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Dyspraxia and High Ability

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: My son is 5 and 2 months. The school are I feel heading down the route of diagnosing dyspraxia based on the fact that he has no dominant hand for writing and his writing is large and messy and poor drawing skills. He is not a sporty child and 'tunes out' in class and is apparently sensitive to noise and slow to follow instructions. However I am concerned. He is certainly one of the best boy readers in his class (as I help out) knows all his times tables, asks questions persistently like what would happen if you put water on electricity? or how could you get a car to move on its own?

Questions which most his age do not seem to consider, is highly perceptive to others emotions and needs and although a very happy child does not slot easily into the school format. His father is a doctor and has a high IQ and was suggested to be 'special needs' in the 70s. It also concerns me as my son is mixed race and has possibly already been labeled. I would be so grateful for an objective perspective?

A: Dyspraxia is condition where children are seen clumsy or manifest some inadequacy in controlling objects (e.g., paper, pencil, etc.) in degrees that vary. There is a possibility for some to be good at hand-eye coordination while some are not able to. Medical researches have indicated that dyspraxia can be the result of very swift brain functioning which in turn fails to translate into physical action. The end results are children who may be very thoughtful and sometimes quick with ideas, but at the same time, not able to put their thoughts into action.

Often described and seen as clumsy, dyspraxic children may have difficulties with handwriting. Giftedness is often combined with dyspraxia (just like what some experts suggest that dyslexic children tend to gear towards high ability). Firstly, you need to get him checked to determine if he indeed has this condition. From your description, there isn't enough indication to consider him dyspraxic. You need to act soon as if he is dyspraxic, there are treatments that he would need to undergo and the earlier done the better the results.

However, he appears to have high ability for his age, hence possibly gifted. You can have him checked for his intelligence especially since his father has a high IQ and a good part of our IQs are determined by our genes. If he's gifted and dyspraxic, you should respond in a manner consistent with other children treated for dyspraxia, at the same time given learning advancement based on his ability level.

But the fact that behavioral difficulties are so often associated with certain categories of children, and being labeled with dyspraxia is one of them, it reinforces the way teachers, parents and children themselves react to the situation. Racial issues should not at all discriminate him further and the best thing for you to do is to perhaps speak to the higher authorities of the school regarding your concerns. I am sure it will not turn to deaf ears as no education system encourages any kind of labeling. Your child psychologist would be able to refer and guide you further on this matter.


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