Here’s a running list of what I did by accident in the past 24 hours: I spilled boiling water on my big toe. I left my credit card in a Thai restaurant. I tried on two white T-shirts and discovered stains on both. I nearly fell out of the shower while shaving my leg. None of this comes as a surprise to me; after all, I was diagnosed with dyspraxia, aka developmental coordination disorder, more than 15 years ago. And clumsiness is the most common and well-established symptom of dyspraxia, a neurological disorder often described as the “dyslexia of movement.”
There’s more to dyspraxia than clumsiness, however. Once known simply as “clumsy child syndrome,” experts have come to recognize clumsiness as just one of its many symptoms. Much like dyslexia, dyspraxia is a learning disability with no cure — put simply, some of the messages your brain is sending to your body aren’t getting through. Unlike dyslexia, however, it’s not widely known, even though dyspraxia is estimated to affect “between 5 and 10 percent of all school-aged children,” notes Robin L. Dole, who directs the Institute for Physical Therapy Education at Widener University.
Being clumsy doesn’t necessarily mean you have a developmental disability — some people are just plain clumsy. For other people, however, clumsiness is actually the most obvious symptom of their developmental disorder. It’s also important to note that not all people who have dyspraxia are clumsy: Both of my brothers have the disorder (which is often genetic), but one struggles mostly with handwriting; the other, speech patterns. These issues are now widely recognized as indicators of dyspraxia, along with clumsiness and at least two dozen others.
That said: Amanda Kirby, a renowned expert on specific learning difficulties and the author of Dyspraxia: The Hidden Handicap, notes that “nearly all” people with dyspraxia could be reasonably described as clumsy. “DCD by definition is a co-ordination difficulty,” she says.
If you can relate to some of the below symptoms, with or without clumsiness, consider making an appointment with a behavioral specialist to find out whether you have dyspraxia. (You can find a specialist here.)