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Dyspraxia

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Dyspraxia is a neurological (brain) condition.
  • It’s also called developmental coordination disorder (DCD).
  • People with dyspraxia have problems learning and doing motor skills.
  • Dyspraxia is often identified in early childhood and is a life-long condition.

What is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a neurological (brain) and developmental condition. It affects about 1 in 20 primary school- aged children. It’s also called developmental coordination disorder (DCD).

People with dyspraxia have problems learning and doing motor skills. A motor skill involves using your body’s muscles to do a task.

Dyspraxia is identified more often in boys.

What are the symptoms of dyspraxia?

Children with dyspraxia are often unusually clumsy and bump into other people or objects. They may have problems with:

  • gross motor skills
  • fine motor skills

Gross motor skills are movements that involve the large muscles in your arms, legs and body. Examples of these are: running, jumping and throwing a ball.

Fine motor skills are tasks that involve using the smaller muscles in your hands and wrists. Examples of these are writing, using scissors and tying shoelaces.

Signs of dyspraxia

Signs that your child may have dyspraxia are difficulty with:

  • holding a pencil and writing
  • doing up buttons or shoelaces
  • running and jumping

Some other things that you might notice are that your child:

  • has difficulty learning new skills
  • becomes tired easily
  • avoids tasks they find difficult, such as handwriting
  • has difficulty doing tasks on their own, such as dressing

Dyspraxia is usually identified in early childhood.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes dyspraxia?

The causes of dyspraxia aren’t well understood.

It is thought to be caused by a problem with the way connections develop between the nerves in the brain.

There seems to be a strong genetic link — children with dyspraxia tend to have a parent with dyspraxia.

It’s also linked to complications during pregnancy and birth.

When should I see my doctor?

If you are concerned about your child’s movement, see your doctor or paediatrician. They will be able to give you advice and refer you to other specialists.

How is dyspraxia diagnosed?

The diagnosis of dyspraxia should involve a multidisciplinary team, including:

The occupational therapist or developmental neuropsychologist can check your child’s motor skills.

Your paediatrician will check that their problems aren’t being caused by another neurological (brain) condition.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How is dyspraxia treated?

There is no cure for dyspraxia. But it can be treated with regular therapies.

Occupational therapy is the main treatment for dyspraxia. It can help develop the skills needed for school and everyday living.

Physiotherapy is also important for children with muscle tone and strength problems.

Can dyspraxia be prevented?

Dyspraxia can’t be prevented.

Complications of dyspraxia

Dyspraxia can occur on its own. However, people with dyspraxia often also have:

Undiagnosed dyspraxia may lead to:

Resources and support

Auspeld supports children and adults with specific learning disorders in Australia. They provide useful resources that include:

There are a number of state-based SPELD organisations:

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2023


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