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What is Dyspraxia?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Dyspraxia is a condition, generally present in early childhood, that affects motor skills. Occasionally, it can be caused by traumatic brain injury, but in most cases, the cause is unknown. It affects many aspects of development and learning, and in infants, a hesitancy to crawl, difficulty learning to use cups and utensils, and walking delays may signify early symptoms. Since each child is unique, however, developmental delays may not be noted.

Specific statistics on how many people are affected by dyspraxia are difficult to find because the condition is often undiagnosed. Estimates range from 2% to 10% of the population. Males make up about 70-80% of diagnosed cases.

As the child ages, other aspects of this condition can develop. Children may be hypersensitive to clothing, or brushing teeth or hair. Writing is very difficult. Peer relationships are frequently stunted because of obsessive or paranoid behaviors. Other kids often single out dyspraxic children in the school setting, which can lead to a lifetime of loneliness.

Additionally, maintaining focus in the classroom is challenging for dyspraxia sufferers. Most marked is the tendency towards clumsiness, and the condition was at one time labeled “clumsy child” syndrome. Fortunately, this term has largely been dropped, since it merely contributes to the social stigma these children may face.

Since both their fine and gross motor skills are affected, dyspraxic children have difficulties in competitive sports, learning to ride a bike, and navigating through busy public forums like malls or schoolyards. Learning to tie shoes or dress easily can also be affected. These skills, which seem so difficult to attain for a child with this condition, cause increasing frustration for the child. Undiagnosed children may act out and display immaturity in social settings.

Children with this condition are often accused of not trying, though in fact, they are often trying very hard. They are typically quite intelligent, and fully capable of understanding that despite their best efforts, their work is not comparable to the work of other children. Poor organizational skills, difficulty with spelling, and laborious writing increase the frustration of the child and can lead to significant depression. Dyspraxia is also linked to ADHD, which can increase problems at home and at school.

Dyspraxia in adults can create challenges with everyday activities and expectations. Driving is often difficult, and cleaning and cooking can be demanding, as can remembering appointments. Dyspraxic adults can also have difficulty controlling the pitch and articulation of their voice and are easily misunderstood by others. Keeping a job can be one of the most taxing hurdles and can cause great frustration and depression.

An early diagnosis of dyspraxia is key to helping both children and adults manage this condition. Neurologists diagnose this condition by studying the child's development and physical history, and by performing learning tests. Since the problem does not signify a lack of intelligence, those who evolve coping skills can be extremely successful later in life. Early interventions include occupational therapy to address motor coordination, speech therapy, and possibly play therapy for children, or traditional therapy for adults. Parenting the dyspraxic child requires a great deal of patience and understanding.

Dyspraxic adults who understand and are able to communicate with employers and friends about their condition often lead normal lives and have productive and satisfying jobs and relationships. If undiagnosed until adulthood, however, the long burden of social stigma and the sense of failure may require therapy before success is achieved. Many support groups exist for both adults and children to assist in coping.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon330900 — On Apr 19, 2013

In response to post 18: wow. I have never met anyone who has mentioned the "walking on the sides of the feet" thing, thought it was just me. I had a teacher force to stop doing that in junior high school. I have been told I have hypermobility, Fibro, RA, and OA. It's miserable.

I was born into a family of workaholics and have been bullied my whole life for not living up to their expectations. No one here knows what dyspraxia is, and it seems people are so burned out by the "cause de jour" that no one cares. Can I move to another planet now?

By xNatalie24x — On May 12, 2012

I'm quite confused about whether this is something that I might have or not. Most of the symptoms seem to fit. But I don't know if I'm just trying to find a way to excuse all my flaws or if I am just really not bright at all, but I do feel like something is just not right with me and that there is some kind of problem with me.

I just don't seem to understand anything. Everyone around me seems to act like I'm just lazy and give up too easily. But the fact is I just don't see the point in trying and a lot of the time I just can't do things. Does anyone have any way of telling if you might have Dyspraxia?

By anon255177 — On Mar 16, 2012

It's weird just how wide-ranging dyspraxia is. And how difficult it is for people to recognize aspects of your behavior that are because of it. I am always being yelled at by parents and teachers for my 'tone of voice' when I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing wrong!

By anon251373 — On Feb 29, 2012

@anon178471: I can relate to some of the things you describe (being looked down on at school and blaming myself for things I found difficult).

It is especially important that children with dyspraxia have parents who are patient and understanding, something which I didn't have growing up and I suspect you didn't have either.

Unfortunately, children with dyspraxia are often bullied (I found the bullying got particularly nasty in secondary school) and the effects of this can have a lasting impact on someone's self esteem and confidence as an adult.

I agree that the intolerance and prejudices of others can cause problems for the dyspraxic adult in the workplace.

By anon178471 — On May 21, 2011

I am a 53 year old male and I am pretty certain I have had undiagnosed dyspraxia all my life. A strong point I would like to make is that the real, long-term damage dyspraxia can cause is to the developing self-esteem and confidence of the child.

In my case, as a small child, poor at physical dexterity and socializing, I became ashamed and looked down on in school - blaming myself for having some deep shameful fault I needed to keep hidden at all costs. The hurtful emotions and shame in a small child scarred me with something very like ptsd. I think the psychological damage the dyspraxia led to need not have happened.

As an adult I struggle with insecurity and a protective 'freeze up' reaction under pressure that for some reason is very badly reacted to, or misunderstood by others. Without an explanation I have found other people to be judgemental about shortcomings, and skeptical.

I'm not complaining, but I am relating this to emphasize the importance of preventing dyspraxia from crippling a child's self image as this can become a life long curse.

By anon144868 — On Jan 21, 2011

We had to get a private referral for our six year old daughter because the school refused to accept her.

By anon143964 — On Jan 18, 2011

Daniel Radcliffe has dyspraxia, but that doesn't stop him from being an absolutely amazing actor!

By anon142808 — On Jan 14, 2011

My son is now 16, we have had the experience of incompetence at his high school, and i feel that headteachers need to understand what disabilities like Dyspraxia actually are. They are communication problems that involve all the senses. Touch, hearing and speech are highly sensitive. My son hates loud noises, being cuddled and has verbal problems.

But he is extremely intelligent and loves computers, maths and science. He taught himself to play the piano, ride a bike and tie his shoelaces. He is very strong willed, and perfects one interest at a time.

He wants to be an architect and wants to start by doing a course in civil engineering and design. Funnily enough, i have all faith that he will succeed in his ambitions.

By anon129191 — On Nov 22, 2010

To those who don't understand why your child isn't diagnosed or how to get your child diagnosed with dyspraxia, the best thing to do is advocate for your child!

The doctors here tried several different options for my child, they said including his teachers that he was "slow," yes, in those words. i proved them wrong. he took an IQ test and scored well -- above average, very high, probably higher than I would have.

Look things up. You can't trust everything on the internet, but if you are going between ADHD, Dyslexia, OCD, or dyspraxia, generate the largest lists of symptoms and cross reference, slowly yet efficiently coming down to the best possible solution.

Once you have done this, take it to your physician, and talk with them about the possibility.

Always know that as the parent of your child, you know what best describes your child.

By anon129188 — On Nov 22, 2010

To # 19 post: Adderall can be very bad for your child. My son has dyspraxia, they had him on adderall for ADHD because they thought that is what it was. But the real case is because it is a stimulant it can worsen the symptoms a dyspraxic child already has. The over/under sensitivity and anxiety he may have will worsen. For the summer we had him on adderall i had to literally drag him out of the house just to go anywhere in fear that we may not make it back. --NG

By anon94132 — On Jul 07, 2010

Stimulants work in children with ADHD by helping them focus on one subject, rather than flitting between several. Of course as the title suggests, they also can cause increased energy levels. Therefore it is possible that stimulants may worsen obsessive traits. --Dr H.

By anon94131 — On Jul 07, 2010

In response to post 19: Stimulants should not worsen your son's motor skills but it may be worth looking at the other two medications he is taking.

Risperidone is an antipsychotic and can cause extrapyramidal symptoms/parkinsonism if the dose it too high (which may be interpreted as clumsiness). Mood stabilisers are frequently sedating and can cause clumsiness through tiredness. Ask your psychiatrist about this when you next see him/her.

Kind regards, Dr H.

By anon89149 — On Jun 08, 2010

My son was diagnosed with dyspraxia last week. He is 11, but has had symptoms for his entire life. He has has mental illness diagnosis for six years. They said ADHD, BiPolar I, ODD, PTSD, and intermittent explosive disorder.

He has been on Adderall for six years, but recently I notice he becomes very, very obsessive about one or two things only on the days he takes the Adderall. I mean obsessive, like going door to door in our neighborhood telling people he needs money.

I am trying to get him to a neurologist. Meanwhile he is still under the care of the psychiatrist who prescribes Adderall and a mood stabilizer and Risperdal. Does anyone know if stimulant meds make dyspraxia worse?

By anon86015 — On May 23, 2010

I am wondering if my dyspraxia can cause low mobility, muscles jumping all the time? I have been suffering with this for over a year and the doctors can't find a cause of it. I also walk on the sides of my feet which is very painful. It feels normal to me even though its not.

I would just like some answers. I am fed up not getting anywhere on what is causing my illness. I have had dyspraxia all my life. I am trying my hardest to keep going the best I can.

If I go out shopping my mum sisters or friends, I have to go in a wheelchair as that is the only way I am able to do things now. It's not fair. Please can you help me? I am so confused about this. Also my family are at loss on what else they can do to help me. I am lucky to have the support of my family all my life. They have always been amazing for me. I would be lost without them to help me as much as they do.

By anon82918 — On May 08, 2010

Dyspraxia does not mean you are not intelligent and cannot learn degrees in college. It just means that it will be a little more difficult and take a little more time that normal. The communication skills will take a little more time since assimilating information takes longer. My daughter is doing fine.

By anon79318 — On Apr 22, 2010

To anon42870:

It is impossible to "rehabilitate" dyspraxia. Rehabilitation implies that once you found it after a bit of work the problem will go away, this is not the case.

Dyspraxia is an illness that can occur though a accident or can occur from birth, either way once it is there it will always be there. It is impossible to "get rid of" in any sense.

I am 18 and have been diagnosed with Dyspraxia since I was born. You can help, by repeating the basics over and over again, but you can never fully get over it.

I found what has enabled me to come so far is to have someone there who understand, and will go over the basics to allow me to grasp them, for example with maths, it might take time for them to grasp what the teacher is explaining but once they do it is no longer a problem.

By anon78477 — On Apr 18, 2010

I am vikky and I am 22 years old. Since childhood i was a poor learner. when i was 2.5 yrs old i joined school. i still remember when i was a child. drawing a mango diagram was just very impossible for me and my friends use to draw it simply. My handwriting was also worse, which somehow came into some organized form after a great practice and support from my family, though believe me, i cannot write a word twice similarly even now.

As i grew up i could easily find differences between me and my friends as a poor runner, as a poor performer and i write slowly, and coping up with the teachers' pace was just impossible for me and teachers never understood why i was late. As usual they used to scold me. Somehow i entered into my teenage years where every boy had an bicycle to ride and i was the only one who don't know how to ride it.

I thank my brother who patiently helped me in learning to ride a bicycle. he used to run behind when i was riding and whenever i used to lose my balance, he was always behind and ensured i was safe. So, after a long effort of me and my brother, i succeeded in learning to ride a bicycle and there are many more things which i want to share here, but due to time constraint i couldn't.

By anon73838 — On Mar 29, 2010

My Sister was diagnosed with Dyspraxia a few years ago. Our family has tried to cater for her needs but we are finding that she has become very very depressed.

My mother and father are divorced but are both living very happy lives now. When we go to my dad's house every other weekend my sister seems fine, but when we come back, on the monday she has a sort of break down.

She will cry, but not crocodile tears, proper howling deep crying. She has said before that she hates living with us and hates us and she looked like the kind of child who could kill herself.

We don't know how to help her. We want to try and get her counseling or family counseling but whenever we go out, she puts on this front where she seems a perfectly happy and normal child.

Please, how can we help her? My mum tries to communicate with her but she can't communicate her feelings back.

My mum has to constantly ask questions and still, she can't figure out what is depressing her so badly. Please help. -Frances

By anon73212 — On Mar 26, 2010

i have a niece who is 13. She is smart, quite intelligent but is unable to read and write though she tries. Reading all these, do you think she has Dyslexia/dyspraxia.

By anon72862 — On Mar 24, 2010

We have a four year old son who we think almost definitely has dyspraxia.

We thought something was wrong when he couldn't sit up until he was two years old and didn't walk until three.

He has little to no language skills and can only say words. He has hyper-elasticated joint movement, is the messiest eater and constantly falls over.

He has had numerous tests done from an early age, from genetics to brain scans. The frustrating part of all this is that after all this time still nobody in the medical circle that surrounds our son will give him this diagnosis Why can they not see that this is our son's condition?

By anon72728 — On Mar 24, 2010

I am confused as well. This list of symptoms are the same exact list for ADHD, Autism, SPD, etc, etc.

I am not saying do not get treatment for your children, but if you over-analyze every move they make to put them in a bucket (or several), you will make them crazy (and you as well).

How about letting them be themselves. Find out what they are good at and let them focus on those things, while at the same time encouraging them to also work on things they find challenging.

By anon55344 — On Dec 07, 2009

This is lialu, who wrote the first post some time ago. i changed my son to a different school where they have better support and he is getting this and it is making a difference.

that said, he is still having difficulties and so I am getting him assessed again next week to finally rule in or out dyspraxia.

It is not a medical doctor but an occupational therapist who can diagnose dyspraxias here in this country. I will let you know the results. Lialu.

By anon55166 — On Dec 05, 2009

I am the mother of a 24 year old man who was diagnosed as dyspraxic at eight years old.

He has fought against his disabilities and is at present in college doing an environmental diploma course.

In the past he has volunteered with the Young Scot project which boosted his confidence no end, and after that he went volunteering overseas in Finland for a year, during which time he sailed to several countries.

He returned home but has been unable to gain full-time employment and so is attending college and volunteering with a youth club in our area that is interested in using the sounds of nature in making music.

By the way, one of things he is most proud of is being able to hop on one foot which he finally mastered last year. He is immature in many ways, but that does not mean he is of lower intellect than anyone else.

He has taught himself to play various musical instruments and lives life to the full.

I also have a daughter who has extreme difficulties co-ordinating life for herself and her family (husband and three young children). Tidying up the house and organizing meals etc. She was not diagnosed as a child but many of the symptoms that are mentioned are problems she has.

Unfortunately it does not stop there as my oldest grandson five years also has many symptoms, but with the example of his mum and uncle he will go on to live a full and healthy and happy life. He has had support from a much earlier age and I pray that that is enough to help him overcome all problems.

Life has not been easy for any of them but with determination and grit you can overcome many of the problems. I hope this is a help to people who are just finding out that their loved one has this condition.

By anon53649 — On Nov 23, 2009

this is all so bad. i was convinced my son had dyspraxia, and told the doctor who had diagnosed adhd. after seeing the ot, they said no, and referred my son to the local camhs, with possible bipolar disorder. Hmm.

i have recently returned to college, and lo and behold, my struggle re-emerged concerning the awful memory i had at school. Diagnosis? Dyspraxia. How could i be? I used to run and swim for the county, i can do everything (OK, little bit clumsy sometimes!) but my memory is just not there without the strategies i'm now using to cope with learning.

nothing important to say really, but it just makes me so angry that the support is not out there for my son who really needs help. i am considered sen at college, but my son does not get the support at school.

By anon42870 — On Aug 24, 2009

hi! I want to know how long does it take to rehabilitate dyspraxic children. thanks!

By anon39654 — On Aug 03, 2009

My son was diagnosed with dyspraxia 5 years ago. He is now 8 years old. He struggles in school on a daily basis. Will not participate in sports for fearing he will fail. He academically is at a kindergarten level despite having OT and a speech teacher 1-on-1. stimulants made him worse. He has difficulty sitting still but is not hyper. He is very shy and uncomfortable around people he does not see often. This is the life of a dyspraxic child. Educate the people that work with him at school-you will be surprised how little they know about dyspraxic children.

By anon38951 — On Jul 29, 2009

i am trying to find out if my my son is dyspraxic. can anyone help

By theobells — On Jun 17, 2009

Where do I go to to get an assessment done for my son who is nearly 11yrs. Lots of the things I have read I can think back & say yes to. He has always been poor with his coordination thus not good at any sport. So boys tease him.

By anon28632 — On Mar 19, 2009

As a pediatric Occupational Therapist my understanding of why the report would not have stated dyspraxia is that this is a diagnosis usually given only by a medical doctor, therefore, it is not our remit to conclusively write this, but what we can talk about is the underlying reasons as to why this may be occurring. The OT probably found that a possible underlying reason for the difficulties being experienced by your child (dyspraxic in nature) are as a result of having difficulty in processing sensory information received from the environment resulting in the difficulties he has functioning in everyday life. Off the record she could say to you that she thought the features being displayed warranted a diagnosis of dyspraxia, but could not document this conclusively only her reasoning for this based on her observations & assessment which is what the report was probably about. It would, therefore, be up to the medical doctor to read this report and conduct his assessment and make a formal diagnosis i.e dyspraxia linked to a sensory integration processing disorder/difficulties.

By anon18746 — On Sep 29, 2008

I know what you mean Liula I'm an 18-year old female and I actually have SID and Dyspraxia, the dyspraxia was diagnosed for me first and then the SID.

By Lialu — On Sep 16, 2008

Hello, recently my son had an assessment with an OT. at the follow up appointment with us, she told us that he had dyspraxia. We looked this up and learned that yes indeed he did fit the profile and we were in fact quite relieved! then when the report was posted to us it, dyspraxia was not mentioned and it said that he had sensory integration dysfunction!! the Ot had a supervisor who said our son scored too highly on his motor tests to have dyspraxia. Could anyone tell me if you can have dyspraxia and still score highly on the motor tests.. I think he has dyspraxia. Are the motor test results a matter of interpretation or can the results rule out dyspraxia for definite? Confused mom.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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