Saturday, 7 April 2012

How to help a child with dyspraxia eat

The term "dyspraxia" is derived from two Greek words: 'dys' meaning abnormal and "praxis' meaning doing. A child with this disability has difficulty planning and carrying out movements. When his brain sends the message to his nerves and muscles that he wants to carry out an action, some part of the process is disrupted. He may have great difficulty accomplishing very simple tasks like printing or tying his shoelaces.

One of the greatest challenges facing parents of a child with dyspraxia, is that of encouraging him to eat and drink sufficient amounts of nourishing food to maintain good health. These children are very active, easily distracted, and dislike sitting still for any length of time. They are notoriously messy eaters. Here are some tips that parents of these children may find useful:

* Try to have meals at the same time each day. Routine is especially beneficial for children with dyspraxia.

* Give a few minutes warning so he can plan a pause in his activity. " Lunch in five minutes, Dear."

* Minimize distractions; no radio or TV . Close the curtains if there is any action taking place outside the window.

* When he is seated on the chair, move it in under the table as far as you can, so that his body touches the edge. Place his plate near him. The less distance he has to transport each mouthful, the better.

* Place a damp towel under his plate to keep it from slipping.

* Tuck a napkin under his chin, or place it on his lap, to catch drips and crumbs.

* Choose food that is easy to handle. A steak, cut into pieces is better than a chicken leg, or corn on the cob.

* Encourage him to eat slowly and chew each bite well.

* Use praise liberally. It's great motivation for him to keep trying.

* Cut large pieces of food into bite-sized pieces. The child may prefer to use his fingers, but as he nears school age he should be encouraged to use cutlery. Many parents have found a spoon to be a good starter utensil.

* Place all condiments near him or insist that he ask for them to be passed. If he tries to reach across the table, an accident may result.

* For drinks, a sipping cup might be best until he nears school age. Then he can progress to a cup or mug, but it should be filled only half full.

* Flexible straws are helpful for juice boxes or cans.

* Some children are very sensitive to the different textures of food. They may like ice cream and yoghurt but hate crunchy vegetables or nuts. Be adaptable. Mashed or pureed cauliflower has just as many vitamins as the "al dente" type.

* For school lunches, sandwiches cut in quarters are often suitable. Alert the teacher that he may need help opening juice boxes, drink cans, yoghurt containers, or other packaging.

* Once a "less than perfect" meal is over, forget it. Persistent complaints about his eating behaviour may make the child dislike all food and result in the next mealtime being even more difficult.

The most important thing for parents to remember in dealing with every aspect of their special child's life, is to love and enjoy him every day just the way he is. If he is assured of your unconditional love and support, he will move ahead with confidence and may achieve and even surpass what was expected of him during his early years.

"When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece." John Ruskin (1849-1906)

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