By Melissa Licari and Sarah Pillar
This book for children and their carers and teachers has been compiled from the words of children who struggle to learn and perform movement skills required for daily life. It is a book full of hope: most difficulties can be overcome in time and with practice. The book is an initiative of the researchers from Telethon Kids Institute in Perth.
Movement is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life.
Learning to dress, use a knife and fork, hold and manoeuvre a pencil, and catch a ball are just some of the movement skills acquired during childhood. All children will experience disappointment and frustration when a desired movement is not executed according to plan. With ongoing practice and experience, most children will go on to perform movement skills required for daily life with success and ease.
For some children though, movement is not easily acquired, no matter how hard they try. Some will have prominent movement delay and difficulties from a very early age. Others will have movement difficulties more noticeable during the early school years when the complexity of movements become more challenging. This is common for children with DCD (often referred to as dyspraxia), a motor skills disorder not commonly identified or diagnosed, affecting ~5% of school-aged children.
It is important that children displaying ‘persistent’ movement difficulties (at any age) be identified and supported. Movement difficulties not only impacts a person’s ability to develop skills, it also impacts their ability to engage and participate with their peers. Children with movement-related difficulties are often embarrassed and excluded by their peers, and this can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and low self-esteem.
Even though children with movement differences like DCD may not outgrow their movement difficulties, the impact can be reduced if children receive the support needed as early as possible. This will provide them with the best chance of minimising the long-term effects.
This support can come from a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, and may include paediatricians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and psychologists. Teachers also play a critical role in the educational journey for children with movement difficulties by ensuring the tasks and learning environment are suitable or adapted to meet their needs.
The most important support for a child is that provided by their family. Family are the constant in a child’s life and therefore their greatest advocate. Awareness of movement disorders like DCD is lacking, so families play an important role in educating others.