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Dyspraxia: How parents and teachers can help clumsy children
Clumsy children not only have to suffer from the fact that many things do not work so well for them, but also that they are teased and bullied at school. But they can be helped. The Children's Health Foundation provides information on the problems of clumsy children and what parents and teachers can do on their website.
If the child is something different
"Some parents notice early on that their child is a little different," says pediatrician Professor Berthold Koletzko, chairman of the Child Health Foundation. “It is a little bit slower than other children, learning to walk a lot, maybe especially late and otherwise striking when learning to speak. With other children, on the other hand, the awkwardness only becomes apparent when they come to school and have to use pen and paper. ”
Clumsy children often have problems dressing or putting on socks. It is difficult for them to button or unbutton or operate zippers, as well as putting on shoes or tying the shoelaces.
Handling tools is also often a game of patience: eating with a knife and fork makes them as difficult as brushing your teeth.
They move their hands clumsily and have difficulty painting, gluing, kneading, cutting, erasing or throwing. Catching a ball presents her with major problems.
At school, the child often stands out due to slow writing, dirty writing and unskillful handling of scissors or glue.
It turns out to be awkward in sports and games, balances poorly and shows weaknesses in climbing, cycling and especially in handling balls.
Defined developmental disorder of motor functions
As the Children's Health Foundation explains, these children were previously thought to have “minimal cerebral dysfunction” (MCD), a slight abnormality in brain functions.
Today the medical diagnosis is called "dyspraxia" or the problem is called a little more elaborately than "circumscribed developmental disorder of motor functions", abbreviated UEMF.
The "International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems" ICD-10 distinguishes between circumscribed developmental disorders of gross motor skills (F82.0) and gross and fine motor skills (F82.1).
The UEMF is a common problem, according to a German-Swiss guideline on medical diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.
Although it leads to considerable consequences for the child and the parents and also entails considerable costs for their treatment, UEMF is unknown to many parts of the health care and educational sector or is played down, the scientific authors of the guideline from both countries emphasize.
Up to six percent of children are affected
According to current estimates, five to six percent of children are affected by dyspraxia, boys up to seven times more often than girls, according to the Child Health Foundation.
Premature babies and children with extremely low birth weights also appear to be at higher risk.
The children's problems are often not limited to mobility and dexterity: there are often problems with language development, reading and writing.
The UEMF also often occurs together with a number of emotional, social and learning disorders.
The question of whether these disorders are accompanying circumstances of dyspraxia or can already be seen as the consequences of negative experiences with "clumsiness" in daily life, however, is usually difficult to answer.
Physical consequences are also possible: the clumsy child is more likely to become overweight because he is reluctant to exercise and especially avoid team sports.
It is understandable that the parents of a clumsy child first try to get their child on the right path with loving words, explanations and admonitions. But words alone cannot organize the child's special brain structures.
The child has to make his own experiences with different sensations. Help is needed and the parents need a lot of patience.
The child needs understanding and support
According to Professor Berthold Koletzko, a safe diagnosis by the pediatrician is possible and useful from the age of five.
"However, it is not only important to educate parents, but also educators and teachers about the problems of the child," said the expert.
A positive and supportive attitude should be promoted and more sensitivity and acceptance for the specific difficulties of the children created.
When dealing with clumsy children, parents (and teachers) have to make something very important clear: the little clumsy will not help with blame and admonitions.
The general rule is: one should endure the ineptitude of a child (as best as possible) with tolerant cheerfulness, but reward every effort and success by caressing and hugging, appropriate admiration and praise.
Just as important for clumsy children: lots of exercise! Small children get going with large devices such as slides, swings, seesaws, tricycles, wheelbarrows, climbing trees, tubes or barrels.
Older children should do a lot of sport: swimming and riding, cycling, judo and yoga are particularly suitable.
Recognizing and reinforcing the child's preferences is also important, the Children's Health Foundation emphasizes: Many children with UEMF have special talents in other areas, like to read, are sensitive, creative, imaginative and extremely communicative.
No clear guidelines for the treatment of dyspraxia
There are no clear guidelines for the treatment of dyspraxia. It is primarily occupational therapy, physiotherapy and curative education approaches that are used in the treatment.
They are intended to improve certain bodily functions such as perception, sensory integration, muscle strength and visual motor skills (the coordination of what is seen with movements) and to help the child to carry out his everyday tasks more successfully.
Treatment works best when the child decides what to do. He should be offered a wealth of sensory experiences so that he can do things that he needs for his further development.
Psychotherapeutic treatment approaches focus more on the emotional state of those affected: They aim to improve self-esteem and help children and adolescents to deal better with their everyday difficulties.
Controversial occupational therapy
According to the Child Health Foundation, occupational therapy has come under criticism in recent years as a “fashion treatment”.
Critics warn of an escalating therapy boom: Even if a child does not really like to tinker or knead in daycare, many parents would be unsettled by the educators with the hasty advice to have their child treated with occupational therapy or physiotherapy because of alleged developmental deficits.
After enrollment, parents would often receive a recommendation from the teachers to have the child prescribed occupational therapy for poor performance in writing or doing sports.
Much to the sadness of the private pediatricians: They are annoyed by the premature diagnoses of people who have not been trained for this and feel pushed to not really necessary prescriptions that overload their limited budget for prescriptions for medicines.
Develop a healthy self-esteem
Although dyspraxia or UEMF is described as a developmental disorder, in the majority of cases it must be expected that it will not “grow out” even at a later age, the Child Health Foundation notes.
According to studies, the motor or language deficits can be demonstrated in more than 50 percent of the affected children in adulthood.
By promoting their skills, however, the children can compensate for their coordination difficulties, expand their ability to act in everyday life and thus develop a healthy self-esteem. (ad)