If your child’s pediatrician or occupational therapist has used the term “dyspraxia,” you may be concerned about what this could mean. While it can sound scary to parents, this means that they have difficulty planning and carrying out movements.
Dyspraxia can lead to struggles with movement, balance, and coordination into adulthood. But fortunately, treating this condition during childhood can help to reduce symptoms and improve your child’s life in many areas.
Keep reading to find out more about what dyspraxia is and how it can be treated.
What is dyspraxia in children?
A child with dyspraxia has difficult planning and executing movements. While this can have an effect on your child’s coordination, it’s less of a coordination issue and more of an issue with coming up with a plan for movement and carrying that plan out.
It can be helpful to think of where the word dyspraxia comes from. Praxis refers to the ability to formulate and execute a movement. It involves using a variety of different senses and abilities, like balance, coordination, touch, vision, posture, and strength.
These skills are important for everyday tasks like self-care (getting dressed, eating, etc.) as well as both fine and gross motor skills. They help us to navigate obstacles as we move around and they even impact learning.
While praxis comes naturally to many children, children with dyspraxia struggle with planning and making movements. And since we use praxis in so many different areas, dyspraxia can lead to difficulties with a variety of activities.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Some of the signs of dyspraxia may be present at a young age—even in infancy. Your child may have been a bit late in meeting milestones like crawling, walking, or self-feeding. As they get older, they may struggle with gross motor skills and sports, as well as fine motor skills like handwriting or using scissors.
Symptoms in children can include:
- Difficulty with motor skills.
- Appearing clumsy or awkward.
- Bumping into things.
- Difficulty following instructions.
- Difficulty learning new skills.
It’s important to remember that all children develop at different rates. Just because your child struggles with motor skills doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. But if your child seems to struggle with movement and coordination, talk to their pediatrician or an occupational therapist.
How is dyspraxia diagnosed?
There isn’t a universally accepted set of criteria or a test for diagnosing dyspraxia, like there are for other disorders. However, your child’s occupational therapist or pediatrician will look at a variety of factors to determine if your child has dyspraxia.
The following factors may be considered in a diagnosis:
- Your child’s medical history
- When symptoms began
- Fine motor skills
- Gross motor skills
- Developmental milestones
- Cognitive abilities
Your child’s pediatrician or occupational therapist will also want to rule out any other conditions that may be causing their difficulties with motor skills. If your child’s difficulties with movement are affecting their ability to complete daily tasks, or they seem to be significantly behind their peers, a dyspraxia diagnosis may be made.
Your child may also be diagnosed with a related condition called developmental coordination disorder (DCD). DCD is often considered a more formal diagnosis than dyspraxia.
What causes dyspraxia?
The exact cause of dyspraxia is unknown. However, some risk factors include genetics, premature birth, and low birth weight. Boys are also more likely to have this condition than girls, though the reasons for this haven’t been thoroughly studied.
What is the treatment for dyspraxia?
Working with an occupational therapist or physical therapist can be helpful in treating symptoms of dyspraxia. Occupational therapy is the most common treatment for children with this condition.
Occupational therapy will help build strength and teach your child how to plan and complete tasks. An occupational therapist will also focus on helping your child with the specific motor skills they struggle with. Physical therapy may focus more on building strength and coordination.
Along with working with a therapist, there are many ways you can help your child at home. Some activities to try include:
- Games like Simon Says
- Obstacle courses
- Fine motor toys
- Arts and crafts
- Activity sheets
If your child struggles with planning and executing movements, it could be dyspraxia. Working with an occupational therapist is a great option for reducing your child’s symptoms and improving motor skills overall. You can also check out our YouTube video on this topic or get in touch with us to learn more.
What’s the difference between dyspraxia and developmental coordination disorder (DCD)?
The term dyspraxia is often used interchangeably with developmental coordination disorder, even by professionals. The major difference is that DCD is more of an official diagnosis with more clearly defined symptoms, namely difficulty with coordination and movement.
Dyspraxia, on the other hand, doesn’t have an internationally agreed upon set of criteria for diagnosis. While it may be used interchangeably with DCD, it sometimes refers to additional difficulties with skills like speech, memory, and sensory processing (to name a few). If you’re confused about your child’s diagnosis, ask their occupational or physical therapist for more clarity.
How common is dyspraxia?
Research has found that about 6% of children may struggle with DCD or dyspraxia, and as many as 10% may have milder symptoms. Boys are about 4 times more likely to have it than girls.
What is verbal dyspraxia?
You may have heard the terms verbal dyspraxia or speech dyspraxia. This condition indicates difficulty with coordinating the movement of their mouths required for speaking. Working with a speech therapist can help improve symptoms.
“Hi! My name is Lydia and I’m a freelance writer who specializes in parenting and education. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and worked as a teacher and tutor before deciding to stay home full-time with my two young children. As a mom, I’m passionate about early childhood education and am always looking for fun and practical ways to teach my kids at home.”