Does My Child Have Dyspraxia?

Cute toddler smiling on a red slide at a park.
Cute toddler smiling on a red slide at a park.

Noah, our four-year-old, has always been - for want of a better word - a little slow. We've noticed it right from when he was very little: it took him ages to learn how to sit up, and he didn't walk until he was almost two.

Now, he doesn't stop walking. He doesn't stop moving, and races around the place so often and so clumsily that he always seems to be sporting a graze or bump of some kind. He's the bubbliest character you'll ever meet, completely insane, full of energy and smiles.

Noah can kick a ball with the accuracy and pace of Ronaldo; but academically, he struggles. He can't write his name, and only a few of his drawings make any sense.

It seems my wife and I aren't the only ones to spot this. A few weeks ago we were called into his nursery headteacher's office. The staff were concerned that Noah was falling behind, and that he was making up for it by playing the comic and making people laugh. (We just thought he was a bit weird.)

And then the headteacher said that she suspected that Noah had dyspraxia, to which she was met with bemused expressions. Dyslexia we had heard of, but dyspraxia was new.

A little research reveals that dyspraxia is more common than you would perhaps initially think, affecting between 2 of the population - meaning that statistically at least one child in every classroom has the condition.

In the case of the nursery, that one child was Noah; and as his headteacher listed through the common signs of dyspraxia we could tick them off one by one.

From birth, babies with dyspraxia tend to be irritable and may exhibit feeding problems (Noah struggled with breastfeeding, and is our only child to be bottle-fed). They are also slow to meet expected milestones.

As they grow older, children with dyspraxia are often unable to stay still, be highly excited, clumsy, have limited concentration and a lack of fear. They struggle with speech sometimes, and have poor fine motor skills, which means that drawings may appear immature.

Check, check, check. Last year Noah broke his arm by leaping from the top of a slide in the garden. Sometimes his vocabulary is so garbled that only my wife and I can understand him. As we mentally ticked most of the items on an extensive list I felt both relief and a sense of dread.

My relief stemmed from the previous worries my wife and I had that Noah was autistic, or had some other form of disorder. Dyspraxia, although challenging, can be managed if spotted early enough.

The dread came when I thought about Noah's future. He is already falling behind at nursery, and is due to start school in September. What if he continues to fall behind, and the other children notice and make fun of him? Low self-esteem and frustration through being unable to keep up with peers is a common result of dyspraxia, and the last thing we want is Noah turning to hostility and naughtiness because he doesn't fit in.

Right now, Noah is visiting various specialists who will assess him further. We are lucky in that the nursery and school staff are outstanding, and are putting procedures in place to make sure his experience at school is as inspiring and pleasant as possible.

In the meantime, we just have to encourage Noah as much as we can: to draw, write, pay attention...and not jump off slides.