Dyspraxia: what is it, what are the symptoms and how common is it?

Dyspraxia may be one of those overtly medical terms you’ve heard of, but don’t know much about. It is, in fact, a condition affecting physical co-ordination that can disrupt a person’s fine motor skills and articulation. 

This is an edited version of an article first published by the Independent 

This year, Dyspraxia Awareness Week took place between Sunday 6 October and Saturday 12 October. The aim of the week is to raise awareness of dyspraxia and break down the stigma surrounding it.

TV presenter Ray Wilding recently opened up about his dyspraxia diagnosis, saying he found it ‘tricky’ coping with the co-ordination disorder throughout his life.

The Crimewatch Roadshow presenter told Press Association that dyspraxia is, ‘kind of like dyslexia with your hands’, explaining that he struggled in school when he was unable to do activities that his classmates could with ease. Signs of dyspraxia may be present from an early age, with possible symptoms including poor co-ordination skills and untidy handwriting.

So what is dyspraxia, what are the symptoms and how common is it? Here’s everything you need to know.

The Dyspraxia Foundation defines the condition as a type of developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD). The disorder can affect fine motor skills, such as the co-ordination of small muscles in the hands and fingers. Gross motor skills, such as the co-ordination of the larger muscles in the arms, legs and torso, may also be affected. Furthermore, a person’s articulation when speaking may be compromised by the condition.

While the terms ‘dyspraxia’ and ‘DCD’ are sometimes used interchangeably, they don’t always refer to the same condition. Healthcare professionals prefer the term ‘DCD’ as it isn’t loaded with the potential multiple meanings and misunderstandings of the term ‘dyspraxia’; the NHS explains that dyspraxia may also be used to describe movement difficulties occurring later in life as a result of brain damage through stroke or head injury.

What are the symptoms?

Signs of dyspraxia may show themselves in infancy. Symptoms include difficulty playing with toys or problems during games that require precise co-ordination, troubles using cutlery, untidy handwriting and an inability to perform tasks such as doing up buttons or tying shoelaces; the child may fall over more frequently and drop objects. However, these signs aren’t always indicative of dyspraxia.

Pete Guest, founder of Dyspraxia and Life magazine, discovered he had dyspraxia after struggling with the condition at school. He has not been formally diagnosed with the condition and explains how hard it can be for adults to be diagnosed with dyspraxia through the NHS.

“The pathway isn’t clear, and the NHS will not fund diagnostic assessment in adulthood meaning people need to pay up to £800 to be diagnosed privately,“ he said.

“This is something many in the community really want to see change; it is unthinkable that you should have to pay for a diagnosis of something you have had since the day you were born.”

What are the causes?

While there is no confirmed cause of dyspraxia, there are factors that may put a child at greater risk of developing the disorder. These include being born prematurely, weighing a below average weight at birth and having relatives with DCD.

For more information, visit the NHS website.

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