Compared to other specific learning difficulties, major research into dyspraxia – or developmental coordination disorder (DCD) as it is more formally known – has only begun fairly recently.
DCD is the term used to diagnose children who have motor skills substantially below what is expected for their age. They are not lazy, clumsy or unintelligent – in fact, their intellectual ability is in line with the general population – but they do struggle with everyday tasks that require coordination.
Take a typical boy with DCD: he is a bright and capable 10-year-old boy, but he struggles to tie his shoe laces and needs help to fasten the buttons on his school shirt. He can’t ride a bike and no one passes him the ball when he plays sports. His teacher has told his parents that while he is a clever and very able student, his handwriting is slow and difficult to read. He finds it hard to keep up in class or to complete his homework – and his performance at school is deteriorating.
DCD affects around 5–6 per cent of children – which roughly equates to one child in every classroom – and tends to be more prevalent in boys than girls. At home, children have difficulties getting ready and taking care of themselves. In the classroom, handwriting is significantly affected and can be slow, hard to read and sometimes painful to produce. On the playground, a child with DCD may have trouble with throwing, catching, running and jumping. In many cases it is a child’s difficulties with handwriting that triggers a referral to healthcare services, following parent and teacher concerns.