is very high. Very often, a dyspraxic will also have ADHD – (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) which is characterised by hyperactivity, fidgety behaviour and, of course, a low attention span. Dyspraxics may also have dyslexia (difficulty with reading and spelling), dyscalculia (difficulty with mathematics), dysgraphia (an inability to write neatly and/or draw), or autism spectrum disorder. However, the chances of them having problems in ALL these areas are very low.
Getting professional help
Once the condition has been accurately diagnosed, the next step is remediation. While dyspraxia can never be fully cured, some alleviation of symptoms is possible with the correct treatment. “A number of healthcare professionals may be involved — such as a paediatrician, psychologist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, physiotherapist, and remedial teacher,” explains Dr. Sulata Shenoy, Director, Turning Point Centre for Child Guidance.
A paediatrician will certify the child’s health and growth parameters, and may also be the first person to alert the child’s parents to the diagnosis and refer him for further investigations and therapies. A psychologist will assess the child’s mental abilities and school readiness skills and refer him for appropriate therapy. An occupational therapist will make a list of the child’s abilities and assist the child where necessary (helping him work with fine motor skills, develop better eye-hand coordination and learn basic developmental tasks such as bathing, brushing his teeth and feeding himself). The physiotherapist’s services may be required in case of gross motor clumsiness. Perceptual motor training may be suggested. A speech therapist can help the child practice breathing and articulation, and also provide exercises to help the lips and mouth move in certain ways. A remedial teacher can help improve the child’s scholastic proficiency. As in all developmental disorders, a multi-pronged therapy approach is indicated.
Delhi-based Shalini Gupta’s eleven-year old daughter has speech apraxia (one of the forms that dyspraxia takes). Occupational therapy has helped her perfect her pronunciation to a great extent. “Gayatri had a problem recalling the oral muscular formations involved in the production of simple sounds,” explains Gupta. “So she would forget how to position her lips and tongue to produce sounds like ‘p’ and ‘b’. I attended an occupational therapy workshop which explained that if all senses are involved in the production of the sound, the learning would be faster and stronger. The facilitators gave us three different shapes made of fibre glass, in three different colours – a red triangle, a blue circle and a yellow square. Every time I wanted Gayatri to produce the sound ‘p’, I would place the red triangle between her lips; I would use the blue circle when we wanted ‘m’ and the yellow square when I wanted her to make the sound of ‘b’. After a week of doing this in front of a mirror, Gayatri would just look at the shapes and make the respective sounds. And gradually, this got entrenched in her oral muscular memory.”