A Guide to Developmental Dyspraxia

For Adults and Parents of Children With Dyspraxia

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Developmental dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a physical coordination disorder that makes it challenging to coordinate motor and sensory tasks.

This article provides an overview of developmental dyspraxia, including diagnosis, treatment, misconceptions about the disorder, and what to expect when parenting a child with dyspraxia.

Child learning on computer

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Dyspraxia or DCD? 

Dyspraxia and DCD are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between them.

Dyspraxia is a term used to describe difficulty with motor development and coordination skills. DCD is an actual diagnosis. For this article, we will use the term dyspraxia.

Some symptoms of dyspraxia in adults manifest as:

  • Fine motor skill issues, such as difficulty with typing, writing, fastening clothes, or shaving
  • Gross motor skill issues, such as poor balance, clumsiness, a tendency to trip, and poor hand-eye coordination
  • Speech and language issues, such as uncontrolled pitch and rate, or repetitive speech
  • Not having established hand dominance and using left and right hands interchangeably
  • Eye-tracking difficulties and a tendency to lose place while reading
  • Perception difficulties, such as oversensitivity or undersensitivity to touch, taste, temperature, and pain; oversensitivity to light; poor understanding of direction; or a lack of sense of time, speed, or weight
  • Learning and memory issues, such as difficulty organizing thoughts and following instructions, and being unfocused
  • Behavioral and emotional difficulties, such as listening but not understanding, impulsivity, low self-esteem, or emotional outbursts

People who live with dyspraxia may also have anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem due to the added hardships of living with the condition.

Not everyone with dyspraxia has every symptom. The condition can be mild to severe and manifest differently in each individual.

Patient Terminology

The Dyspraxia Foundation states that their institution recognizes the terms “people with dyspraxia” and “dyspraxic people.”

Diagnosis and Treatment at a Glance

Receiving a diagnosis in childhood is essential so that educational adjustments can be made to provide the best possible learning environment for children with dyspraxia.

Symptoms of dyspraxia to watch for in children include:

  • Poor balance
  • Behavioral and emotional issues
  • Social skill challenges
  • Learning difficulties with reading, writing, and speech
  • Poor posture
  • Coordination difficulties
  • Vision issues
  • Perception difficulties

Teaching children with dyspraxia takes patience on the parts of both teacher and student.

Treatment can be individualized and based on symptoms. In some cases, children may require special education. Other times, children may need speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or care from other health providers.

Individualized therapy might include:

  • Teaching kids to break down more complex movements into simpler movements and practicing them slowly
  • Using specialized grips on pencils to help kids write more efficiently

As children with dyspraxia get older, their physical coordination issues may become less of an issue.

There is no cure for developmental dyspraxia, and most people with a diagnosis have it throughout their lives. However, many people can learn skills to help them live full lives with the help of speech and occupational therapy or other specialized therapy.

Misconceptions 

Misconception #1: People with dyspraxia have low IQs.

Although people diagnosed with dyspraxia may appear underdeveloped, receiving a diagnosis does not mean that a person has a lower IQ.

Receiving a diagnosis in childhood is essential so that adjustments in the child’s education can be made to foster the best possible learning environment. This ensures that a child does not get left behind in their education due to dyspraxia.

Misconception #2: Dyspraxia is uncommon.

Some researchers estimate that as many as one in 10 people have some form of dyspraxia. However, in many cases, the symptoms are mild and often go undiagnosed.

Not everyone with dyspraxia has every symptom. The condition can be mild to severe and manifest differently in each individual.

Misconception #3: People with dyspraxia are just uncoordinated.

Dyspraxia is a disorder involving motor skills. People with the condition may appear to others as uncoordinated or clumsy, but there is a deeper issue involving muscle control.

Our muscles help us perform everyday tasks such as walking, running, cooking, getting dressed, or writing. For those with dyspraxia, even simple tasks involving muscle control can be more complex and appear clumsy or awkward.

Is Dyspraxia a Learning Disability? 

Dyspraxia is not a learning disability but a motor skill impairment.

However, some other neurodevelopmental and learning disorders may accompany dyspraxia, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia.

Autism or level one autism spectrum disorder, while not a part of dyspraxia, sometimes accompanies the condition as well.

Dyspraxia exists on a spectrum, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. In addition, any learning disorders or other neurodevelopmental disorders that accompany dyspraxia can range from mild to severe.

When you consider that it is not uncommon for a learning disability to accompany dyspraxia, it’s not surprising that someone might think that dyspraxia is also a learning disability. However, they are individual disorders with separate diagnoses.

Working With a Specialist

If your child has dyspraxia, talk to your healthcare provider about associated disorders you may need to be aware of. You may want to consider working with a specialist who can assist you and your child with the best tools and therapies that will most benefit their development.

Parenting a Child With Dyspraxia 

Dyspraxia is a childhood developmental disorder that requires active involvement from parents.

Having a child with dyspraxia affects everyone in the family. To help the whole family cope, here are a few ideas to try:

  • Plan activities that involve the whole family to ensure other children do not feel left out.
  • Encourage discussion about problems and feelings.
  • Join a local or virtual support group for parents of children with dyspraxia.
  • Embrace and encourage each child to develop their own unique interests.

What to Expect

Receiving a diagnosis that your child has dyspraxia may be overwhelming. However, it will help to provide you with the information and support your child will need to learn how to live and thrive with the condition. Dyspraxia is not “fixable,” and children will need to learn how to navigate the condition throughout their lives.

Learning at Home 

If you are a parent of a child with dyspraxia, you are probably interested in understanding how you can best help your child learn at home. One of the best ways to do this is to work with your child’s occupational or physical therapist and consistently use the same therapies they use with your child.

Some other ideas that your occupational therapist might suggest include:

  • Be patient when working with your child, as they will need extra time.
  • Practice planning tasks.
  • Reassure them.
  • Ask questions, and help them stay engaged with a task.
  • Teach your children to ask for help when they need it.

Notifying School

Make sure your child’s school administrators and teachers are aware of your child’s dyspraxia so they can best support them in the classroom and help foster a positive and supportive environment for learning and development.

Summary

Developmental dyspraxia is a coordination disorder that causes motor skill impairment. It is not a learning disability, but children with dyspraxia will need help and special attention from teachers and parents to support their education and development.

A Word From Verywell 

Receiving a diagnosis that your child has dyspraxia or DCD might be overwhelming, scary, and even isolating at times. But it’s still possible for your child and the whole family to live a healthy, happy life. Try to practice patience and understanding as you manage the day-to-day struggles of the condition.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the best specialists for your child’s condition, and ask for the help and support that your child and family need. Although there is no cure for dyspraxia, there are many actions you can take to help support their unique needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is dyspraxia considered a learning disability?

    In the United States, dyspraxia is not considered a learning disability. However, the condition does affect muscle coordination and can have an impact on how a person learns.

    In addition, some other neurodevelopmental and learning disorders may accompany dyspraxia, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or autism.

  • When is developmental dyspraxia diagnosed?

    A dyspraxia or DCD diagnosis is usually not established until four to five years of age. This is partly because there are no simple tests for the condition. In some cases, children receive a diagnosis as young as three or much older than five. Some people may go undiagnosed through adulthood due to having more mild symptoms, healthcare providers not looking for DCD symptoms during their childhood, or other misunderstandings.

  • Do doctors say DCD or dyspraxia?

    Dyspraxia and DCD are often used interchangeably, however there is a difference between the two terms. Dyspraxia is a term used to describe difficulty with motor development and coordination skills. DCD is an actual diagnosis.

  • Does DCD fall on the autism spectrum?

    Autism includes a range of conditions involving difficulties with social skills, speech, nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors, while DCD is characterized by significant difficulty performing motor skills at an age-appropriate level. Although they are not on the same spectrum, they can be diagnosed as occurring at the same time in some people.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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