Children with dyspraxia face unique challenges with tasks that require muscle strength and coordination. For example, a child with dyspraxia might find it challenging to get dressed or brush their teeth on their own. Dyspraxia also makes playtime involving motor skills and balance more difficult.
Dyspraxia, sometimes called developmental coordination disorder, isn’t a widely known condition, and it often goes undiagnosed. However, some experts believe that dyspraxia affects as many as 10 percent of children to varying degrees. Children with dyspraxia need to be considered when schools, businesses, and communities build inclusive playgrounds. If a playground is thoughtfully designed, it can be used to help children with dyspraxia develop motor skills, make friends, and build strength. An inclusive playground brings children of all abilities together, so no one ever has to feel left out.
In this post, we’ll explore dyspraxia and how it affects a child. We’ll also share activities for children with motor skill disabilities and how our inclusive playground equipment can help.
What Is Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is a disorder that affects fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills use smaller muscles to complete tasks like writing, tying shoelaces, or cutting paper with scissors. Gross motor skills use larger muscles to do movements like jump, walk, throw, and balance.
Children with dyspraxia may have difficulty with movement, coordination, balance, and certain cognitive skills. Some children might experience problems with language, thought, and perception, which can lead to challenges with learning. However, dyspraxia isn’t related to intelligence. Researchers may describe children with dyspraxia as seeming “out of sync” with their environment. General symptoms of dyspraxia include:
- Appearance of clumsiness
- Inability to coordinate both sides of the body
- Poor balance and hand-eye coordination
- Trouble with motor planning
- Difficulty with fine motor tasks, like putting puzzles together or coloring
Overall, dyspraxia makes it difficult to plan and complete a task. The severity of dyspraxia can vary greatly depending on the individual.
What Causes Dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is something a child is born with, and the cause isn’t yet known. However, some scientists believe that an immaturity of neuron development may be the cause. There are certain risk factors associated with dyspraxia, such as:
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Substance or alcohol use during pregnancy
- Family history of dyspraxia
- Being male
Although not always the case, children with dyspraxia may have other conditions with similar symptoms, though they don’t affect the same motor skills. These include:
- Autism spectrum disorder: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impacts how a child learns and interacts with others.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a common disorder characterized by difficulty in focusing and hyperactivity. Children with ADHD may find it challenging to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors.
- Dyslexia: Dyslexia is a common learning disorder that affects the language-processing areas of the brain. Children with dyslexia have trouble reading and spelling words.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dyspraxia?
The symptoms of dyspraxia can vary substantially between individuals. Sometimes, it can be hard to determine if a child has dyspraxia or a different condition — or no condition at all. Let’s look at the common signs and symptoms of dyspraxia from infancy to adolescence.
Babies and Toddlers
Symptoms of dyspraxia are usually noticeable from a very early age. For example, babies with dyspraxia may have feeding difficulties and be slow to reach developmental milestones, such as sitting up on their own or rolling over. Other signs include:
- Sensitivity to loud sounds
- Difficulty sleeping
- High levels of activity in the arms and legs
- Unusual body positions or postures
- Delays in walking, crawling, standing, potty training, and speaking
- Difficulty learning how to eat with utensils
- Trouble playing with toys that require coordination
Some parents might not discover their child has dyspraxia until they’re preschool age or older. As children enter their preschool years, the signs of dyspraxia usually become more apparent. Parents might notice their children experiencing difficulty with the following:
- Small movements, such as writing and fastening buttons and zippers
- Getting dressed
- Playing games that require coordination, such as hopscotch or catch
- Classroom activities such as coloring, drawing, putting puzzles together, and using scissors
- Processing thoughts or concentrating
- Going up or down stairs
- Learning new skills
- Holding a pencil
- Comprehending instructions
- Organizing movements
Young children with dyspraxia may also display the following signs:
- An inability to sit still
- High levels of excitability
- Temper tantrums
- Messy eating
- Tactile sensitivity
School-age children with dyspraxia commonly find it challenging to socialize and learn new things in school. School-age children with dyspraxia may show difficulties with the following:
- Adapting to a school routine
- Tying shoelaces
- Writing legibly
- Remembering instructions
- Completing classwork on time
- Using a knife and fork together
- Making friends
School-age children with dyspraxia may avoid physical activity or play with other children due to challenges with movement and coordination. This can make it difficult to find new friends and build relationships. All of this can understandably lead to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem.
It’s important for children to understand that their symptoms can improve by developing and building motor skills. Teachers and parents can support children with dyspraxia by encouraging them to challenge themselves, and by reminding them of a bright future ahead.
Is There a Cure for Dyspraxia?
While some children’s symptoms will resolve over time without any form of treatment, this isn’t common. There’s no cure for dyspraxia, but children can improve and manage symptoms with various therapies and tools. The type of treatment a child receives will depend on their symptoms and the severity of the disorder.
Since everyone experiences dyspraxia differently, each child must follow an individualized treatment plan to experience the most success. A child might work with occupational therapies, psychologists, and speech and language therapists to treat dyspraxia. Teachers and parents must provide support, as well.
With the right treatment plan and regular practice, a child with dyspraxia can learn how to dress, tie their shoes, walk, and play at the playground. When they get the treatment they need, they’ll start to experience greater confidence and higher self-esteem — all leading to a healthier, happier child.
Playground Activities for Children With Dyspraxia
The best way to treat dyspraxia is through physical education and perceptual-motor training. Perceptual motor training is the combination of movement with thinking tasks. Parents, teachers, and therapists can use the playground to help implement a treatment plan for this disorder. At the playground, children with dyspraxia can develop and build balance, coordination, and motor planning skills, and have fun at the same time. They’ll also have the chance to work on social skills, building confidence as they learn, play, and grow.
How to Help Children With Dyspraxia Play
Teachers, parents, and other caregivers can help children with dyspraxia improve their motor skills by motivating them to participate in playtime fun and providing activities to help them get started. Caregivers will want to pay special attention to the following areas:
- Increasing alertness and attention: By increasing alertness and attention, children will be ready to respond quickly if they lose their balance or face changes in the environment.
- Building core strength: Children with dyspraxia can benefit from improved core strength. Core strength refers to the large central muscles and helps provide greater stability.
- Teaching skills in simple steps: Caregivers should choose a specific skill and help the child learn it in one or two steps. They should slowly combine the steps until the skill can be completed entirely. For example, if a child is trying to learn how to skip, they should first be taught how to step and then hop, before combining the two.
- Slowly increasing the duration: Once a child gets the hang of a new skill, caregivers should gradually increase the duration or intensity to improve their endurance.
- Promoting activities that develop a range of skills: Caregivers should provide ways for children to practice balance, coordination, strength, endurance, body awareness, and movement planning.
Fun Ways to Play and Grow
Here are some ways for children with motor skill disabilities to play, which will help them develop and improve their skills:
- Hopscotch: Hopscotch involves tossing a marker into a pattern of squares and then hopping through them to grab the object without touching the lines. Hopscotch helps kids develop balance because they must hop on their feet in different ways. It also promotes core strengthening because children need to lift their bodies to move and jump, and it increases hand-eye coordination because players need to be able to toss an object in the right square. Lastly, hopscotch helps children develop cognitive and social skills as they learn how to play and work together.
- Swinging: Swinging is a fun way for children to develop balancing skills and learn where their body is in space. As they push themselves higher and higher, they’ll also build strength and coordination, and they’ll practice fine motor skills as they grip the chain.
- Climbing: Climbing on playground equipment helps kids develop an awareness of their bodies. They must know where their body parts are and how to use them to climb up and down. Climbing is another way to build strength without noticing because it’s so much fun. Overhead climbing, in particular, can help kids develop motor planning skills as they learn to move from bar to bar, one hand at a time.
- Obstacle course: The entire play structure can serve as an obstacle course to get kids using different muscles and skills. Teachers or parents can give a child a series of obstacles to overcome, such as going down a slide, swinging three times, and then touching a pole when they’re finished. Caregivers might use a timer to encourage children to complete the obstacle course a second time and beat their previous record.
- Imaginative play: Imaginative play is a fun and motivating way to get kids moving. At the playground, children can fill different roles as they set their imaginations free, all while getting exercise and building muscles. They might use the playground as the perfect setting for being a princess, pirate, astronaut or animal to play out stories with other children. When you mix imagination with physical activity, kids can’t help but have fun.
- Balancing: Balancing can be challenging for all children, and dyspraxia makes it even trickier. Children with dyspraxia can start developing and practicing balancing skills on the ground by placing one foot in front of the other, walking backward, hopping on one leg, or standing on one leg. Once a child strengthens their balancing skills, caregivers can add new challenges like walking on a balancing beam.
- Ball games: Ball games such as kickball or basketball help kids build coordination as they practice holding, throwing, and maneuvering the ball. Ball games also help children develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they practice making decisions quickly. Children can slowly develop ball skills by first playing with balloons, bubbles, or other slow-moving balls.
- Sliding: Who doesn’t love the feeling of gliding down a slide? Playground slides make it easy to motivate children with dyspraxia to work their muscles and build motor skills. When a child climbs to the top of the slide, they must use their muscles, balance, and coordination. They also have to stay balanced as they hold themselves up to slide down. Lastly, children have to judge when to put their feet down once they get closer to the bottom of the slide, which helps them build spacial awareness.
With lots of positive feedback and encouragement, kids with dyspraxia will feel more motivated to continue practicing new skills. The goal is to help children gradually build their way up to advanced tasks, so they feel challenged but not frustrated.
Inclusive Playground Equipment for All Kids
At Playworld, we’re committed to designing and creating innovative playground equipment that gets kids excited to play. Our inclusive playground equipment is meant to be enjoyed by children of all abilities. Using fun and colorful designs and materials, our equipment promotes skill development as well as playing together. When children are playing and having fun, they don’t even notice they’re growing, learning, and strengthening their muscles.
Here’s a list of our exciting playground equipment made for inclusive play:
- Bambino™ Playville: Designed for ages two to five, Bambino™ Playville is a unique and colorful multi-sensory playground. With Playville, kids can climb the beehive, test their balance on the stepping stones, slide next to a friend, engage with musical activity panels, or take a break in the cozy cocoon. They’ll stimulate all of their senses and develop balancing skills, all while they have a blast.
- infiNET™ INET-1700: The INET-1700 is a large netted platform that connects slides, climbers, and other pieces of playground equipment. Kids ages two to 12 can climb up the INET together to reach their favorite playground piece while having a ton of fun getting there and exercising along the way. INETs are used to replace traditional platforms, tunnels, and bridges with something that visually opens up space and adds new excitement to the play experience for all kids.
- Unity® SpinR 1 Seat: A new take on the classic merry-go-round, the Unity® SpinR 1 Seat features angled sides where kids can climb, spin, sit, and hang out. SpinRs are also available with one or two recessed, outward-facing seats to help children with poor trunk control enjoy a ride with friends. Kids of all abilities can enjoy whirling, pushing, and riding together, as it accommodates up to 10 happy spinners. It also features a unique hole in the center where kids can hide, peek out, and engage in imaginative play.
- Unity® Dome: The Unity® Dome provides opportunities to play from different angles. Children can climb the steel rings or hang from them when they play inside the dome. They can also go inside the net “chimney” to be in the center of all the action. Outside the dome, kids can challenge themselves to climb to the top. You can also choose to equip the climber with sensory connectors, so children can play drums, a washboard, or a tambourine next to their peers.
- Triumph™ Climber: The Triumph™ Climber is an all-steel inclusive climber with different levels of challenges for all kids to climb. When kids can climb and conquer challenges together, they build their self-esteem as they increase their strength.
- AeroGlider™: AeroGlider™ is a great place to make friends. This fun, colorful glider promotes teamwork and motor skill development as kids push, pull, and sway together. There’s room for adults to sit in the glider, too, to help shy children feel more comfortable around new friends.
- Cruise Line: Cruise Line is an improvement of the traditional swing and was designed to create the sensation of flying through the air. Cruise Line provides an exciting and unique way for kids to glide back and forth together.
- NEOS® 360 Original: The 360 Original is an exciting, fun, and competitive electronic playground game that takes the action of video games and combines it with movement. Featuring a circular design and stimulating panels, kids build spatial awareness skills and get their hearts pumping as they play different games.
- Balance Trax BT-1201: Balance Trax BT-1201 features uneven platforms, sturdy handrails, and playful design to encourage children of all abilities to build balance skills and engage in imaginative play.
- Cozy Cocoon: The Cozy Cocoon is a safe and enclosed space with windows and interesting molded features and textures. The Cozy Cocoon is perfect for times when kids feel overstimulated and need to recharge.
- Quattro Seesaw: The Quattro Seesaw helps kids build strength and develop coordination and cooperation skills. This durable and fun seesaw accommodates four riders and also has room in the center platform for one more passenger to hop onboard.
- Five Congas: Every playground needs a little music, and Five Congas is a great way to fill the air with rhythm and song. Five Congas stimulates creativity and helps kids ease into social situations. Musical playground equipment can help kids of all abilities and personalities feel welcome.
Buy Inclusive Playground Equipment at Playworld
Children with dyspraxia deserve to play, grow, and learn just like any child. At Playworld, we see playtime as a basic human need — that’s why we design innovative equipment to give kids of all abilities the chance to reap the physical, mental, and social benefits of play.
Whether you need to incorporate more inclusive equipment into the playground at your school, business, or community or need help designing and creating a great playground from scratch, we’re here to help. As industry leaders who believe that playgrounds can empower all children, promote health, and build confidence, we’re passionate about bringing our equipment to playgrounds around the country. To get started, request a quote today!