And now, here’s Amy…. The general term “praxis” refers to the difficulty executing skilled movements – which, as we know, can manifest itself as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (in which there is no speech) or as Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (in which there is partial speech). Some kids with CAS also can struggle with global dyspraxia, often called Developmental Dyspraxia or Developmental Coordination Disorder, which is a motor learning disability that affects planning and coordination of movement.
Our daughter, 3, was diagnosed with speech apraxia at about 26 months of age when she was still non-verbal. She has come a long way since then with her speech and the apraxia is considered to be resolving, which just some normal articulation and phonological issues that are seen in kids who have struggled with CAS. She has also been in OT for sensory issues, and more recently we’ve added PT to address the challenges she faces as a result of the global dyspraxia. Our efforts to help her motor planning and coordination go way beyond her weekly therapy appointment. Here are some of the things we are doing to stay busy this summer while simultaneously working on key motor skills.
For a kid with dyspraxia, sliding can be a huge challenge. Think about it: you’ve got to alternate feet climbing up the ladder while simultaneously moving your hands up to help pull you along; you’ve got to place your feet and hands in such a way that you can go from a standing to sitting position at the top – all while maintaining your balance; and you’ve got to maintain balance while going down, remembering to put your feet down at the end to catch yourself. (For kids with sensory issues in the area of vestibular processing, this becomes even harder!) So we seek out every opportunity to slide that we can find – at the playground, in blow-up pools, in bounce houses, even on an air mattress that has been propped up on a sofa. Sliding in various positions – sitting down feet first, laying on your belly feet first, laying on your belly head first (only when safe!) – allows different muscles to be exercised and various coordination patterns to be engaged.
I haven’t encountered a therapist out there who doesn’t think swimming is one of the best all-around activities for children with any kind of special need. For a dyspraxic child, the water affords them a safe, non-threatening, fun way to try out new movements: the arm strokes and kicking both build muscle strength and work on alternating patterns, the physical activity builds flexibility and endurance, and even just the practice of getting in and out of the pool – where their weight feels different in the water vs. out of the water – can be a good exercise in learning how to control their bodies. For kids with sensory issues, the proprioceptive input of the water and the vestibular input of different kinds of movements are also great! As with any activity, finding a teacher or therapist who is in tune with your child’s needs is paramount … as you can see, we’ve been very lucky in this regard!!
Our experience with martial arts classes has been very positive. While our daughter is not really able to do any of the specific forms, just the exercises they do in class really help with her coordination. The stretches at the beginning of the class increase flexibility and encourage her to cross midline; the sparring exercises help her learn to use her hands and feet in an alternating pattern; she especially loves when the Master uses a pool noodle and they have to jump over it (when low) or duck under it (when high) – a HUGE challenge for the dyspraxic child!
So if you’re tempted to let the lazy days of summer pass you by, don’t forget to get out there and get moving. “Play is the work of children!”