The Tale of Bouncing and Dyspraxia.

Today, I have a confession.  I’m no athlete.  Surprised?  Nah, I didn’t think so.

I used to be fairly fit though, before little Tootles came along.  In my 20s and 30s, I worked our regularly at a gym, played squash, rode my bike and hiked.  After Tootles? I tried? Ultimately, all my attempts were failures.  I haven’t been the greatest role model for physical activity for him.

Tootles at 32 days old.

Since Tootles was born, exercise has been harder.  And all along, I thought it would get easier!  I haven’t given up.  Let’s just say I’m in a period of transition.  This is simply background, and to dissuade you from the belief that I spend my days on a couch with a fried chicken leg in one hand, and bon-bons in the other.

Tootles has gross and fine motor skill issues.  He has no peripheral vision.  But despite these things, he can see a Ford Shelby GT, going the opposite direction over 300 feet away.  He can balance on a curb.  He can bounce on a trampoline.  He does 25-30 sit ups in one sitting (under pressure).  He runs and hops.

Holding the rope but not jumping.

He can’t jump rope.  Last week, he couldn’t balance on one foot and he has a lot of difficulty holding his pencil for homework.  In all likelihood, he has dyspraxia.  Mary commented on this post, two weeks ago and introduced me to the concept of dyspraxia (Thank you Mary!) which is defined like this:

Dyspraxia is the generic term used to cover a range of disorders affecting the initiation, organization and performance of action. It has been described as having trouble getting the body to do what we want, when we want. It is an immaturity of the way the brain processes information, resulting in messages not being fully transmitted to the body and is a learning difficulty that can be present from birth (developmental dyspraxia) or as a result of brain damage suffered from a stroke or other trauma (acquired dyspraxia). 

Dyspraxia is also known as a developmental coordination disorder, and may also be present in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, dyslexia and dyscalculia, among others.

Dyspraxia is described as having two main elements

• Ideational dyspraxia – difficulty with planning a sequence of coordinated movements

• Ideo-Motor dyspraxia – difficulty with executing a plan, even though it is known.

You can learn more here.

No one had ever mentioned it to me before.  When I read about it, I felt that Tootles has it.  But I’m just his mom and I’m not sure.

When he was assessed last week by an occupational therapist, he could not stand on one foot.  He also could not bounce a tennis ball with one hand, or alternate between hands while bouncing.  He could not catch a ball.

Within 24 hours of that assessment, I purchased a ‘playground’ ball.

What do you mean “bounce” it?                   What’s the point?

Every day since, my husband, Tootles and I have been outside trying to get him to bounce the ball.  The first day, he did not bounce it once without hand over hand help.  He’d watch it roll away.

He also has a devilish side.  We live in a woodsy area.  With rattlesnakes making special appearances.  He’d look at us, raise the ball and throw it out in the woods.  We explained about the snakes and how if we get bit, we will have to go to the hospital.  After that, he looked his dad in the eye and said, “Want Daddy to go to the hospital!” laughed, and threw the ball out there again.  It’s not evil.  He just doesn’t get the “danger”.

His intent is to force us to quit.  It’s hot.  It’s not easy.  So, he does it to get his way.  Too bad.  We get the ball and he has to continue.  We’ve added time outs for throwing it.  No success.  But something did make a difference, night before last.

I told him, “If you can bounce the ball 10 times in a row, like this (I demonstrate), then you don’t have to take a bath tonight.  If you can’t, you go straight to the tub.”  He got that.  

Okay, I hit it.

Repeatedly, like basketball you mean?

And the very next time, he bounced that ball like his life depended on it.  I think the child is now ready for the NBA.  He bounced it 12 times in a row to be sure.  He declared victory (“NO BATHIE!!”) and danced.

So if this is dyspraxia, everyone can stop the research.  I have the cure.  The only prerequisite is that your kid hates bath time as much as mine.  He was a little stinky that night but it was worth it.

Last night, he was going into the tub, like it or not.  We braved the rattlesnake den several times once he learned that 10 times in a row was not going to earn him a “bath pass” but he did bounce it.

I pulled out his baseball gear as well.  He loves his Fisher Price pitching machine.  Whatever hand-eye coordination issues he has, they do not involve the mechanics of hitting a ball with the bat on this thing:

Can you tell he likes this thing?



Dad and I also pitched a few and he made contact with about 75 percent of them.

When we came inside.  I asked him to stand on one foot.  “I wanna stop doing this,” he said, as we began.  He tried to hold my hand.  He tried to hold a chair.  I told him no each time.  “Just lift your foot a little.”

He did it for the count of three!  Both feet!

Sometimes, it’s hard to sort his behaviors from his disability.  Or maybe he’s just learning quickly and gaining confidence. I don’t know.  All I know is what he could not do last week, he can do now.  I’ll take it.  No questions asked.  (Well, okay maybe a couple questions.)

Post bath and haircut.


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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33 Responses to The Tale of Bouncing and Dyspraxia.

  1. Lisa says:

    Wow…glad you found his motivation! For us, the reward would be to GET his bath…maybe a longer than usual one. 🙂

    I hope he continues to make progress like this with his motor skills. How amazing!

    P.S. Cute little man w/ his haircut! Do you cut his hair??

    • solodialogue says:

      Haha! Opposites! Once he gets IN the bath, he doesn’t want to come out. Weird,huh? I think it’s that chill before you dry off and the getting the hair wet & shampoo of course!

      Yes, sadly it is me who cuts it. As long as I stay away from the front, its not so bad… But I shudder even thinking of taking him somewhere for that experience!!

  2. Mary says:

    I’m glad I mentioned dyspraxia now. It’s hard to believe you hadn’t heard of it. Well, not really. Freckles was on her second year of OT before I’d heard of dyspraxia. We were going to Social Skills group at 4pm so as not to miss school and the OT casually mentioned that we could come at 3pm for Dyspraxia group in the sensory gym. Um, ok. So I go home to look up dyspraxia…

    Probably though, it’s just a general term and the OT for it gets incorporated into everything else. ?

    I’m am SO using that bath trick. Freckles has not had a bath since… I’ll just say I don’t remember and leave it at that. She thinks because it is summer that she does not need baths anymore. She will get one today because we see the neurologist early in the morning! And thanks again for writing about all of that. We probably won’t get any tests yet but we know what to expect. I will show her some of your pics later today so she sees it’s not scary and doesn’t involve needles. She mentioned something about aliens wanting to read her brain…

    Now do you guys know anything about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation? There were some grandparents who were taking their 7yo (at the time) grandson to TMS trials at U of L. They thought it was helping him. He was the youngest in the study (maybe anywhere? I can’t remember). The study would run for a while and then it would stop until they got more money so it wasn’t consistent. The little boy had autism, but the grandmother said they were testing TMS for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, etc. Much better than shock therapy. I will be sure to ask the neurologist about it tomorrow and see if he thinks it has any value.

    • solodialogue says:

      Guess what? We’re just heading into our second year of OT! I’m hoping that it was just an oversight and/or miscommunication rather than not considered! I will find out – partly today when we finish up assessments.

      Oh the drama associated with the bath!

      As for the trans-cranial, magnetic stimulation, I read about it and thought it looked promising, but our neurologist says there is not enough data for it yet. John Elder Robison (“Look Me in the Eye” author) went through it and said it was like a cloud or fog lifted if I recall correctly- you can read it here

      So excited that you may have an EEG soon for your daughter!! That ‘alien brain reading’ can be the biggest break through ever with the right neurologist on your side! Thanks again Mary! Your words are reaching more people than you may think. 🙂

  3. SensiGirl goes to an occupational therapist twice a week, the clinic is called Theraplay. They do all the bouncing balls, swings, and balancing tricks and they have a fun ball pit too. Insurance pays for it and I get to talk to the other mommies while I wait if I am lucky.
    Last week we brought her bike in to see why she was having difficulty riding it. Ms. L figured it out right away. If Toots is assessed as having dyspraxia, you could have him go to the occupation therapist for help too, and then you don’t have to brave the snakes.

    • solodialogue says:

      You know he’s been going to two different OTs for two years now and they have never worked with him on this bouncing at all! The school district OT was the first to even assess him and that was based on some written test guideline she was following!!

      So, yes regardless of his OT sessions we will still brave the snakes! 😉 He currently goes just once a week for 45 minutes in which she tries to cover lots of sensory issues so I think we will still play ball in the evenings! It’s a good exercise thing too – I have to put down that bonbon and run around…

  4. Allie says:

    That is some quick and awesome progress! GO TOOTLES!!!!
    I don’t guess there was the term dyspraxia when I was a child but I had a lot of trouble with motor planning and was pulled out of class for a “special” gym class. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that the special class meant I was behind. I always thought I was pulled out because I was really good at something =)

    • solodialogue says:

      It’s funny how when we grow up and look back, some things are different than we thought they were! I like how your mind worked! That must’ve made for some excellent self-esteem, which is always a good thing, in the right amount, of course. 🙂

  5. Grace says:

    My son’s doc always called it “developmental coordination disorder,” not dyspraxia, but she diagnosed him with this a couple of years ago, so I know exactly what you’re talking about.

    My son has absolutely no interest in sports because he’s just not good at them, and he knows it. I accepted long ago that he will never be a professional athlete and buy his mother a big house. I’m OK with that.

    For pete’s sake, stay out of the woods and out of the ER.

    • solodialogue says:

      Ooh but there’s a delicious danger with the creak of the dead pine needles as I freak out at twigs thinking they’re snakes!

      I did confirm today that, at least the school district OT, thinks Toots has dyspraxia. I had to drag it out of her today though. I’ve found this a lot. “Professionals” don’t want to give me the diagnoses. It’s like they think I’ll have a nervous breakdown or murder them the way they tell me like they are backing away and scanning the area for sharp objects. Seriously, people just tell me so I can get the appropriate interventions going already!!!

      Today, I learned that showing Toots each step one by one and teaching him to put them together over time can overcome or defeat his inability to motor plan but it is a slow, methodical process. Is there any doubt? I’m doing it.

      And GRACE- why are you NOT on FB?!!! We NEED YOU!! 😉

  6. Flannery says:

    We have similar issues with not always knowing whether something is related to ability or desire. Hence the copious awards and incentives we use daily. But you know what, I say go with whatever works. Even if that means an occasionally stinky kid, as long as you’re not parading his stink through the mall, go with it!

    • solodialogue says:

      What’s wrong with a little mall stink? Those perfume ladies get away with it in the cosmetics department! And I still say a stinky Toots smells better than all of them! 😉

  7. We haven’t had an official dyspraxia diagnosis, but really… we don’t need it. It’s pretty much obvious as soon as you watch Little Miss take one step. And unless we practice a motor plan over and over — she’s NOT going to get it. Unfortunately, our OT is kind of underqualified (I know, I know… I need to get a new one)… and she keeps forgetting that we need to practice the same way every time with LM. Sigh.

    Now, that behavioral thing… let me just tell you we are RIGHT in the middle of that with LM. LM loves her a good power struggle (and it sounds like T does too). We’re trying to find ways to keep LM from initiating the power struggle in the first place — and one of those ways is by increasing the use of visuals. According to the therapist we are working with, there’s no gain to power struggling with a visual — so the changes of compliance are higher… Now, that’s not to say that LM hasn’t found ways to initiate a power struggle anyhow, but things are getting a little better.

    I have so much to blog about after i finally finish going through all these conference notes!

    • solodialogue says:

      Your wealth of knowledge about LM never ceases to amaze me! I don’t know how to use a visual with this ball play routine we have. Do you mean showing him the steps or showing him the activity followed by bath and bath with red circle and line through it or showing him the steps of doing the ball bouncing with a visual?

      I’m excited to read it all! Keep it coming!! 🙂

      And for those of you who don’t know, click on Karla’s link to Beyond the Dryer Vent on my sidebar and you can read her notes summaries from the recent Autism Conference she attended! They have lots of good information and useful tools!!

  8. Lizbeth says:

    We have these issues as well. But I am in love with this because, with effort, these things can be gained, taught. I think I need you to come out and teach Alex how to hit a baseball. That’s always been hard for him. I’m glad you’re finding success–although I’m laughing because I fear he’s going to be scamming out of more and more baths!!!

    • solodialogue says:

      Oh but there lies the flaw! I did not teach him how to hit the baseball. He just knew. And yes, he is trying now, daily to scam his way out of a bath, including asking me tonight to “cancel” it. That’s one vocabulary word he gets. (sigh)

  9. karacteristic says:

    That kid never ceases to amaze me. Be honest, have you weighed the option of letting him smell homeless for a few months? I know I would have. For a few minutes anyway. : )

    • solodialogue says:

      Haha! He’s hypo sensitive to smell. The kid could live at the dump with a pet skunk and not smell a thing. So a few homeless people would end up with a new bud!

  10. lol….no bath. he he… Another clever post and very informative. I have this, too, as it relates to motor skills, following patterns, etc. 🙂 Sam

  11. As always, I am learning a lot from you. Yet another thing to look more into. I’m loving the “no bathie” motivator and will have to test it out! Beautiful picture of you and T – so sweet in your arms.

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks about the photo! It is one of my favorites!

      We all learn from each other! I thank Mary for teaching me and then I was able to pass it on as it impacted me with my son. The autism blogging community is a very rich source of information. I am grateful for everyone I meet here every day, including you! 🙂

  12. Dyspraxia also goes under the name of Developmental Coordination Disorder- or at least that was the version Pudding was diagnosed with. She can’t catch a ball or stand on one leg. It affects her gait, balance, ability to jump. She is in intensive OT and PT, but progress is slow.

    • solodialogue says:

      We never got an official diagnosis but when I did ask the school’s OT about it a couple days ago, she said that yes, he does have it. Sometimes, I wonder about these people. It’s like they are more worried about saying the diagnosis to me than getting him the treatment he needs or maybe they just figure they’ll treat him without telling me what they are treating him for?! Sorry, a bit ranty. Slow progress is still progress, my friend. 🙂

  13. eof737 says:

    Awesome that your persistence paid off… he looks like a pro in a couple of those shots. 😉

  14. I think my Son also has dyspraxia. I know it is associated with autism. He has always struggled with catching balls, hopping, balance etc. and finds holding a pencil and some fine motor things really hard, but if he wants to do things he usually gets there in the end. I have never pursued the idea of a diagnosis for that. Also it would probably take ages and here in the UK we probably wouldn’t get access to OT support unless his difficulties were much more pronounced, so I just work on the assumption that’s what it is and keep encouraging him. It took him 2 years longer than his peers to ride a bike and it was only last year when he was 10 that he actually managed to swing himself on the swing set. Which he is over the moon about and now its one of his favourite things, after the trampoline.

    • solodialogue says:

      It seems silly that we’d have to “pursue” a diagnosis, don’t you think? Shouldn’t they just be looking for all these comorbidities and telling us?! (sigh)

      We are still on bike riding with training wheels and he’s outgrown that bike (his legs are too long to pedal without bowing out too much!). My son still does not pump his legs to swing either. He sits on the swing and twists the chain and twirls. I used to do that too! I’m glad that yours has it down now and is enjoying it! Yay for progress! 🙂

  15. Lucy Wilkinson says:

    Hi and thanks for sharing…..our 32 month old son has just been diagnosed with dyspraxia too. We have started a blog as well

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