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Dyspraxia Foundation FAQs
This is an important question and the source of some confusion.
Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a formal diagnosis with diagnostic criteria described by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. A revised version was published in 2013.
Having clear diagnostic criteria is helpful because it provides a common, shared understanding of a particular group of people. This is especially important for researchers when comparing interventions or trying to understand the causes of a condition.
There is no such international agreement for the definition of dyspraxia.
However, many people with lived experience say they prefer the term ‘dyspraxia’ to DCD because they are uncomfortable with the words:
- ‘developmental’ - which suggests they should have ‘grown out of’ their difficulties by adulthood,
- ‘coordination’ - because this doesn’t convey the range of difficulties they experience day to day, both physical and non-physical; and
- ‘disorder’ - because they regard themselves as ‘different’ rather than ‘disordered’.
Many older teenagers and adults describe themselves as ‘dyspraxic’ and consider dyspraxia to be a fundamental part of their identity.
Dyspraxia Foundation, therefore, recognises DCD as the clinical diagnostic term but respects people’s right to use the term dyspraxia to refer to themselves and their difficulties.
Dyspraxia/DCD and autism are separate conditions but do share some similar characteristics. People can have both autism and dyspraxia/DCD and it is important that both diagnoses are given where appropriate, to enable a full understanding of a person’s needs.
It is very common for people with dyspraxia/DCD to have symptoms of at least one other disorder. Research suggests that:
- Around 50% of people with dyspraxia/DCD also have ADHD.
- Around 10% of people with dyspraxia/DCD show signs of autism while around 80% of children with autism have movement difficulties consistent with a diagnosis of dyspraxia/DCD.
- Around 50% of children with dyslexia show features of dyspraxia/DCD.
- Around one-third of children with specific language impairment also have dyspraxia/DCD.
It is important that co-occurring conditions are identified so that a complete picture of a person’s needs can be identified, and appropriate support provided
Many children with learning difficulties are also delayed in their motor development. The question is whether their coordination difficulties are greater than would be expected given their cognitive ability. It is not always possible to carry out a formal movement assessment when a person has difficulty following instructions or sticking with a task. In this case it may not be possible to make a formal diagnosis. However many of the general tips and strategies recommended by the Dyspraxia Foundation will be useful, whether or not a child has a formal diagnosis of dyspraxia/DCD.
Dyspraxia/DCD seems to run in families in some cases, but to date, no specific gene has been identified. It is likely that there are many different causes of dyspraxia/DCD, and genetics may be one.
DCD and GDD are two conditions, listed separately in DSM-5-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2022). DSM is a medical reference manual describing the diagnostic criteria for a range of mental health and brain-related conditions. It is used by clinicians in the UK and elsewhere. The diagnostic criteria for GDD and DCD (also known as dyspraxia) are summarized below.
Global Developmental Delay is categorized in DSM-5-TR as an intellectual disability under the broader neurodevelopmental disorder heading. It is identified in children under 5 years of age who are delayed in two or more developmental domains - gross or fine motor skills, cognition, speech and language, personal/social and activities of daily living. Most go on to be identified as having a learning or intellectual disability as children.
Developmental coordination disorder is categorized in DSM-5-TR as a discrete motor disorder under the broader neurodevelopmental disorder heading. It is identified when a) the acquisition and execution of skilled movements is substantially below that expected given the person’s age and opportunities for skill learning b) motor difficulties significantly and persistently interfere with the performance of everyday activities at home/school/work/elsewhere c) difficulties have been present from an early age (birth) d) motor difficulties can’t be explained by another condition such as cerebral palsy, learning disability or visual impairment. DCD isn’t usually diagnosed in children under the age of 5. Some children with a previous diagnosis of GDD may later be diagnosed with another neurodevelopmental disorder as the specific nature of their difficulties becomes clear over time.