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Signs and Symptoms of Dyspraxia

Symptoms of Dyspraxia
Dyspraxia, also known as a Developmental Motor Coordination Disorder, is a condition that affects a person’s ability to coordinate physical movements. This results in clumsiness and difficulty in acquiring motor skills to varying degrees.

In this article, we discuss the signs and symptoms of dyspraxia and how to recognize it during child development.

We specialize in helping children overcome the symptoms of learning disabilities. Book a free consultation to talk about your child’s learning needs.

Table of contents:

What is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by interference in the messages between the brain and body. As a result, children may have difficulty in both fine and gross motor skills. 

The DSM-5 categorizes dyspraxia as a neurodevelopmental disorder, specifically a motor disorder.

Children may struggle to learn skills such as stacking blocks, riding a bicycle, and tying their shoes, which may cause them to struggle to learn complex skills, become frustrated during the learning process, and develop low self-esteem.

Signs and symptoms of dyspraxia

Dyspraxia can have a range of symptoms, with mild forms often being more difficult to detect. 

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of dyspraxia in children:

Coordination problems

Infants may have difficulty playing with toys that require coordination. Toys involving stacking, aligning, or specific movements may become difficult for a child with dyspraxia.

Later on, these problems may become more noticeable:

  • Atypical body posture
  • Difficulty in Physical Education classes
  • Poor handwriting and drawing
  • Problems getting dressed
  • Limited timing and balance

Difficulty with cutlery

Another key sign of dyspraxia is limitations in fine motor control. Hand-eye coordination tasks require special attention and precise movements.

Difficulty eating with a knife and a fork is a typical example. Other related movements can also become difficult for children with dyspraxia, such as brushing their hair, unlocking doors, and completing chores.

In their academic life, this also results in handwriting issues. Students may find it difficult to correctly hold a pencil, write at an appropriate speed, or write legible, error-free sentences.

Challenges with playground activities

As dyspraxia is a disorder affecting a child’s motor skills, physical activity can often be a source of frustration for them.

They may show delays in learning to walk, jump, play sports, or participate in playground games. Catching or throwing a ball may be difficult due to poor coordination. As a result, children with dyspraxia may be reluctant to make friends, join in on playground games, and participate in physical activities.

This means developmental coordination disorders can also affect a child’s social development.

Appears awkward or clumsy

While all children will appear awkward or clumsy at times, another key sign of dyspraxia is more frequent displays of clumsiness.

Children with dyspraxia may have problems with spatial awareness and combining movements into a controlled sequence, which could result in:

  • Consistently knocking things over
  • Falling more often
  • Difficulty picking up or holding objects
  • Restlessness

It is important to know that clumsiness and failed coordination attempts are normal parts of a child’s developmental process. With dyspraxia, however, children learn these skills much slower, which may interfere with their ability to have a normal childhood.

Slow to pick up new skills

As dyspraxia results in poor muscle coordination, trying to learn new skills may become an issue. This can show up when learning to play sports, following instructions, or attempting to play instruments.

While they are able to learn these skills with intervention, they might also have difficulties transferring them to new domains. For example, playing a different sport or balancing on a scooter instead of a bike are skills that are not as easily transferred for children with dyspraxia.

Other neurodevelopmental disorders

Dyspraxia commonly copresents with other developmental disorders. Developmental motor coordination disorder can also cause symptoms seemingly unrelated to motor control.

These conditions are often present in children with dyspraxia:

  • ADHD
  • Hypotonia
  • Dyslexia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Behavioral problems
  • Language difficulties
  • Trouble making friends
  • Low self-esteem

Children with dyspraxia are unlikely to exhibit all these conditions, as each individual may have unique difficulties and challenges.

As dyspraxia can only be diagnosed after eliminating the possibility of neurological diseases such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, most individuals will display their own pattern of symptoms.

Dyspraxia vs. apraxia

Generally, apraxia presents more severe symptoms than dyspraxia, which can result in the complete inability to perform precise movements. On the other hand, dyspraxia is typically characterized by inaccuracy or difficulty in learning – but not the total absence of capability.

Many times, apraxia can be caused by severe neurological conditions, such as a brain tumor, hydrocephalus, or degenerative illnesses.

Apraxia also has many subtypes, the most commonly known being aphasia (Childhood Apraxia of Speech).

How common is dyspraxia?

According to the DSM-5, it is believed that 5-6% of children are affected by dyspraxia. This condition is also diagnosed more frequently in males.

This means it is a relatively common developmental disorder, as milder forms and symptoms can make it difficult to detect early on.

What causes dyspraxia?

At the moment, there is no known cause or cure for dyspraxia.

Developmental coordination disorder can be diagnosed by a team of professionals based on a series of screening tests and a child’s developmental history.

Developmental disorders such as dyspraxia can be difficult to detect for parents and untrained professionals. This is why it is important to remain aware of the signs and symptoms of dyspraxia and to contact a professional team if you suspect your child needs additional support.

At Edublox, we specialize in helping children with learning difficulties. If your child has motor and coordination challenges, reach out for a free consultation to discuss how we can help.

Feel free to continue reading through our resources to learn more about these related developmental disorders:

What is Edublox?

Edublox is an educational method that integrates cognitive training with reading, spelling, or math tutoring and solid learning principles. Edublox offers live online tutoring to students with learning disabilities – mild, moderate, and severe.

Edublox assists students in becoming life-long learners and empowers them to realize their highest educational goals. While Edublox is not a quick fix, its use can permanently alleviate the symptoms of learning disabilities.

Below are success stories of children who overcame the symptoms of their learning disabilities and the difference it made to their lives:

References and sources:

American Psychiatric Association (February 2022). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Publishing. pp. 74–77.

World Health Organization (February 2022). “6A04 Developmental motor coordination disorder”. International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11).

Blank R, Barnett AL, Cairney J, Green D, Kirby A, Polatajko H, et al. (March 2019). “International clinical practice recommendations on the definition, diagnosis, assessment, intervention, and psychosocial aspects of developmental coordination disorder”. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.