Do you know how to spot the symptoms of Dyspraxia?

As a parent of a child with DCD, I had little knowledge or understanding of the condition when they were first diagnosed at 3 years of age, despite me being a GP at the time. Since that time I have learned a great deal about the condition and have been practicing as a clinician and researcher in the field for the past 25+ years. The imperative for me was finding out more so I could help my child on their journey through education and employment. Since those early days, I have also met 1000s of parents of children and also adults with DCD.

Dyspraxia in kids

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), sometimes known as Dyspraxia in the UK, is a common disorder affecting movement and coordination in children, young people and adults with symptoms present since childhood. It also often overlaps with other conditions such as ADHD, Speech, Language and Communication Needs, Dyslexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Having good co-ordination skills is something that we can sometimes take for granted. We get up in the morning, get dressed, clean our teeth, have breakfast and carry on the day undertaking numerous tasks which require you to be coordinated. In the same way that most children start to walk without any difficulty sometime in the first 18 months of life. Before you know it your children are running around kicking a ball and learning to scribble with crayons and write their name. They also can be seen to climb and explore the playground equipment. We watch them sitting and playing with jigsaws and toys like Lego.

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However, the ease that most kids undertake many of these activities is not the same for all. In every classroom there will be 1-2 children with co-ordination difficulties that make many tasks in the school day hard to complete and can lead to fatigue and frustration.

Difficulties learning new skills

A child or adult’s coordination difficulties affect their functioning of everyday skills and participation in education, work and leisure activities. Difficulties may vary in their presentation and these may also change over time depending on environmental demands, life experience, and the support given. There may be difficulties learning new skills and it may take the child or adult longer to learn and require more practice.

For younger children this can be undertaking activities such as:

  • Getting dressed and doing buttons and shoelaces
  • Handwriting at speed and neatly
  • Being able to use tools such as scissors and rulers
  • Using a knife and fork and not spilling food when eating
  • Playing ball games such as football and netball
  • Learning to ride a bike
  • Difficulty playing with construction toys and jigsaws.
  • Being reticent climbing on a climbing frame

DCD is distinct from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke, and occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is a lifelong condition with around two-thirds of adults continuing to have some challenges in adulthood. It is recognised by international organisations including the World Health Organisation.

While the co-ordination difficulties are often the area that is recognized in childhood other difficulties can be present alongside DCD and can have a substantial adverse impact on life including mental and physical health, and difficulties with time management, planning, personal organisation, and social skills.

Many movement and coordination difficulties will continue into adolescence and adulthood. Although these difficulties persist in adulthood, non-motor difficulties may become more prominent as expectations and demands change over time.

Importance of recognising the signs of Dyspraxia early

With appropriate recognition, reasonable adjustments, support and strategies in place people with DCD can be very successful in their lives. Recognising the signs and symptoms of DCD/Dyspraxia can mean that early intervention can be put in place. Ensuring your child can join in with other children and participate in school in the classroom and playground is really important

If you are concerned about your child’s co-ordination the following links and resources may be of help to you.

Useful addresses for more information: 

Books that may help you include: 

  • Dyspraxia: Developmental Co-ordination Disorder- Amanda Kirby
  • How to Succeed with Specific Learning Difficulties in College and University: A Guide for Students, Educators and Parents- Amanda Kirby
  • How to Succeed in Employment with Specific Learning Difficulties: A Guide for Employees and Employers- Amanda Kirby
  • The Adolescent with Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD)- Amanda Kirby
  • 100 Ideas for Supporting Pupils with Dyspraxia and DCD- Amanda Kirby and Lynne Peters

Article by Professor Amanda Kirby, Chair of the Committee of Movement Matters UK

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