Praxis in Autism

Praxis in autism leads to impaired motor planning

Impaired sensory and motor integration has been dismissed by many as being the underlying problem in autism. In fact, impaired praxis (dyspraxia / childhood coordination disorder) is at the core of many symptoms.   It is our profound privilege to have worked with thousands of families. Not only is praxis in autism causing the majority of symptoms, it is treatable. Praxis means “doing” or “acting”.  It is the combination between the brain’s ability to create a motor plan and execute that plan properly. Motor plans are intricate; they break down actions into small steps that the brain and body executes. A motor plan instructs the brain to fire brain chemicals and stimulate neurons in a complicated sequence. 

Motor planning impairment in autism:

Praxis is like a firework display.  People diagnosed with autism don’t have enough “help” to set off the fireworks in an organized and swift manner.  They have all the fireworks.  Sometimes all of the fireworks get set off at once and sometimes none will go off at all.  There is a lack of energy to coordinate in their brain and body, because their neurotransmission (brain function) is unique. It is one thing to light up a “burning school house” firework in your backyard. It is yet another to create a coordinated fireworks display.

low angle photo of fireworks
Photo by on

Speech pathologists and occupational therapists often use the term motor planning. Motor planning simplifies the therapy that they are using to support language, sensory integration or motor skills. Praxis is an extremely complicated and neurologically taxing process.  A process that, in fact, requires adequate energy production from start to finish.

Motor planning includes:

  • Coming up with an idea,
  • Planning the motor steps needed to execute
  • Checking in with the sensory system to identify any sensory information that is needed to execute those coordinated motor movements
  • Executing the movements
  • Collecting data or feedback on any changes that need to be made in the future

Impaired praxis in autism (or dyspraxia) is why your child isn’t responding to their name. They know their name, we promise you. They know their name. And many other things. Biomedical treatment will help you see what your child is capable of!

Suboptimal praxis is why your child “can’t” follow a single, simple, request.  No request is simple because praxis complicated.  A simple request includes dozens of motor planning steps. A motor plan is needs the help of the sensory system. A motor plan also requires energy produced by the mitochondria. For most of us, praxis happens swiftly with little of our awareness.

Motor Planning is the real reasons for brains!

Neuroscientist like Daniel Wolpert’s Ted Talk simplifies this concept; we have a brain for only one reason and that is movement.  The sensory system and the motor system are a connected track in the brain requiring cooperation to support movement. 

Let’s say you want to get up from my chair.  Which muscles do you need to use?  Which order do they fire in so that you can smoothly stand up?  What sensory considerations does your brain have to assess?  Are you standing up on ice?  Or is there a banana peel that would require you to stabilize a different set of muscles to prevent falling?  Does your heart have to pump faster to compensate for change in position?  Are you holding an infant in one arm?  Infinite variables go into a simple movement like getting up out of your chair.

We need to listen to the autism community:

The autism world is telling us that when asked to perform “simple” tasks, they are not able to coordinate the sensory processing and the motor planning required to execute the task, thereby showing they understand.  A motor plan is like a draft that has to be reviewed before being published.  If the sensory system is required for motor planning and 90% of children diagnosed with autism have sensory issues, we need to start spreading this information like wildfire because we have tens millions of people on the planet locked in a brain that won’t do what it’s told. Praxis in autism is impaired.

Motor planning is a process supported by repetition and feedback.  Damage to motor planning results in higher levels of repetition in an attempt to strengthen or heal that area.  Think of the difference between a 4 year old who attempts to skate and a professional hockey player who not only navigates with great speed on the ice forwards and backwards but does so with a puck!  The professional hockey player has fine-tuned their praxis.  The 4 year old will fall down thousands of times before he or she will have the ability to win Olympic Gold.

What if your child with autism can’t get their body to do what they are asking it to?

In summary, biomedical treatment with omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins like vitamin E, methyl B12 injections, diet and improved microbiome health are changing the lives of people diagnosed with autism and other developmental concerns.  It addresses the obstacles to optimal praxis and introduces supports dramatically improve praxis by addressing methylation impairment, oxidative stress, immunoexcitotoxicity and cell danger response.