What is dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia is also called developmental coordination disorder (DCD). It makes physical coordination more challenging and can make someone appear to be more clumsy. It affects fine motor skills, like writing and using implements, and gross motor skills, like playing sports. This can make day-to-day activities challenging.
What causes dyspraxia?
The causes of dyspraxia aren’t always clear, but it’s thought that certain factors may increase the risk. These include:
Premature birth (before the 37th week of pregnancy)
Having a low weight at birth
Having other family members with dyspraxia
Alcohol or drug use during pregnancy
How common is dyspraxia?
While we don’t know the exact prevalence, estimates suggest that up to 10% of children may have dyspraxia. That’s to say there’s most likely at least one child with dyspraxia in every school classroom. Dyspraxia is also more commonly reported in boys than girls.
What are the symptoms of dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia mainly affects your movement and coordination skills, but it can impact daily life in many other ways too. Some dyspraxia symptoms are noticeable early on in life, while others may appear later on.
Dyspraxia symptoms in children
Dyspraxia affects movement and coordination. Some common signs of dyspraxia in children include:
Difficulty with 2-handed tasks like using cutlery or doing crafts
Trouble with writing and drawing
Needing help with getting dressed, doing up buttons and putting on shoes
Struggling with physical activities like jumping, running, cycling, and throwing, catching or kicking a ball
Appearing ‘clumsy,’ tripping or bumping into things
Dyspraxia can also cause problems with:
Over-sensitivity to light, sound, touch, smell and taste
Emotions and behaviour
Dyspraxia symptoms in adults
Dyspraxia symptoms can continue into adulthood. Since many adults with dyspraxia improve their coordination over time, the main symptoms involve processing information, like having trouble with:
Sequencing actions, like following the steps to assemble a piece of furniture
Learning new skills, like driving a car
Is dyspraxia a learning disability?
Dyspraxia doesn’t affect intelligence and isn’t considered a learning disability. But having dyspraxia can make it harder to learn, so extra support can be helpful for children. It’s also possible to have both dyspraxia and a separate learning disability like dyslexia.
How is dyspraxia diagnosed?
Dyspraxia is typically diagnosed after the age of 4, even if it’s suspected earlier.
If you think your child’s movement or coordination is developing slowly, talk to a doctor, health visitor or special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) at their school.
Your child may then be referred for an assessment, which can be done by a range of healthcare professionals, including:
Specialist paediatric staff (who specialise in the care of babies and children) including a paediatrician, a paediatric occupational therapist and a paediatric physiotherapist
An educational psychologist
Mental health professionals, like a clinical psychologist or Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) clinician
The dyspraxia assessment tests a child’s motor skills and compares them to the normal ability range for their age. The test is called Movement ABC (Assessment Battery for Children) and it measures several different skills:
Fine motor skills – how precisely they can control small movements, like using tools and putting pegs into holes
Gross motor skills – how well they control big movements, like jumping and balancing
Other things that will be taken into consideration include:
Mental abilities – although dyspraxia doesn’t affect intellectual ability, checking that their mental abilities are in line with what’s expected for their age can help rule out any other diagnosis
Medical history – including any problems during childbirth and other developmental delays
Family history – whether other family members have had dyspraxia
How is dyspraxia managed?
There’s no one treatment or cure for dyspraxia, but there are many different ways to manage the symptoms.
If your child is diagnosed with dyspraxia, they will usually be given a tailored treatment plan that involves a number of healthcare specialists. Each specialist will be able to help with different aspects of daily life. For example:
Paediatric occupational therapist – help develop day-to-day skills like dressing, writing and using cutlery
Paediatric physiotherapist – help improve physical skills like walking, running, balance and coordination
Clinical psychologist – address and manage any mental health
Older children and adults might also benefit from extra support for their studies and at work. For example, they may be eligible for assistive technology or extra time in exams.
What other conditions are linked to dyspraxia?
Dyspraxia can occur with some other conditions, for example
These conditions will all need individual treatment plans.
When should I speak to a doctor?
If you’ve noticed any problems with coordination in your child, talk to a doctor.
If you or your child has a diagnosis of dyspraxia, it’s not something you have to go through alone. There are groups for people who are in the same situation, and it can be really helpful to share your experiences. You can talk to a doctor to find out what’s available in your area.
How can Livi help?
A Livi doctor can talk to you about your or your child’s symptoms and offer advice on what to do next, whether that’s further investigation or a possible treatment.
- Reviewed by:
- Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi