When assessing a child for dyspraxia, what will the occupational therapist be checking for?
The occupational therapist (OT) will be looking to see if the child has difficult coming up with ideas for play, or craft, or construction. For example, can they think of things to build when playing with Lego? Can they come up with an idea for a picture when drawing? Or can they think of a game to play with their toys?
They may look for issues with tactile discrimination. Tactile discrimination links to the child or adult’s ability to interpret touch sensory inputs. We discuss it further here.
The therapist will check if the child can plan and organise their ideas. Children with dyspraxia typically can’t figure out what to do. They may have an idea to create a cubby house, but not be able to figure out how to do this with the furniture and materials available. Their idea might be to draw a car, but they won’t be able to think about how to do this. They will not automatically think that the wheels could be made by drawing circles. Once they draw a car, they will likely still need help to draw a bus as they won’t necessarily generalise the plan to a new drawing. If given materials and an idea, can they create something? If you ask them to tidy up a space, can they figure out where to put things without very specific instructions?
Checking with parents and teachers
OTs will ask parents or teachers if the child finds learning new skills difficult. One of the biggest challenges children and adults with dyspraxia have is learning new skills. This is because they find ideas and planning difficult. New skills require a lot of planning. Once you have done the activity you have an idea on how to do it and then know how to do it again next time.
They will also ask about organisation of materials and time management.
What will the outcome of a dyspraxia assessment be?
This will depend on the service who has completed the assessment and why it has been requested. You may receive a summary or a longer report outlining the therapist’s findings and any signs of dyspraxia they have observed. If the referral has come from your paediatrician then the therapist will provide information to help to inform their decision on diagnosis.
A home programme or list of support ideas may be provided. This may include ideas to help with self care skills, handwriting an/or sports. These vary depending on the individuals needs and preferences.
Additional therapy may be recommended and this will vary depending on the service that provided the assessment. Some therapists will recommend direct 1:1 therapy. This could include using a sensory integration approach. There is good evidence for the CO-OP approach and this is used by many teams. More services are also moving to a parent coaching model where they provide parents or teachers with support to help them to identify how best to help the child to succeed.
Understanding the symptoms of dyspraxia
Having an understanding of the signs and symptoms of dyspraxia can help you to know if an assessment is needed. If dyspraxia or DCD is diagnosed, then this helps parents, teachers and the individual to have an understanding of why they find activities more challenging than their peers. As Ellie said in her TED talk, having the diagnosis was empowering and helped her parents to seek out the right support. It also helped her to know the Brownies was a more suitable and enjoyable extra-curricular activity for her than Ballet. Understanding is the first step in providing support.
Where to next?
Now you have read about the symptoms of dyspraxia, next we would recommend our post on how to help you can read it here How to Help Children with Dyspraxia – 8 Support Strategies.
If you would like to learn more about dyspraxia we recommend our post – What is Dyspraxia? It’s much more than clumsiness!
If you would like to learn more about sensory processing and dyspraxia we recommend our online training – Sensory Processing with GriffinOT.
Feet on rock – Photo by Sebastiaan Stam on Unsplash, Girl 1 – Rajesh Rajput on Unsplash, Boy 1 – Jonas Mohamadi on Pexels, Girl with feathers – Photo by Mike Fox on Unsplash
This NHS article on DCD also provides further information.