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Psychologist in Sussex, England » Dyspraxia
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Dyspraxia


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Praxis is a Greek word which is used to describe the learned ability to plan and to carry out sequences of coordinated movements in order to achieve an objective.

Dys is the Greek prefix ‘bad’ so dyspraxia literally means bad praxis.

A child with difficulties in learning skills such as eating with a spoon, speaking clearly, doing up buttons, riding on a bike or handwriting may be described as dyspraxic. The movements which are involved in these activities are all skilled movements, which are voluntary and may be affected by dyspraxia. Voluntary movements, unlike reflexes, are under the conscious control of the individual who carries them out.

Developmental dyspraxia is found in children who have no clear neurological disease. Miller (1986), a neurologist, gave the following formal definition of dyspraxia: ‘A disorder of the higher cortical processes involved in the planning and execution of learned, volitional, purposeful movements in the presence of normal reflexes, power, tone, coordination and sensation’.

Some researchers (Dawdy, 1981) describe children with developmental dyspraxia as showing impaired performance of skilled movements despite abilities within the average range and no significant findings on standard neurological examination. Other researchers have identified links with learning, language, visual-perceptual and behavioural problems (Henderson and Sugden, 1992). It is important to remember that all children are different, and that some difficulties may not become apparent until specific demands are made, such as learning to use a pencil. A difficulty becomes significant when it interferes with the way that a child is able to carry out the normal range of activities which is expected at his or her age: the usual developmental goals.

The idea of a developmental profile may be helpful when considering a child who has difficulties with co-ordinated movements. If motor skills are at a different level from the other areas of development, there may be a specific problem such as developmental dyspraxia.

The term dyspraxia is used differently by professionals within and across occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, psychology and medicine. There is also a range of other labels which may be used to describe developmental dyspraxia but they have no clear definition (i.e. clumsy, minimal brain damage, motor learning, cerebella deficits, developmental co-ordination disorder etc.)

We have used the term developmental dyspraxia to refer to difficulties associated with a vital area of development in children, the development of co-ordination and the organisation of movement. That is, problems with getting our bodies to do what we want when we want them to do it.


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