APRAXIA In Children

I have been interested in Learning Difficulties from the day I had started teaching (in 1965). I have studied a lot (I actually still do). I am a qualified early childhood, pre-school, primary, high school and special education teacher. I am a teacher for the deaf and hearing impaired, as well as a speech therapist (majored in defectology, specialised in hearing, language and speech impaired).

I have designed and implemented numerous programs for sensory, physically and mentally impaired children.

I became very interested in children diagnosed with apraxia (dyspraxia) many years ago. The term apraxia has been known from the beginning of the last century, yet educationalists shy away from it. Apraxic children are still misdiagnosed. Every decade they (apraxic children) are placed in a different group. In my lifetime they were called mentally retarded, clumsy, uncoordinated, aphasic, dyslexic, hyperactive, ADD, ADHD, more modern term is Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Asperger Syndrome.

The term dyslexia is returning for the third time. Originally Dyslexia was specified as an inability to learn to read, while the ability to learn mathematics was not impaired. Today’s “specialists” categorise any LD child as dyslexic.

The only common denominators for Learning Difficulties, dyslexia, autism, asperger, ADD, ADHD are the causes.

Apraxic children are very clever. After years of reading and working with them, I’m almost sure, that they are extremely bright. The sensory inputs into the brain are very fast, however as the brain gets bombarded with sensory inputs, it gets overstimulated (overloaded), and the balance of excitation and inhibition is hard to keep. The incoming information might be well processed, classified, categorised and stored but difficult to recall and apply.

Each action we perform could be likened to a long chain linking object to object. Every link of the chain has to be attached correctly. If one link is faulty the chain will be broken, the connection will be disrupted. If more links are faulty there will be no chain, only separate bits leading nowhere. 

Let’s imagine the feelings of an apraxic child. The brain is stimulated, perhaps overstimulated and the mechanism blocking out some stimuli is not functioning well or it cannot cope with too many stimuli bombarding the brain. If a brain is overstimulated it has a safety mechanism, the overstimulated brain shuts out all the stimuli, the needed with the not needed. This lasts only for a very short time but if it happens often and sporadically, the output is disrupted (like the broken links of the chain). The messages are not clear, they are not synchronised and ordered.

This dysfunction is characterised by clumsiness in motor activity tasks (writing), poor eye-hand coordination (writing), reduced quality of speech and extra ocular control (focusing problem).

Apraxic children have no linear (ordered) thinking. Their thinking is not based on now, before, after; therefore they cannot comprehend the meaning “do this... and then this and after this do that or what comes before, what comes after.

They live in now.

They cannot plan, because they don’t understand the concept of sequential planning, they cannot transpose themselves into the future time.

Our expectations and explanations are for them very chaotic. They don’t really know what we want and what we mean for them to do.

That is why an apraxic children are not able to learn like the other kids, yet they are intelligent. They can not do the work, because they do not know what they are expected to do. They do not know the steps to use to proceed with the task.

If we look at a page in a book it looks sort of organised but for an apraxic child it actually looks all muddled. We organise things in a linear fashion, they do not.

Apraxic children prefer nonfiction books. The facts are usually organised in a kind of sequential order. There are no tricks, no unexpected plots, no metaphors and no personifications (animals and things acting as humans).

An apraxic child never asks for help at school because he wouldn’t understand the linear explanation. Children tell me: “The teacher talks in gibberish.”

Hana Jay.

List of signs of APRAXIA to look for.


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