Everything you need to know about living well with dyspraxia
You may be wondering, ‘what is dyspraxia?’ This guide aims to explore this and provide you with information on dyspraxia symptoms, dyspraxia treatments and diagnosis, types of dyspraxia and about living with dyspraxia.
Any medical information provided here is for informational purposes and does not replace medical advice given to you by a medical professional. If you are concerned that you may have any of the dyspraxia symptoms discussed below, please see your GP.
Dyspraxia, known officially as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), affects a person’s movements and coordination. It is a neurological, motor planning disorder and symptoms of dyspraxia may at first be considered to be clumsiness. A child with dyspraxia may seem to have underdeveloped motor skills for their age. They may also have difficulty with their perception which affects how they interpret what they see, hear, feel and sense.
Symptoms of dyspraxia are very varied but typically include difficulties with carrying out movements or actions, such as running, a lack of co-ordination, and cognitive difficulties (e.g. with short term memory, concentration, etc).
Dyspraxia is usually noticed and diagnosed during early childhood, and children with dyspraxia usually go on to become adults with dyspraxia. There is no cure for the condition but there are dyspraxia treatments available, usually in the form of therapies, which provide ways to help a person live well with the condition.
Dyspraxia may affect a person’s life, mobility and abilities to some degree, but this will differ from person to person. Everyone with dyspraxia will have a unique experience of the condition.
Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families, but a specific gene for the condition has not been identified. It is more common in boys compared to girls, and is linked to other conditions such as dyslexia, ADHD and autism.
For more information on dyspraxia, visit the NHS website.
Experts are not yet clear what causes dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is neurological in that it is thought to be caused by an abnormality in the brain, but it is not yet clear what this abnormality is. Some of the difficulty in finding what causes dyspraxia is made harder by processes involved in the body that enable movement and senses, which are very complex. Research suggests that a child with dyspraxia has under-developed neurones in the brain.
There are some factors that may increase the risk of a child having dyspraxia:
• Premature birth
• Low birth weight
• Family history of dyspraxia
• Mother used illegal drugs or drank alcohol whilst pregnant
The type of dyspraxia that a child is diagnosed with will be determined by their dyspraxia symptoms. Some people will have more than one type. Everyone will experience their symptoms differently and to different degrees, so some people may have one type of dyspraxia severely, and another type mildly.
The types of dyspraxia may be oral, verbal, motor, idea or space related, as follows:
Everyone’s experience of dyspraxia will be different. Dyspraxia symptoms may be very varied and are often types of behaviours rather than physical or visible symptoms that are noticeable in other conditions. If you think your child is displaying any of these behaviours, speak to your GP or health visitor. These symptoms do not necessarily mean your child has dyspraxia, or any other related condition, but it is important to have them checked out.
Diagnosis of dyspraxia can take some time, and the earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better for the child. A child with dyspraxia may have varied symptoms throughout their childhood, and these may continue to change through adulthood.
Signs and symptoms of dyspraxia (in childhood and beyond) may include:
• Delays in learning to roll over or sit up
• Delays in learning to walk
• Falling over or bumping into things (more than is usual for a child that age)
• Difficulties learning to use the toilet
• Lack of coordination
• Difficulties grasping objects
• Difficulties with physical activities e.g. running, catching a ball, etc
• Difficulties learning to write
• Problems with getting dressed, doing up buttons and tying shoelaces
• Unable to stay still e.g. fidgety
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty following instructions
• Finding school challenging but learning more successfully in smaller groups or with private tuition
• Lack of organisation skills
• Finding it hard to learn new things
• Having low self-esteem
• Finding it hard to make friends
• Difficulty pronouncing words
• Having a lack of short term memory
Such a long list of dyspraxia symptoms can sound negative, but there are lots of positive aspects of having the condition as well. For example, people with dyspraxia may be good at creative thinking, and have a good long term memory. Despite some of the challenges listed above, there are lots of ways for a child or an adult with dyspraxia to adapt to and manage their condition.
For more information about dyspraxia symptoms, visit the Dyspraxia Foundation website.
If you are concerned your child may be exhibiting signs of dyspraxia, or if you are an adult yourself and are concerned you may have the condition without knowing it, you should contact your GP. If your child is of school age, you could speak to their special educational needs coordinator initially as well. It may be useful to keep a log of symptoms and behaviours you are concerned about for when you visit your doctor. They will undertake an initial examination and ask about symptoms. They may refer you to a paediatrician if they think there may be a chance that the symptoms may be dyspraxia (or a related condition).
It is quite common for a child to not receive an official dyspraxia diagnosis until they are of school age, even if this has been suspected for some time, because it is difficult to test for dyspraxia in toddlers. Early diagnosis in childhood can really benefit a person and help them develop skills and abilities.
Learning that your child has dyspraxia may be difficult to come to terms with. It is important to remember that your child is unique and will experience the condition in their own way. Many parents report that they have found ways to deal with challenges that dyspraxia presents. There is lots of support available to families, and working with your child and professionals can help them develop their skills and abilities. Read on to find out more about dyspraxia treatments, products for dyspraxia, and help for dyspraxia.
Dyspraxia affects everybody differently, so it is difficult to say what impact the condition will have on a child or adult’s daily life, or their family life. Some people have dyspraxia symptoms that are very challenging and these people may need lots of support, whereas other people may have milder symptoms that are easier to manage.
Dyspraxia can sometimes affect daily activities such as:
• Education e.g. finding it difficult in a classroom setting or learning new things
• Reading and writing e.g. coordinating a pen or reading slowly
• Self-care and independence e.g. getting dressed, grooming, using the toilet and bathroom
• Eating and drinking e.g. finding it difficult to coordinate cutlery or a cup
• Playing and getting exercise e.g. finding it difficult to use toys or run around
There are lots of ways to manage daily activities though to make life easier, and there are health and social care professionals who may be able to help. For example, an Occupational Therapist (OT) may be able to recommend different ways to do tasks, or equipment that may make tasks easier. A physiotherapist may be able to help a child (or adult) develop their physical movements, such as walking or running, by working on balance and coordination. If your child is living with dyspraxia, there are support services and learning programmes available.
There are special types of equipment available called daily living aids, which are designed to help people with health conditions or disabilities to undertake everyday tasks they may be having difficulties with. At NRS Healthcare, we are experts in daily living aids, and we have put together a list below of the types of dyspraxia aids that may help a child with the condition. We have arranged this according to the area or type of task that a person may have difficulty with due to their dyspraxia symptoms.
PLEASE NOTE: our Expert Advice Service can only give advice about equipment and products which may help you to live more independently. They cannot give any advice on medications or treatments for symptoms of this condition.
There is no cure or medication treatments available for dyspraxia. Dyspraxia treatment therefore usually involves a variety of health and social care professionals, school and family, working together. Dyspraxia Foundation provides advice about who to contact for help. Children do not grow out of their dyspraxia, but the condition may change and a child can develop new skills and abilities as they grow older. Many parents adopt a task-focussed approach, dealing with specific tasks that are difficult by breaking them down, looking at ways to adapt them, and so on.
The NHS also provides information about treatments for dyspraxia.
Some children and adults with dyspraxia find exercising difficult due to balance and coordination difficulties. A physiotherapist may be able to help with this. Skills for action website has some helpful information about getting children with dyspraxia more involved in sport and exercise.
People with a dyspraxia diagnosis will benefit from eating a healthy, nutritious diet. This helps the body function. If you are a parent and want to know how to ensure your child has a healthy diet, the British Nutrition Foundation provides a wealth of information. The NHS also provides lots of tips on eating a balanced diet. Some people choose to take dyspraxia supplements such as omega-3, which is found in oily fish or available as a tablet or liquid. There is little evidence to confirm that this is effective at reducing symptoms.
People with dyspraxia are able to work and provide a range of skills and abilities in the workplace. Some people may need extra support to find employment or to manage their workload. Dyspraxia Foundation provides information for job seekers and employers.
We hope this guide to dyspraxia has been helpful to you. There are many children and adults living with the condition, and dyspraxia support services available. Every individual and family will have a different experience, and the condition is very varied. Most people are able to have a good quality of life and sense of wellbeing. There is lots of dyspraxia help available to you. You may find it useful to talk to other people or families in a similar situation, who are dealing with dyspraxia, to share stories, experiences and advice. Below, we list online resources that you may find useful and some forum opportunities. If you are concerned about anything you read in this guide, please discuss with your GP.
Contact a Family – a charity that connects families living with various health conditions, enabling them to share experiences and mutual support
Dyspraxia Foundation – a UK charity that supports people affected by dyspraxia, providing lots of information about the condition, a helpline and local groups
Dyspraxia Foundation Youth – part of the Dyspraxia Foundation supporting people aged 13-25 years old, providing a helpline, Facebook group and downloadable factsheets
Dyspraxia UK – a specialist organisation providing Occupational Therapist assessments for children and adults who may have dyspraxia
NHS – source of medical information and advice on dyspraxia symptoms, causes and treatments
Although we always try to explain things as simply and as clearly as possible, sometimes it’s necessary to use the correct medical terminology. Medical terms are often known for being tricky to pronounce and if you’re not an expert in the subject, they can also be a little difficult to understand. Below, we’ve put together a list of terms used on this page along with a brief explanation of what they mean to help make your understanding of dyspraxia as straightforward as possible.
A condition that affects a person’s ability to carry out tasks using motor skills – the learned (non-habit) actions that require brain and muscle to work together
Action requiring movement and coordination of the body i.e. the arms, legs, fingers, toes, etc, such as running, jumping, walking, gripping
Related to the nervous system which consists of the brain and spinal cord
Cells in the body that transmit electrical impulses (messages) to and from the brain
Our ability to be aware of the world through our senses