Overview of Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia (pronounced dĭs-prăk’sē-ă), also called developmental dyspraxia, is a disorder that affects motor development (i.e., the ability to perform purposeful, voluntary movements). Dyspraxia often occurs with other learning disabilities and neurological conditions, including autism, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia (difficulty interpreting written language), and dyscalculia (difficulty using mathematics). This disorder is not related to intelligence or to a lack of comprehension (understanding), attention, or cooperation.

Dyspraxia affects males more often than females and approximately 70% of people with the condition are boys and men. It is a lifelong disorder that causes different types of difficulties at different ages.

Signs of dyspraxia in babies and very young children include the following:

  • Inability to follow objects with the eyes without moving the head
  • Difficulty grasping objects (e.g., toys, finger foods, eating utensils)
  • Developmental delays (rolling over, crawling, walking, and talking later than normal)
  • Sensitivity to touch (e.g., wearing clothing, being bathed)
  • Fine motor difficulties (e.g., dressing, brushing teeth, coloring)

Children with dyspraxia may have difficulty skipping, throwing and catching a ball, or riding a bicycle. They may bump into objects and fall frequently, and often have a poor sense of direction.

In school, coordination difficulties, speech problems, and immaturity can have a negative effect on the development of social skills. Children with dyspraxia often have difficulty interacting with friends, classmates, and teachers.

Problems writing and co-existing learning disabilities can lead to academic difficulties in children with dyspraxia. The disorder often affects self-esteem levels and results in high stress levels. In severe cases, children with disorder develop obsessive behaviors and/or phobias (abnormal fears).

Adults with dyspraxia may have a difficult time driving, and performing household tasks (e.g., cooking, cleaning) and self-care (e.g., washing, shaving, brushing teeth and hair). They may experience an oversensitivity to touch, light, sound, taste, or smell, and may have difficulty controlling speech (e.g., volume, pitch). Adults who have dyspraxia often have problems with fine motor skills, such as typing and writing.

Other medical conditions, including other learning disabilities and neurological disorders, can cause symptoms similar to dyspraxia. Contact a qualified health care provider if you or your child experiences dyspraxia symptoms. Although the condition cannot be cured, early intervention and support can help reduce frustration, increase coordination, and improve personal and social relationships in many people with dyspraxia.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Dec 2009

Last Modified: 01 Jun 2011