Autism and Dyspraxia: A Common Pair
Developmental Dyspraxia is a disorder that is often present in those with autism. It is also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder or Motor Learning Disability. It is seen in children with autism from a very early age as fine motor skills and gross motor skills fail to develop. While it is not completely understood, it is seen as a treatable condition. Many people born with dyspraxia will gain control of their fine and large motor skills through occupational therapy.
Dyspraxia is known to hinder the fine motor skills. Movements may be made involuntarily, with little control even in the gross motor skills. Dyspraxia usually manifests itself in this way when the child is beginning to develop. If a parent suspects that their child might have Dyspraxia, they should see a clinical Psychologist, Educational Psychologist, Pediatrician or occupational therapist.
Assessment of a child may include how well the child uses fine motor skills, the smaller muscles. These skills include tying shoes, buttoning buttons, and cutting with scissors. The child’s gross motor skills are also observed. These skills include running, jumping, balancing when standing, and throwing. If these skills are impaired, it usually means the child has dyspraxia.
Scientifically, it is not quite known how dyspraxia happens. Some scientists think that it is related to a developmental defect in the cerebellum part of the brain. This is usually due to injury during fetal development. Some scientists found that when the cerebrum was injured in premature babies, the cerebellum failed to develop successfully. This shows how the cerebellum could possibly be damaged in utero as well. Some scientists think that a deficiency in Omega 3 fatty acids in their last months of pregnancy show a higher risk for having a child with dyspraxia.
There is treatment for dyspraxia, but it is a long road ahead for those who have the disorder. Occupational therapy is the most common. An occupational therapist will see how the child uses his or her motor skills daily, and will work with them to start using them to their potential. In this respect it is much like physical therapy for those with injuries.
Often times, dyspraxia affects the child’s speech as well. Speech requires use of fine motor skills in the face, and therefore is affected by this disease. For this reason, a speech therapist is often employed in addition to the occupational therapist. It is not uncommon for a child, or adult, with dyspraxia to use a communication device rather than speak in the traditional sense.
Occupational therapists strongly encourage outdoor play and movement for children with this disorder. This get’s their motor skills moving and even under control as time goes on. This play time allows the child to explore their own body movements and gain control over them. However, outdoor play can often lead to certain dangers for the child. For example, if a child lives near a busy street, the child may lose their balance and stumble into the street. The parents need to weigh the risks with the possible benefits of outdoor play. Closely monitored outdoor play is the most promising way to improve gross motor skills.
Fine motor skills are a little harder to deal with. The tying of the child’s shoe is often a very integral point. If a child with this disorder can master the tying of their shoe, they have gotten farther than most with this disorder ever will.
Those with autism often have dyspraxia (although not everyone with dyspraxia has autism or vice versa) as one of their symptoms, but it can, in some cases, be controlled and worked on until the disorder ceases to hinder the person’s ability to function normally.