What is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), is a neurological condition that affects the brains ability to process information that results in disturbances in movements, planning, speech and learning new tasks/processing new information.

Dyspraxia can have adverse affects on ones fine and gross motor skills, handwriting, low muscle tone, articulation, learning new information, mental health, and more.

 

There are a number of symptoms and comorbidities present with dyspraxia, unfortunately due to a lack of awareness, understanding and information available gaining a diagnosis and support can be difficult. We hope that Dyspraxia Magazine will help improve these issues.

Dyspraxia/DCD is formally recognised by international organisations including the World Health Organisation. Dyspraxia is distinct from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke, and occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. Individuals may vary in how their difficulties present: these may change over time depending on environmental demands and life experiences, and will persist into adulthood.

Dyspraxia Symptoms in Adolescents and Adults

Those with dyspraxia often find routine tasks of daily life such as driving, household chores, cooking and self care difficult. They can also find coping at work challenging if appropriate support is not provided. The below symptoms are the commonly known characteristics of dyspraxia, while someone does not need to experience all of these issues, many need to be present for a diagnosis to be offered.

Gross motor co-ordination skills (large movements):

  • Poor balance. Difficulty in riding a bicycle, scooter, roller blading, going up and down hills.

  • Poor posture and fatigue. Difficulty in standing for a long time as a result of weak muscle tone. Floppy, unstable round the joints. Some people with dyspraxia may have flat feet and hypermobility.

  • Poor integration of the two sides of the body. Difficulty with some sports involving jumping, cycling and breast stroke swimming etc.

  • Poor hand-eye co-ordination. Difficulty with team sports especially those which involve catching a ball and batting.

  • Difficulties with driving a car.

  • Lack of rhythm when dancing, doing aerobics.

  • Clumsy gait and movement. Difficulty changing direction, stopping and starting actions.

  • Exaggerated 'accessory movements' such as flapping arms when running.

  • Tendency to fall, trip, bump into things and people.

Fine motor co-ordination skills (small movements):

  • Lack of manual dexterity. Poor at two-handed tasks, causing problems with using cutlery, cleaning, cooking, ironing, craft work, playing musical instruments.

  • Poor manipulative skills. Difficulty with typing, handwriting and drawing. May have a poor pen grip, press too hard when writing and have difficulty when writing along a line.

  • Handwriting may be difficult to read and cause pain and be easily tired. This can result in incomplete written words and sentences.

  • Cooking and using kitchen utensils can be a hazard, especially when using sharp objects.

  • Inadequate grasp. Difficulty using tools and domestic implements, locks, keys and plugs.

  • Difficulty with dressing and grooming activities, such as putting on makeup, shaving, doing hair, fastening clothes, putting on gloves, and tying shoelaces.

Poorly established hand dominance:

  • May alternate between the of use either hand for different tasks at different times.

Speech and language:

  • May talk continuously and repeat themselves. Some people with dyspraxia have difficulty with organising the content and sequence of their language.

  • May skip words in a sentence or get words mixed up in their sentences.

  • May not always use the word intended, or say the word of something in the room or what they have over heard someone else say.

  • May not have a particularly ‘mature’ vocabulary, and may opt to use words that a shorter and easier to pronounce.

  • May have unclear speech and be unable to pronounce some words that they can pronounce well at other times.

  • Speech may have uncontrolled pitch, volume and rate.

  • Struggle to keep up with conversation that change and bounce between multiple people. May take a few seconds to process when someone has called them.

  • May say “What?” when first spoken to as they process what’s just been said to them.

  • Stuttering and ‘groping’ where they are trying to find their next word or trying to grasp the sound and shape of a word.

Eye movements:

  • Tracking. Difficulty in following a moving object smoothly with eyes without moving head excessively. Tendency to lose the place while reading.

  • Struggle relocating. Cannot look quickly and effectively from one object to another (for example, looking from a TV to a magazine)

  • Difficulty copying an image or text from a board, book, screen etc correctly and within a short time frame.

Perception (interpretation of the different senses):

  • Poor visual perception

  • Sensitivity to light changes

  • Difficulty in distinguishing sounds from background noise. Tendency to be over-sensitive to noise and be unable to hear conversations clearly in a noisy environment.

  • Over or under-sensitive to touch. Can result in dislike of being touched and/or aversion to overly loose or tight fitted clothing - tactile defensiveness.

  • Over or under-sensitive to smell and taste, food textures, temperature and pain

  • Lack of awareness of body position in space and spatial relationships. Can result in bumping into and tripping over things like door frames, low tables and people, dropping and spilling things, stabbing oneself with cutlery.

  • Little sense of time, or weight. Leading to difficulties with cooking, timed exams, travel, arriving to school/work on time

  • Difficulty with noticing the speed on a moving object and distances, this can make driving, crossing the road and walking up stair hazardous.

  • Restricted sense of direction. Difficulty distinguishing right from left makes map reading skills and following verbal directions difficult.

Learning, thought and memory:

  • Difficulty in planning and organising thoughts.

  • Poor memory, especially short-term memory. May forget and lose things but have good long term memory.

  • Difficulty focusing due to the stress of struggling to understanding new information given, or a task that is difficult.

  • Poor sequencing causes struggles with maths, reading and spelling and writing reports at work.

  • Accuracy problems. Difficulty with copying sounds, writing, movements, proofreading.

  • Difficulty in following instructions, especially more than one at a time or where the task has not been thoroughly explained well.

  • Difficulty with concentration. May be easily distracted when over stimulated by sense.

  • May do only one thing at a time properly, though may try to do many things at once to match peers.

  • Make take longer to finish a task.

  • May daydream and wander.

Emotion and behaviour:

  • Difficulty in listening to people, especially in large groups. May appear tactless and interrupt frequently but has high levels of empathy.

  • Struggle working in teams and may prefer to work alone on a project at their own pace.

  • Difficulty in picking up non-verbal signals or in judging tone or pitch of voice in themselves and or others. Tendency to take things literally. May listen but not understand when others are using phrases that are not literal.

  • May need time to adapt to new or unpredictable situations. Sometimes avoids them altogether and prefer to stick with what and who they know.

  • Impulsive. Tendency to be easily frustrated, wanting immediate gratification and feeling inadequate compared to others.

  • Tendency to be erratic & have 'good and bad days'.

  • Tendency to opt out of things that are too difficult from fear of failure and being judged.

  • Make great loyal friends but may be too trusting of some people.

Emotions as a result of difficulties experienced:

  • Tend to get stressed, depressed and anxious easily

  • May have difficulty sleeping

  • Prone to low self-esteem, emotional outbursts, phobias, fears, obsessions, compulsions and addictive behaviour.

     

Many of these characteristics are not unique to people with dyspraxia, other neurodiversities will experience similar symptoms and not even the most severe case of dyspraxia will have all the above characteristics. But adults with dyspraxia will tend to have more than their fair share of co-ordination and perceptual difficulties.