Explainer: what is dyspraxia and how is it different to clumsiness?

Dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it affects brain function and unfolds as the person grows. somsak nitimongkolchai/Shutterstock

Most of us learn to tie our shoelaces, eat with cutlery and use a pencil with relative ease. But for children with dyspraxia (also known as developmental coordination disorder or DCD), these tasks are incredibly difficult to master.

Dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it affects brain function and unfolds as the person grows. It is diagnosed when a child’s movement skills are below that expected for their age and this impairment impacts on their everyday living or education.

Children with dyspraxia are more than just clumsy. They may have difficulty with tasks requiring involvement of their whole body (such as catching, running, riding a bike), their hands (writing, tying shoelaces) or both. It takes much more effort to learn skills, to retain them, and to transfer them to other contexts.

The cause of dyspraxia remains unclear. Like other neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, it seems to have a genetic component and is more common in children born prematurely.Roughly one child in every classroom has dyspraxia, though the majority remain undiagnosed. While some children outgrow the condition, up to 70% continue to experience movement difficulty as adolescents and adults. Tasks that require spatial awareness, such as driving therefore present new challenges.

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