I was recently at our Combined Sections Meeting for the American Physical Therapy Association and I sat in on a talk called ‘Developmental Dyspraxia: Sensory Considerations for Motor Skill Development’. It was presented by a PT and an OT. It was a great presentation and looked at some of the various types of dyspraxia that are out there and how they are similar and how they are different.
Here is the definition of Developmental Dyspraxia that they used: ‘the failure to have acquired the ability to perform age appropriate complex motor functions.’ The definition of Participation they used is: involvement in life situations and includes physical, social, and self-engagement in activities.’
What struck me most about this talk, and my biggest take-away was the fact that kids with Developmental Dyspraxia, or coordination challenges, can find a back door into Participation through social engagement.
We talked about Participation in a previous blog post but I wanted to revisit it for a second. Participation is one of our main focuses when we work with kids. We are helping them with various skills so that they can find a way to belong and contribute to their community throughout their development.
In this day and age, a lot of kids are enrolled in a plethora of after school and weekend activities. For a child who struggles with gross motor or other aspects of development, this may not be fun for them and they may feel isolated or left out, they may also not want to go or participate. And this is why I loved the take-away I had from the talk. If we alter the activity so that the child finds it enjoyable and they find a sense of belonging or community, they will enjoy participating in the community. As they enjoy participating they will want to participate more, and they may even be willing to try activities that are challenging for them. And now you have started to create a cycle of success.
An example could be: your family loves to go bike riding in the park but your middle child struggles to ride a bike and doesn’t want to do it. What if you switched to taking a walk in the park as a family so that you were all able to participate and have fun? If they enjoy it they are going to want to go the next time. Maybe one of the times they will want to ride the bike for part of the time. You have just helped them to enjoy being outside with your family, so they are active, even if it isn’t riding a bike, and through this enjoyment you are fostering their desire to continue to be engaged in this activity.
I’m not sure if I’m making sense. I’ll try again with another example. You really want your child to be on the soccer team. Whenever they play soccer they struggle to keep up and they end up sitting on the sidelines or they feel that their teammates get frustrated with them. They start to push back when it comes time for practice and games until all of a sudden they just want to stay home. What if you got them involved in brownies or cub scouts, or informal play groups, or maybe some type of martial arts? They could develop a sense of belonging with a group/community that they enjoy belonging to. With enjoyment they may be willing to try playing soccer with their friends or siblings just for fun.
The key is, we want kids to want to engage in their community and with their families and peers. Finding social outlets to get kids involved can be a great step in this direction and then introducing the activities they find to be challenging.
I hope I didn’t make this too confusing, I was just so excited when I heard it that I wanted to share. I would love to hear stories of how you have successfully navigated supporting your child to participate meaningfully in their community, however they define it.