Dyspraxia is a learning disability where body and mind coordination is impaired, making motor movements slow or impossible to make (ie tying shoelaces, playing sports, dancing and other skills). Because of this, most people with dyspraxia are not fit. They are usually overweight and sometimes obese, and this is not good for the dyspraxic person.
Unfortunately being a dyspraxic is a sure risk of becoming overweight or obese. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), children with developmental coordination disorder are at greater risk of being overweight or obese.
The study followed 1979 students from 75 schools in Ontario, Canada over a two year period from grade 4 to grade 7. The researchers screened children for coordination difficulties and identified children who may have the disorder. They measured BMI and waist circumference.
“Although DCD has in the past been considered part of the normal continuum of motor proficiency or regarded as merely a “playground disorder” that can be relegated to a secondary position in the universe of children’s health concerns, these results, along with other recent research, suggest that this is no longer acceptable,” writes Dr. John Cairney, Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario with coauthors.
The researchers found children with possible developmental coordination disorder were three times more likely to be overweight than typically developing children, and the risk for obesity increased over time. There was no difference between boys and girls in prevalence rates.
The authors conclude “The findings have important implications for intervention. There is a clear need to take a broader, longer-term view of the health consequences of DCD.”
Weight problems in dyspraxic children can turn into obesity or weight gain problems including risk for a lot of diseases like heart attack, stroke, joint problems, atherosclerosis (cholesterol or fat blocking your veins), sleep apnoea and psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, body image disorder and eating disorders (which could make a dyspraxic anorexic or more obese).
What to do in order for dyspraxics to be more fit and not fat?
Diagnosing dyspraxia is very important step in identifying coordination problems. Here, other muscular, motor, or neurological disorders can be ruled out like Duchenne muscular dystrophy (genetic disorder including wasting of the muscles) and cerebral palsy (disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills (the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful way)). By ruling out dyspraxia, fitness management would be easier for the dyspraxic.
After diagnosis, physical and occupational therapies are included in managing dyspraxia. Since generally there is no problem in muscle anatomy, the focus of therapy is for the child to be trained in developing everyday skills needed to thrive in and out of school. This includes such things as learning to use a knife or write legibly.
A physical therapy website has proposed two approaches to managing dyspraxia’s motor deficits:
Two main methods of treatment are generally used with this patient population. The process-oriented approach focuses on the abnormal or immature processes underlying the sensory and motor systems, as frequently occurs in sensory integration therapy.
When treating a child with sensory-based dyspraxia, the initial focus is on providing intensive vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation that is graded and adapted to meet the child’s particular need. This provides the central nervous system with the added sensory input needed for improved muscle tone, coordination and alertness.
Effective treatment gives consideration to activities that provide stimuli in a variety of positions and planes of three dimensional space, that vary in speed from static holding to fast movement, that are linear and angular, and that are transient and sustained.
Activities that provide linear vestibular and proprioceptive input while the child maintains a visual focus are highly effective in improving neck and trunk extension and ocular control while working on anticipatory and projection action sequences.
Activities such as lying prone on a scooter while pushing and pulling a bungee cord provide intensive proprioceptive and vestibular input while developing bilateral coordination, rhythm, timing and visual convergence.
For children with sensory-based dyspraxia, participation in activities that are rich in vestibular and proprioceptive sensory input provide the foundation of improved muscle tone and central nervous system alerting needed for successful participation in of a task-oriented approach, aims to improve and refine specific skills through practice such as skipping, dribbling a ball or riding a bike.
Activities that can be helpful to address a variety of these areas at the same time are wheelbarrow walking, animal walks, carrying heavy objects, doing handstands against the wall, holding yoga postures, swimming and climbing on the playground or on homemade obstacle courses. Many strengthening activities can be integrated into a child’s daily life: have them help push the full laundry basket to another room, take the gallon of milk from the refrigerator and carry it to the table and carry things up/down stairs.
Being active can be challenging for children with dyspraxia, especially as they get older and sports become more competitive. Sports that can be part of an active lifestyle are worth the extra effort to help the child gain the necessary skills. Swimming, cycling, running, skating and skiing are great activities for children with dyspraxia to participate in with peers or with the family. Being active is critical to maintain health and is also so important for social and emotional well-being. Like the boy riding the bike, many child with dyspraxia may have difficulty learning this skill. However, once they master riding it is an activity they can do for the rest of their lives. It is worth the effort to spend the extra time needed to learn and find help from professionals when necessary to help break down the learning process.
Physical and occupational therapies can be done patiently until the dyspraxic can acquire and master necessary skills to have the most possible coordinated motor skills (it does not to be as very good as a neurotypical’s motor movements) so that he or she can still enjoy fitness and less likely to have weight problems like overweight and obesity as he or she can be less sedentary.