Dyspraxique Mais Fantastique is the name of a support group I’ve recently joined. It’s taken us eleven and a half years but we’ve finally discovered that Rors is dyspraxic. I hadn’t even heard of dyspraxia before, and quite possibly you hadn’t either. Here’s a definition: Developmental dyspraxia is a chronic neurological disorder beginning in childhood that can affect planning of movements and co-ordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body. It’s otherwise known as DCD (developmental coordination disorder) or clumsy kid syndrome.

A few facts:

  • It’s more common in males than females (4:1 ratio)
  • It’s estimated that 1 in 30 kids is dyspraxic
  • It’s associated with prematurity
  • Daniel Radcliffe and David Bailey are dyspraxics, and it’s thought Charlotte and Emily Brontë, Samuel Coleridge and George Orwell were too
  • WHO recognises it as a Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function
  • There’s no cure, merely coping strategies.

Having cottoned on to Rors’ dyspraxia, suddenly everything makes sense. Everything is explained. We now understand why our wonderful son has always taken his own time to achieve those various milestones that are set for children. Why he was late walking, riding a bike, catching a ball, and so on. Why his writing is awful and he’s untidy and scatty. Why he dislikes change in routine. Why he can’t remember something you told him five minutes ago yet has photographic recollection of events in his longer term memory. Why he can’t tell right from left. Why we had such battles in the past over cutting his fingernails and brushing his hair. Abnormal oversensitivity or undersensitivity to physical stimuli comes with dyspraxia so although we used to dismiss his claims that having his nails cut or tangles brushed out really, really hurt, it probably actually did. :-(

I wish I’d found out sooner that he had dyspraxia. I look back and cringe at the times when we ran out of patience with him when we were trying to get him to do what seemed to us like a simple task. Now, Rors is as stubborn as heck – Dagg kids are born that way – and that often came into it too, but we’d have put less pressure on or taken longer if we’d realized that there were very real physical reasons why he couldn’t do a somersault, or tie up his shoelaces, or balance on two wheels. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Here’s what we’re doing so far in our dyspraxia management campaign at home to help tidy up the bad writing (dysgraphia) as much as we can, and improve some of his finer motor skills:

  • Rors now has a comfy grip roller ball pen and propelling pencil from the Stabilo ergonomics range. Holding a pen awkwardly is a symptom and something we’ve struggled with ever since Rors has been writing.
  • Rors is doing dot to dots every day. I found a brilliant book of big, interesting ones here.
  • Every other day he does a few pages of handwriting practice from a book. We’ve had to get French ones since the French style of writing is a strange form of cursive and very unlike the handwriting Chris and I were taught. Cursive is well named in that it’s a curse – it’s ridiculously complicated, slow to write and makes bad writing almost completely illegible. Once Rors has neatened up we’ll try and simplify the letters a little.
  • I’m reading everything I can find on the subject.
Ruadhri's new workbooks

Ruadhri’s new workbooks

We’re also doing more planning in advance and preparing Rors better for what’s on the agenda in the near future. Routine is important for dyspraxics and being too impromptu can cause anxiety, which, as with so many of Rors’ little ‘quirks’, we’d worked out for ourselves but never knew why. And we’re trying to improve on Rors’ organisational skills i.e. get him to tidy his room!

I’ve had an interesting fact sheet from Dyspraxique Mais Fantastique which I’m slowly working my way through. I’m sure I’ll pick up some more coping strategies from there which we can put into play. And although it’s less than a month since we made the major discovery, already Rors seems happier and more relaxed since we can now all understand what’s going on.

If you suspect dyspraxia in your child, or yourself, then a good place to start your research is the Dyspraxia Foudation in the UK, Dyspraxique mais Fantastique  in France and the Dyspraxia Foundation in the States.