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Embracing the Klutz: Dyspraxia Lived Ch. 2

Welcome Back to the Wonderful World of Dis....Dyspraxia. Today I will be going through the history of this condition. Just because it is fairly unknown and not taught in schools (at least in the US) doesn't mean science has never taken a dive into the condition. The story starts before even the second world war.

Even a cursory glance at the explanation of the history of dyspraxia shows that some condition like it existed. In his article "Codifying Clumsiness: Tracing the origins of Dyspraxia through a transatlantic constellation of mobility (1866-1948)" Philip Kirby cites Thomas Browne who points out the Greek physician, Galen talked about those who were "double left-handed" and that those "of this constitution are many women, and some men". The latter statement intrigues me because my early dives into dyspraxia said that it was more common in males. However, Galen isn't the only candidate for early mention of something resembling dyspraxia. According to, Hippocrates supposedly mentioned "a condition that sounds very similar to dyspraxia in one of his writings". So it seems at least something akin to dyspraxia has been known since before Christ.

The history of this disorder seems to have major gaps. The first major breakthrough came in the 1930's Samuel Orton. He was doing research into congenital not acquired motor difficulties. According to Kirby's article, "Orton, with his colleague Anna Gillingham, a psychologist, wrote: 'An interesting group of children who in spite of good intelligence and good muscular strength encounter an unusual degree of difficulty in learning any motor patterns which require a high degree of complexity of muscular movements. Such individuals we interpret as cases of congenital apraxia.'" This reminds me of me to a certain extent as I am a generally intelligent person, but I found things like jumping rope or writing difficult and was born with low muscle tone. Then research for the most part stops until the 1960's to 1980's.

Some of the largest advances are in the name of the condition. In 1972, A. Jean Ayres called it "Disorder of sensory integration". This intrigues me because I also was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, particularly hyposensitivity. So it would also make sense that I would have integration issues as well. Then, a few years later, Dr. Gubbay christened it "clumsy child syndrome". This title perhaps led to the misconception that this condition only affects motor abilities and also that it is a purely childhood disorder. While later on, the term dyspraxia caught on and "clumsy child syndrome" fell out of fashion.

Through researching this post, boostneurodiversity taught me two interesting studies have occurred in the last couple decades. One study which their article spoke of, was conducted in 2001 discovered "structural differences in the brains of individuals with dyspraxia". This makes me interested in seeing what my brain scan would look like. But since I have comorbidities I know it would even look different from someone who had dyspraxia alone. The other done in 2015, found “that children with dyspraxia often have difficulty with visual perception, specifically with recognizing patterns. I wonder if this visual perceptions issue could also extend to depth perception something that I often joke about being horrible in me.

While of course the understanding of dyspraxia is still evolving, I like to know that it has at least been recognized, in some shape or form, throughout history. I hope you learned something new, until next time may your life be Merry.


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