Friday, 20 December 2013

Developmental Delays and Missing Milestones (DCD, Dyslexia, ADHD and SPD) by Dyslexia Dublin © 2013

We often wonder about development in our children, like when should they sit, crawl, walk and talk.
We know from being around people we are all different in so many respects, but in the main areas like sitting, crawling, walking etc. we are pretty predictable.  So why do some of us appear to be later at hitting these nonetheless important milestones?  
There are four milestones that we are concerned with in early child development and they are - Motor Development both fine and gross (movement of limbs and core), Cognitive (thinking), Communication (speech development and basic understanding of needs) and Social and Emotional (engaging with others).  It’s worth mentioning that there are parameters in normal development and we should only get concerned if we get well past these dates (walking between 10 and 18 months).  Now let’s take a closer look…
We know in the case of DCD (developmental co-ordination disorder) that due to the nature of the syndrome, we are likely to fall short on many of our aforementioned milestones.
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One answer could be we quite possibly try to bite off more than we are able to chew.  One of the most unfortunate things is memory and if we all stop for a minute… how far can you remember back to?  Was it five or six? maybe not as far back as that.  Few of us can go back to the point where we should have hit certain milestones… it would be great if we could. We would be able to explain to our peers why we find these complex hurdles so problematic.
I once heard that if it takes someone without a learning need x time to learn a new skill then multiply that by 4 for someone with a learning need… so did it takes us a few months to figure out how to crawl?  Then it would take up to 8 months longer for someone say with DCD to learn to crawl.  I bum shuffled and never crawled.
Back to what I started to say earlier… maybe there is a possibility that we find crawling very complex and would have fared better if we had the ability then to break it down to arm movements and then followed by the leg movement. I know this was the case when I learnt to swim… I just couldn’t get the whole front crawl thing in one go and to this day I only do the breast stroke as I find the whole leg-arm and breathing thing in the front crawl far too much to take on.
This planning can also apply to social interaction and conversational fluency in such things as Asperger’s (DSM5) and Dyslexia. These can be further inhibited by destructive criticism and low self-esteem which causes us to withdraw from the vary areas that would aid our development.
Much of our learnt behaviour comes from listening to others through our visual or auditory channel, however those with DCD learn far more from watching and it’s important the person showing the tasks understands the need to slow the process down and make it repetitive for a successful outcome.
DCD and Dyslexia are things that never leave us but we can minimise their impact with time and the right help.
You may have heard me mention in previous articles that both Dyslexics and Dyspraxics have great imagination and superb long term memories, this all helps to build up our required skill sets.  Quite often we would fall short on our immediate memory and memory recall; this is due to lack of understanding in presented tasks and also through lack of stimulation. We like to use imaginative play like that in Lego, puzzles, things that are colourful, creative and can fuel our imagination.
You don’t have to look far for someone else with dyspraxia or dyslexia, as it affects between 6 and 10% of the population.
We can also have delayed speech due to poor facial muscle tone and the co-ordination required to produce early words, again time spent working with us on a one-to-one basis reaps great results (speech and language therapy).  We benefit from over learning these early routines; practice.
We generally show early signs of inactivity and later appear to be very clumsy, hence the early title for dyspraxia of clumsy child syndrome.
There also appears a link between dyslexia and dyspraxia to justify thoughts of some, but not all, that both have an impairment/deficit in the cerebellar area of the brain, which controls much of our motor skill including posture, limb movement and eye hand co-ordination and this can affect phonological processing (vagueness of new and unfamiliar words)  and hand writing. This can also lead to frustration and would lead many to believe that this could include ADHD.
The cerebellar is the main controller in planning and motor control but not the initiator, this occurs in other areas of the brain.  The cerebellar does the fine tuning making our actions smoother and more deliberate.  This is a good pointer towards dyspraxics like myself being clumsy on occasions… I can overcome this, as can many like me, by slowing things down, practicing and concentrating when carrying out tasks.  We can also include balance etc., as the receptors in the body suddenly recognise rapid changes in limb movements, such as coming downstairs carrying something (constant weight changes), signals to the brain and the cerebellar makes the required change rapidly… in dyspraxics this has to be adjusted as we go and is far from automatic.
We can also count SPD in on this, we rely on receptors to calculate high, medium and low tolerance, especially where temperature is concerned.  We can all relate to being in a room where one of us is too hot, one too cold and another quite happy with the temperature… maybe you have never associated this with sensory processing disorder.
The cerebellar also plays an important role in improving co-ordination.  An example would be catching a ball… each time we try to catch, this important area of the brain would try to make adjustments, along with the eye and hand, until the technique is mastered.
The cerebellar is virtually the last area of our brain to mature and can go some way to explaining why many feel that DCD ebbs with age!
There is growing evidence to point to the importance of early intervention whilst the cerebellar and other areas are developing (plasticity), as opposed to later in life when the corrective actions take far longer to implant (requirement to over learn).
Thankfully, there is plenty of information on all the above and great resources available to help improve skill sets.
All our articles are aimed at giving guidance and we always advice that you seek the relevant professional advice. Dyslexia Dublin ©2013
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