Understanding Dyspraxia

What is Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is a result of weak or poorly structured neural pathways to the mouth (oral and verbal dyspraxia) or other moving parts of the body (motor dyspraxia). Some children only have verbal dyspraxia, while others only have motor dyspraxia. It is not uncommon for both types to be present in the same person. (definition received from here).

How is it treated?
There is no cure for Dyspraxia just management and treatment. Common types of treatment include Speech Therapy (if diagnosed with oral and verbal Dyspraxia) and Occupational Therapy (if diagnosed with motor Dyspraxia). Sometimes surgery will be required to stop airflow through the nose if speech therapy doesn't strengthen the palate.

Below is a chart with common traits and challenges  that people with Dyspraxia may face this was received from here.

Dyspraxia: Warning Signs By Age

 

Young Children

Trouble With:
  • Learning to walk, jump, hop, skip and throw or catch a ball
  • Pronouncing words and being understood
  • Establishing left- or right- handedness
  • Bumping into things
  • Moving the eyes—instead, moving the whole head
  • Being sensitive to touch such as being irritated by clothing on skin, hair brushing, nail-cutting, or teeth-brushing

School-Age Children

Trouble With:
  • Poor pencil grip and letter formation and slow handwriting
  • Doing activities that require fine motor skills, like holding a pencil, buttoning, cutting with scissors
  • Playing sports, riding a bike and other activities requiring coordination
  • Sensing direction
  • Speaking at a normal rate or in way that can be easily understood
  • Making social connections due to speech challenges
  • Phobias and obsessive behavior

Teens and Adults

Trouble With:
  • Speech control—volume, pitch, articulation
  • Writing and typing
  • Over- or under- sensitivity to light, touch, space, taste, or smells
  • Personal grooming and other self-help activities
  • Cooking or other household chores
  • Driving
  • Clumsiness

People with Dyspraxia are more prone to anxiety and other mental illnesses, so it is not uncommon for someone with Dyspraxia to have anxiety.

My story:
I was diagnosed with severe forms of both verbal and motor forms of Dyspraxia when I was a toddler at the time we were living in a town 2 hours away from the city and it didn't have the speech therapy services that could treat me. So every 2 weeks we would drive up to the city for an appointment at the children's hospital with a speech therapist this continued to happen up until I was 13 (the appointments eventually decreasing down to yearly over the course). It was thought and hoped that I wouldn't need plastic surgery on my palate to stop the air flow through my nose (which made it hard for people to understand me) and that speech therapy would be enough but it wasn't. So when I was 8 I had surgery done at the children's hospital. I remember parts of it such as only being able to eat puréed foods for a month (I think) after the surgery and how I reacted badly to the anaesthetic but the rest is a blur. This has made it easier for people to understand me and improved my speech quality.
I still talk too fast at times and I don't notice the volume which I am speaking at a lot of the time, I am working on both, but unless I think about it while I am talking I don't notice either. I have always had bad eye contact with people which has greatly improved but there are days when its bad as I don't feel like it or am lazy (its normally a bit of both!). I will also repeat myself without realising it and get 'lost' when I am talking which causes me to jump to random unrelated topics.

I have always been bad at sports and any other form of physical activity and was picked on at school because of it. I have done Occupational Therapy in the past when I was younger but we stopped it once we moved up to the city when I was 9 as it was more of a hassle than anything else.
I am also double jointed which I have been told doesn't help when it comes to sports (my doctor has told me I have the flexibly to do gymnastics but not the coordination to do it!). I have no upper body strength whatsoever so I often struggle with opening jars and tins, carrying things and I can't do a push up or chin up to save my life! I am very clumsy as my hand eye coordination is bad, I refuse to throw things or avoid having to catch things as it will only end in disaster, I walk into doors and trip over often (I don't wear high heels much because of this), I have managed to peel the tip off my left pointer with a peeler (so its on a slight angle compared to the rest) and how I manage to use sharp knives when cooking and not do serious damage to myself is beyond me.

I did struggle in school and found myself having to work that much harder to achieve things. When I reached high school I discovered that I was a hands on learner and I needed to know why I had to learn things and put them into practice almost straightaway. I would always ask a lot of questions and there were times when I would ask the same variation of a question to make sure I understood everything, I am positive I drove many teachers crazy during my schooling years! I realised early on that I couldn't compare myself to other people or my cousins as it would only make feel worthless compared to them (on my Mum's side my extended family its extremely academic!) and look at everything I achieved compared to the struggles I put up with. I found myself thriving in the classes where the teachers would work closely with me and support me. In my last 2 years of high school I had an amazing business and computing teacher who made such an impact on my schooling as he would let me annoy him with questions and he supported me greatly when I was struggling with certain things (it also helped that I had him for 2 classes so he could often draw parallels between both subjects helping me understand it even more). Looking back on my schooling he is the one teacher who I can say made an impact on not only my schooling but my life, he taught me how to face challenges, that its ok to ask questions and that as long as I get there in the end it doesn't matter how long or how many different ways it takes to get there.

I didn't notice my Dyspraxia much after I left school and had stopped doing sport but then it became apparent when I started taking driving lessons. Learning how to drive was a major thing for me and required a patient driving instructor who had worked with kids with learning difficulties before as a normal instructor wouldn't have worked for me. My parents spent a heap on driving lessons and I wouldn't be surprised if the amount they spent could buy a car. I was never given the option to learn how to drive a manual as my parents and I knew it wouldn't be worth it (and would most likely crash into a tree in the process!). I failed my driving test four times before I finally passed and finally have license as of November 2014. It still doesn't feel real that I have my license and I still worry about driving tests!

A side effect of having Dyspraxia is that I have anxiety, people who have Dyspraxia are 6 times as likely to have anxiety I have been told (whether or not they require treatment is another matter). It doesn't help that kids with Dyspraxia are often picked on during their school years because they struggle with playing sport and various other tasks. I struggle with self confidence due to the bullying and often second guess myself when I am in a new situation (like when I start a new job). My anxiety is managed but it still flares up and I will always need to work at staying on top of it. To be honest I am more concerned how my anxiety will affect my everyday life than I am about my Dyspraxia! I think this is because I have to work daily on living with my anxiety but I only notice my Dyspraxia when I am doing certain thing and I subconsciously learnt to adapt my life around it.

Some things that I can do which my Mum was told I would never be able to do is read maps and follow directions (though I need to concentrate really hard), I am able to tell my left from my right and  I can follow recipes and enjoy cooking (I do like to experiment in the kitchen at times will often only use a recipe as a base and change things as I go). Every case of Dyspraxia is different and everyone with Dyspraxia will struggle with different (but similar) things, it just depends on the person.

One major thing I have noticed with Dyspraxia is that if people don't know you have it they presume its part of your personality and not a disability as such. Many people think my lack of eye contact is due to trust issues or that I speak to fast because I am worried people won't listen to what I have to say, when both things are major Dyspraxic traits. Dyspraxia isn't a well known condition and I have caught many people looking it because they think its a made up condition or a type of Dyslexia (I don't care if you have to look it up but please ask me more about it first). There also isn't a lot of support for adults who have it (despite there being a rise in adult diagnosis), this is why after much debate I have decided to put this page up on my blog in the hope that people will be able to gain a better understanding of it.

Yes my life is a struggle because of Dyspraxia but at the end of day God is on my side and I refuse to let it stop me from achieving my dreams and living my life. I have no idea how it will continue to affect me but I do know that having to work a bit harder to achieve my dreams has made them that much sweeter when I do.

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