Apraxia and Dyspraxia in the Classroom
Dyspraxia is also known as "motor learning disability". Once known as "clumsy child syndrome"dyspraxia often comes with language problems, and sometimes a degree of difficulty with perception and thought. Dyspraxia does not affect a person's intelligence, but it can cause learning difficulties for children. Four out of every 5 children with evident dyspraxia are boys. If the average classroom has 30 children, there is probably one child with dyspraxia in almost each classroom.
Children with dyspraxia have problems performing subtle movements, such as tying shoelaces, doing up buttons and zips, using cutlery, and handwriting. Many will have difficulties getting dressed and find it hard in the playground to jump, catch or kick a ball, hop, skip or play hopscotch.
In the classroom, there are problems with using scissors, coloring and drawing, playing jig-saw games and processing thoughts. Children with dyspraxia commonly find it hard to focus on one thing for long and find it difficult to learn new skills. Although dyspraxia is not curable, with time the child can improve. And the earlier a child is diagnosed, the better and faster the improvement will be.
Occupational therapy will help the child develop skills specific to activities which may be troublesome. Perceptual motor training will improve the child's language, visual, movement, and auditory skills. Tasks are set gradually becoming more advanced to challenge the child so that improvement is gradual without becoming frustrating or stressful. Speech and language therapy can also help a child communicate more effectively as dyspraxia is often associated with apraxia,or speech disorder.
Developmental Apraxia of Speech (DAS) also known as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) occurs at birth and is more common among boys than girls. This speech disorder varies from person to person but typically a child understands language better than they are able to express themselves. They may have a range of speech and language problems such as poor grammar, poor vocabulary and difficulty in organizing spoken information, and consequent problems with reading, writing, spelling and math and coordination problems. Apraxia can be so mild that it just affects pronunciation of words with many syllables or so severe that a child cannot communicate effectively at all with speech.
Speech-language professionals may need to observe a child for some time before reaching a diagnosis and therapy is tailored to the individual. Sometimes frequent and intensive one-to-one therapy is needed and sometimes children make a spontaneous recovery .Children with apraxia are at high risk for literacy and language-learning related educational difficulties and create a challenge in the classroom. Teachers will work with speech-language therapists in the school system and provide specific worksheets and resources to help with oral and written language and narrative skills.
Experienced teachers and therapists know that it is essential to understand the child's personality and interests as well as the history of past failures and successes. The home environment offers many opportunities for exercises, games, stories, strategies, and scripts for weaving speech therapy into the time parents spend with their children. A supportive home environment and the active involvement of the child in his or her own intervention programs contribute to successful outcomes for children with apraxia and dyspraxia. Useful online resources for teachers are The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA) and the Dyspraxia Foundation.