Dyspraxia – one in every classroom but no recognition

Many parents have a child who exhibits traits of dyspraxia and yet have no idea that this disorder exists, or that it can be managed in the home with proper planning, management, and resources.

Also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD ), dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by poor fine and gross motor skills, coordination, balance, and spatial awareness. Common indicators include difficulty tying laces or using zips, hopping or catching balls, and organising one’s room, schoolbag, or homework. The biggest giveaway is a marked clumsiness in almost every area of the child’s life above what is to be expected for their age and maturity.

However, the effects this disorder can have on children’s self-esteem, levels of anxiety, social skills, and self-image are a whole other story, which up to now have been largely ignored in this country. About one in ten children have this condition but nowhere near this number are being flagged in the Irish school system by educational psychologists or diagnosed by occupational therapists. Untreated, research has shown that symptoms continue to worsen, with children more likely to become obese, suffer from cardiovascular disease and depression, and have elevated blood pressure as they progress into adulthood.

Unfortunately, it really is up to parents to educate themselves in order to approach schools and health professionals about their child’s condition. It is not unusual for children to progress through the education system with great difficulty and unhappiness only to be diagnosed in their adulthood. This is particularly saddening when simple, early modifications could have prevented so much discomfort and heartache. Imagine trying your best every minute of every day and never being quite good enough. These children have it tough because their peers only see their inadequacies, which has led to higher levels of bullying being experienced by children with dyspraxia.

Athlone’s award-winning child development centre, Sugru, has a suite of services tailored specifically for the needs of children with dyspraxia. Based in Monksland and led by psychologists and authors Arlene Naughten and Lorraine Lynch, they offer individualised services for children coping with dyspraxia and anxiety, self-harm, suicidal ideation, externalised aggression, internalised sadness, or behavioural difficulties.

They have also launched their Sugru Social Club for children with dyspraxia, where children can engage in therapeutic activities from 4-5pm every Tuesday evening. The group learn how to bond through relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, non-directive therapeutic play, creative expression through art, and sensory and dramatic play. The children are given ownership over their group by deciding the name of the group themselves, receiving a unique membership card, and deciding what activities they want to engage in. These methods allow children to become empowered, improve their social skills, and build up resilience.

For information on any of Sugru’s services, please call (090 ) 6499144, email [email protected], or check out Sugru Child Developmental and Therapeutic Play Services on Facebook.

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