Supporting individuals and families affected by dyspraxia/DCD


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Parents & Carers

Identifying dyspraxia early ensures children receive the help they need to fulfil their potential

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Dyspraxia in Children

Dyspraxia in children

Although dyspraxia/DCD can be identified at any age, early recognition will enable your child to receive the support and understanding they need to fulfil their potential.

Coordination difficulties are the main feature of dyspraxia/DCD, affecting large (gross motor) and small (fine motor) body movements. Children with dyspraxia/DCD can also experience difficulties with organisation, planning, attention, memory and processing speed. Some have difficulties with speech and language.

The pattern of a young person’s difficulties often changes over time as performance expectations increase and the environments in which young people live and study become more complex. Young children need help to get dressed for example, but we expect older children to manage independently. Social and organisation difficulties often become more pressing during the teenage years. Help and support is essential to prevent the gap between young people with dyspraxia/DCD and their peers widening and affecting their confidence and self-esteem.

The first step is to recognise signs that a young person may have dyspraxia/DCD.

Signs of dyspraxia

Each person has their own unique profile of strengths, interests and difficulties, however, children with dyspraxia/DCD often show the following:

  • Frequent trips and falls
  • Bumping into people and objects
  • Difficulty coordinating movements to kick and throw a ball or pedal a trike
  • Hesitant when using stairs – or appears to have no sense of danger, jumping from heights without regard to safety
  • High levels of motor activity such as swinging feet, fidgeting, and tapping hands. Difficulty staying still.
  • Struggles with spatial concepts such as on, over, in and underneath
  • Avoidance of construction toys such as Lego and jigsaws
  • Difficulty holding a pencil or crayon. Drawings seem immature
  • Difficulty handling tools such as scissors, a fork and a spoon
  • Could be described as a ‘messy eater’, spilling food and struggling to coordinate cutlery. May dislike certain food textures and prefer finger food
  • Struggles with even basic dressing tasks such as pulling on socks or pants
  • Difficulty following instructions, especially those requiring an action
  • Poor concentration, often leaving tasks unfinished
  • Can become over-excited quickly and take a while to settle down
  • Gets upset easily, especially when unable to complete a task
  • Sensitive to sensory stimulation such as noise, feel of clothes, food textures
  • Delayed speech and language development affects social interactions with adults and peers
  • Prefers the company of adults
  • Needs to be taught skills that peers pick up easily

Without help and support, problems can persist and become more apparent during the primary school years. Children with dyspraxia/DCD may experience the following:

  • Difficulty running, hopping, skipping and climbing. Movements appear awkward and effortful
  • Avoids joining in playground games such as football and chase
  • Struggles to master activities such as riding a bike and swimming
  • Hesitant when using stairs
  • Positions self awkwardly on a chair, may fall off, struggles to sit still
  • Tires quickly, often poorly at the end of term
  • They may be late to establish hand dominance (after 7 years of age)
  • Frequently drops and spills things
  • Difficulty getting dressed – struggles with buttons, pulling on socks/tights, orientating clothes and tying laces
  • Handwriting is slow and poorly presented
  • Dislikes drawing and colouring
  • Slow to complete classwork and the outcome doesn’t reflect verbal abilities
  • Has difficulty using both hands together, for example using scissors and cutlery
  • Difficulty following instructions, especially if movement is involved
  • Easily distracted, often leaving tasks unfinished
  • Frequently loses PE kit, clothes and equipment
  • May prefer the company of older or younger children. Struggles to form and/or maintain relationships with peers because interests and skills are different
  • Tendency to become easily distressed and emotional
  • Sleeping difficulties, including wakefulness at night and nightmares
  • Growing awareness of difficulties, affecting confidence and self-esteem
  • May report physical symptoms such as headaches and feeling sick

Without help and support, difficulties frequently persist into adolescence and beyond, affecting teenagers’ academic achievement and mental wellbeing. Challenges frequently experienced by teenagers with dyspraxia/DCD include the following:

  • Struggles in PE, especially during team games when the environment is constantly changing. Movements appear awkward and effortful
  • Tires quickly
  • Slow to change for PE, frequently loses kit
  • Written output doesn’t reflect abilities – writes less than peers, work is poorly organised and legibility deteriorates over time
  • Struggles to copy accurately from the board. Misses out key information
  • Difficulty with time management and organisation. Is late for lessons and forgets to hand in homework
  • Struggles to handle school tools and equipment in technology, maths and science
  • Uses cutlery awkwardly, has difficulty spreading and cutting food and pouring a drink
  • May forget to eat/drink leading to headaches and fatigue
  • Avoids eating with others unless there is an option for finger food
  • Struggles to dress self properly – can’t tie laces tightly or tuck self in
  • Needs help with personal hygiene e.g. reminders to shower and brush teeth, and help to wash and brush hair
  • Difficulty following instructions. Slow to process information
  • Poor navigation skills. Gets lost easily
  • May struggle to make and maintain friendships. Small social circle, risk of bullying
  • Impact on confidence, mood and self-esteem.
  • Risk of disengagement from school if support is not provided
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