- 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.
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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:
- an occupational therapist or developmental neuropsychologist
- a paediatrician (children’s doctor)
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.
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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:
- hypermobile joints
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Undiagnosed dyspraxia may lead to:
- temper tantrums
- anxiety and depression
- panic attacks
- frequent job changes or long-term unemployment
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:
- SPELD NSW supports people in New South Wales
- Speld Qld supports people in Queensland
- Specific Learning Difficulties SA supports people in South Australia
- SPELD Victoria supports people in Victoria
- Dyslexia SPELD Foundation supports people in Western Australia
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.
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Last reviewed: November 2023