Motor Delay Disorder (Dyspraxia)
What is Motor Delay Disorder?
Motor delay disorder is also referred to as dyspraxia. It is a developmental disorder that results in the inability to optimally utilize the voluntary motor skills effectively. It affects all aspects of life ranging from play to the more structured skills activities (Gibbs, Appleton & Appleton, 2007). The condition is associated with slowness in movement as well as speech. The affected find it difficult to coordinate complex motor actions or even to process spatial information. Children who are affected cannot coordinate or control voluntary motor activities in spite of having no neurological or physical disorders. It is manifested as a combination of planning and ideational dyspraxia and may result from perceptual problems or even kinesthetic difficulties in motor control. For the condition to be diagnosed, the American Psychiatric Association recommends that various conditions have to be satisfied by the patient under consideration. Some of the conditions include: reduced motor coordination in daily activities relative to expected behavior at age and intelligence of the patient; interference with daily activities and academic performance due to reduced motor performance; lack of pervasive developmental problem or general medical condition that would result in the observed delay in motor activity and excess motor difficulties relative to those expected of people with particular mental retardation (Gibbs et al., 2007).
Dyspraxia affects approximately 5 to 9% of children aged between 5 and 11 years. In the early years, diagnosis and management of the condition is faster compared to diagnosis and management in the later years. Male children are often more affected than females while older individuals present more social variables in the diagnosis of the condition. Generally, children who are considered to portray a lag in motor development in comparison to their expected age achievements may be subjected to further evaluations to determine whether they are affected by motor delay disorders. Past studies have indicated that children who are diagnosed with motor delay disorders often record lower academic achievements compared to others of similar age, economic status and grade levels (Perna & Loughan, 2013). Children in pre-school who have been diagnosed with motor delay disorders are more likely than others to display deficits in social skills. Moreover, such delays are also associated with other social problems later in life including social anxiety, psychotic depression and manic episodes among others (Perna & Loughan, 2013). With such characteristics, it is inevitable that those with dyspraxia would experience difficulties in learning too.
Common Issues faced by Students with Dypraxia
Children suffering from dyspraxia experience a wide range of challenges in the school setting. The challenges arising from dyspraxia are mainly as a result of their inability to coordinate and control physical activity related activities. For instance, they may appear clumsy hence the description of the condition as a clumsy child disorder (Gibbs et al., 2007). In the classroom set up, such children often face issues such as tripping over things, inability to balance in terms of posture, inability to complete assigned tasks, inability to sequence activities and lack of organization. Tripping results from their inability to balance as well as spatial limitations. They can observe the things they are unable to effectively coordinate their movements such that they avoid things on their way. Similarly, inability to balance also arises from lack of spatial capabilities.
Students with dyspraxia lack both fine and gross motor coordination capabilities. As such, they cannot effectively perform tasks that involve this type of coordination. Children with motor delay disorders do not compare favorably with others of their respective ages in terms of motor skill development and use. For instance, inability to climb stairs without support at 4 years is a common occurrence among those with motor delay disorder while others of their age do this without any problems. At the same time, such children also find it difficult to fine tune their writings to their intended objectives (Noritz & Murphy, 2016). They therefore experience delayed development in other areas such as legible writing since they cannot coordinate their motor capabilities. They are also unable to complete assigned tasks due to inability to organize things in the way they should be done. Activities are thus performed randomly without any particular sequence.
Based on the challenges that students with dyspraxia face in the classroom, teachers have to employ a variety of strategies to ensure that these children also benefit as others do. First, the teacher has to practice distribution in the classroom. This is achieved through an inclusion strategy, where the children with dyspraxia are taken as other children and thus distributed throughout the classroom rather than segregated. This can help the students learn from others and enhance their skills through practice. The teachers may also develop ways of obtaining feedback from students on the implementation and enhancement of newly acquired motor skills. By encouraging the use of such skills through positive feedback, the teachers encourage such students to practice more and hence sharpen their skills better. This can go a long way especially when the teachers work with goals assigned to each individual student.
Goal setting in such a context can be difficult since each of the students with the disorder has personal challenges are more likely to have different strengths and weaknesses. Working with a diverse range of capacities can be challenging but can be done with the help of the teaching assistants that may be in the school. Understanding individual student characteristics can help in coming up with realistic and achievable goals for each of the students. Furthermore, the teachers can also collaborate with the parents to ensure that the children get their best in terms of education and social skill development. The goals can be attached to promises of rewards to make the children even more willing to participate in goal pursuit.
Since most of the challenges faced by the students relate to motor skill delay, inability to perform physical activities satisfactorily and handling of various handheld devices, it would also be advisable for the teacher allocate physical activities for times when the affected students are most likely to participate. At the same time, the activities assigned to the children must also be accomplishable within the available time by making them easy and achievable by the students. They should also be accompanied by a lot of hand held devices which can help them develop motor skills in the use of their hands besides other parts of the body. Early planning can also help to alleviate the effects of the condition on the children’s body especially when they have to engage in physically intensive activities. As such, teachers planning physical activities such as running and jumping should do so early enough while putting into consideration the needs of the children.
Gibbs, J., Appleton, J. and Appleton, R. (2007). Dyspraxia or developmental coordination disorder? Unraveling the enigma. Archives of Disease in Childhood, vol. 92, no. 6, pp. 534- 539.
Perna, R. and Loughan, A.R. (2013). Early Developmental Delays: A Cross Validation Study. Journal of Psychology of the Abnormal Child, vol. 1, no. 105
Noritz, G.H. and Murphy, N.A. (2016). Motor delays: early identification and evaluation. American Academy of Pediatrics.