What is Dyspraxia/DCD?
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), commonly known as Dyspraxia, is a complex neurological condition affecting fine and/or gross motor skills, motor planning and coordination in children and adults It’s not related to intelligence, but it can sometimes affect cognitive skills.
Child and Adult Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), also known as Dyspraxia in Ireland and the UK, is a common disorder affecting fine or gross motor co-ordination in children and adults. This condition is formally recognized by international organizations including the World Health Organization. DCD is distinct from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke. The range of intellectual ability is in line with the general population. Individuals may vary in how their difficulties present; these may change over time depending on environmental demands and life experience, and will persist into adulthood. An individual’s co-ordination difficulties may affect participation and functioning of everyday life skills in education, work and employment.
Children may present with difficulties with self-care, writing, typing, riding a bike and play as well as other educational and recreational activities. Many of these difficulties will continue on into adulthood while they also struggle with learning some independent living skills, driving a car and managing education and employment. There may be a range of co-occurring difficulties which can also have serious negative impacts on daily life, these include social emotional difficulties, challenges with planning and organization, as well as problems with time management, all of which may impact an adult’s education or employment experience.
The term ‘dyspraxia’ is used in many different ways by different people, which can cause confusion. Some use it interchangeably with ‘DCD’ to mean the same thing. Others use it to refer to something quite different. Unlike DCD, there is no internationally agreed formal definition or description of the term ‘dyspraxia’ and it is not included in DSM-5. Despite this, in Ireland and the UK the term ‘dyspraxia’ is sometimes used in a very broad way to refer to children who have motor difficulties plus difficulties with: speech, organization, planning, sequencing, working memory and various other psychological, emotional and social problems. However, there is little research evidence to support such a broad diagnostic category.
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is the term used in DSM-5 to refer to a condition in which an individual has severe difficulties in learning everyday motor skills, which cannot be explained by physical, sensory or intellectual impairment. The main features of this condition are clearly described in DSM-5. The term ‘dyspraxia’ is used in many different ways by different people, which can cause confusion. Some use it interchangeably with ‘DCD’ to mean the same thing. Others use it to refer to something quite different. Unlike DCD, there is no internationally agreed formal definition of the term ‘dyspraxia’, and it is not included in DSM-5.
The child with Dyspraxia/DCD may have a combination of several problems in varying degrees. These include:
- Poor balance
- Poor fine and gross motor co-ordination
- Poor posture
- Difficulty with throwing and catching a ball
- Poor awareness of body position in space
- Poor sense of direction
- Difficulty in hopping, skipping or riding a bike
- Sensitive to touch
- Confused about which hand to use
- Intolerance of having hair or teeth brushed, nails and hair cut
- Slow to learn to dress or feed themselves
- Find some clothes uncomfortable
- Difficulty with reading, writing
- Speech problems – slow to learn to speak and speech may be incoherent.
- Phobias or obsessive behavior and impatient
Children with Dyspraxia/DCD can be of average or above average intelligence but are often behaviorally immature. They try hard to fit in to socially accepted behavior when at school but often throw tantrums when at home. They may find it difficult to understand logic and reason.
Not all children with Dyspraxia/DCD have all these problems. Many parents will say that their children have some of these problems, but if your child has dyspraxia, either diagnosed or not, you may have observed a cluster of these difficulties.
There is no cure for Dyspraxia/DCD, but the earlier a child is treated, the greater the chance of improvement will be. A lot of the skills that we take for granted will never become automatic for children with Dyspraxia/DCD, so they will have to be taught these skills. Occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and extra help at school can all assist these children with coping or overcoming many of the difficulties they face.
Dyspraxia/DCD is also known by other names including:
- Clumsy Child Syndrome
- Motor Learning Problems
- Sensory Processing Disorder