What is Praxis and Dyspraxia?

Put simply, you may have been told you that your child has difficulties with motor planning (planning movements) which involves planning what to do and how to do it. It is caused by a ‘hidden’ miscommunication that occurs between your sensory and motor systems involving the nerve pathways to the brain and body. Praxis is the medical term for motor planning and dyspraxia is the inability to plan movement.

Motor planning is a three step process where a child is required to:

  • Conceive or imagine a task (Ideation)
  • Plan the steps in the task (Organisation)
  • Carry out the task in sequence (Execution)
  • Reflection (Feedback and adaptation)

Each of these four areas are quite complex on their own let alone in combination. Motor planning relies on a child having an organised sensory system, as well as an adequate body awareness and these two things are closely linked. Therefore, if a child has difficulty with one or more of the senses this can lead to poor body awareness and motor planning difficulties.

For example: to be able to catch and throw a ball we need to be able to plan our movements, we need to have a good sense of where our body is in space (body awareness), we need to have the cognitive ability to understand our actions and objects in the environment ( if I step left I will run into the tree), we need to have good bilateral coordination (use of both hands at once) in order to execute movements smoothly and we need problem solving skills to help us correct/adapt our movements in the future(in case out sibling cannot throw straight).

Praxis is a system that majority of us take for granted because it happens automatically. So how do we identify if our child is having difficulties with praxis?

Children with motor planning difficulties may show:

  • Poor body scheme and body awareness
  • Difficulty following instructions (particularly multi-step instructions)
  • Difficulty starting tasks
  • Difficulty completing tasks efficiently or in a timely fashion
  • Taking a long time to learn new tasks
  • A preference for familiar play routines, that they can predict and know what to expect
  • Repetition of tasks that they feel a sense of mastery over
  • Frustration or avoidance of new tasks and fear of failure
  • A desire to be in control and a tendency to be ‘bossy’ or ‘manipulative’
  • Avoid tasks requiring good manual dexterity (eg. puzzles, intricate construction or fine motor tasks such as writing and cutting)
  • Clumsiness (eg. constantly bumping into things or falling over)
  • Messy eaters (may not be aware of food around face and continues to feed with fingers)
  • Difficulty riding a bike
  • Difficulties coordinating both hands together (eg. Zipping up their jacket)
  • Difficulties during PEHow can you help?Repetition of earlier life skills is key to creating positive experiences and mastery of skill. Such as completing developmental games a year below their age.The treatment of motor planning difficulties is complex. Your occupational therapist will offer your child a range of sensory and motor experiences, in order to work on their organisation of sensory and movement information. Occupational Therapists are great at making therapy FUN

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