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Dyspraxia in children

Many people know Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) as dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia is common. It primarily affects movement and coordination in children and adults. It can also cause a range of other difficulties. It is a hidden type of neurodivergence which is still not well understood.

Dyspraxia affects every part of someone's life. It makes it hard for people to do activities that others take for granted. Signs of dyspraxia appear early. But, they may not be noticed until a child starts school. This may even happen later in adulthood.

Signs of dyspraxia

Each person’s dyspraxia experience is unique. It is affected by a person’s age. It is also affected by the opportunities they have had to learn skills and the demands of their environment. It is also affected by the support of those around them.

Common difficulties for children with dyspraxia include:

  1. Delays in reaching motor milestones e.g. rolling over, sitting, standing, walking, running, jumping and hopping
  2. Slow or poor at dressing and hesitant in most actions
  3. Difficulty with fine motor skills
  4. Messy eater
  5. Delayed speech and language development
  6. May present with social communication difficulties
  7. May have difficulty in making and keep friends, or judging how to behave in company
  8. May have little understanding of spatial concepts such as ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘in front of’
  9. Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD) – affecting a small number of children
  10. Resistance to changes
  11. Appears not to be able to learn anything instinctively but must be taught skills

Common signs of dyspraxia include:


Dyspraxia primarily affects coordinating large and small body movements. Physical signs of dyspraxia include the following:

  1. Movements appear awkward and lack smoothness
  2. It takes extra physical and mental effort to do movements that others manage easily
  3. Poor spatial awareness means more trips, bumps and bruises
  4. Difficulty learning the movements required to carry out new practical tasks
  5. Difficulty transferring motor skills to new situations or activities

Executive Functioning

Someone with dyspraxia may find executive functioning difficult. Executive functioning refers to:

  1. Working memory: The ability to hold and manipulate information in the short term.
  2. Cognitive flexibility: Also called flexible thinking, lets us adapt to change. It lets us switch between tasks.
  3. Inhibitory control: This includes self-control and the ability to resist impulsive behaviours.

Executive functioning can be reduced when feeling tired or overwhelmed. This can be difficult for someone with dyspraxia.

Organisation and planning

Many people with dyspraxia have difficulty organising themselves, their equipment and their thoughts. Some also experience problems with attention, memory and time management.

Many dyspraxic adults say these difficulties cause more challenges in their daily lives than their movement difficulties.

Speech and language

Some people with dyspraxia struggle to keep up with conversations. There may be long, awkward pauses before they respond to a question or comment.

People with diagnosed verbal dyspraxia have severe speech difficulties. It is also known as Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia, or Childhood Apraxia of Speech. They struggle to coordinate the precise movements needed to produce clear speech. You can have verbal dyspraxia alone. Or, you can have it alongside other movement issues linked to dyspraxia.


Poor handwriting is one of the more common signs of dyspraxia. Practising with different types of pencil grips can help. People with dyspraxia may prefer typing on a keyboard to handwriting.

For more information and support with handwriting, visit the National Handwriting Association.

The presence of many (although not all) of these signs might suggest that a child has dyspraxia:

  1. Delay in learning early motor skills such as sitting, crawling, walking
  2. Difficulty running, jumping, hopping, catching/throwing compared to other children
  3. Movements appear awkward, slow, hesitant
  4. Needs to be taught physical skills rather than picking them up instinctively
  5. Frequently trips and falls
  6. Poor pencil grip. Writing is slow and immature
  7. Difficulty getting dressed and using cutlery
  8. Poor understanding of spatial concepts such as on/under/over/in front of
  9. Difficulty keeping friends and judging how to behave in company
  10. Anxious and has low self-esteem
  11. Difficulty paying attention reacts to all stimuli without discrimination
  12. Works better 1:1 or in a small group
  13. Has difficulty following instructions
  14. Has difficulty managing time
  15. Often loses things

How many people does dyspraxia affect?

Dyspraxia affects around 5% of school-aged children. Around 2% of children are severely affected.

Difficulties continue into adolescence and adulthood in most cases.

More males than females are diagnosed with dyspraxia. But, females' issues are often found at an older age.

Dyspraxia is a unique type of neurodivergence. People with it will often (but not always) have another diagnosis too.

Identifying dyspraxia early is crucial. It means that a person's physical, learning, social, and emotional needs can be well met. This means they have more opportunity to reach their potential.

What causes dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is the result of disruption in the way messages are passed between the brain and the body. The cause of this disruption is not yet clear. But, being born early and having a low birth weight both raise the risk. Also, a family history of coordination difficulties raises the likelihood.

Dyspraxia is not caused by brain damage, illness or injury. It is something you are born with and lasts throughout your whole life.

In most cases, the cause of a person’s dyspraxia is not known. There may not be one single reason why a person's movement skills are less developed than other areas.


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