Developmental co-ordination disorder (dyspraxia) in children 


Childhood dyspraxia: James's story

James was diagnosed in 2005 with dyspraxia, a disability that can affect movement and co-ordination. His mother describes James’s symptoms and the methods used to improve his condition. Note: this video represents the parent's view of her child.

Media last reviewed: 07/10/2014

Next review due: 07/10/2016

Dyspraxia or developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD)?

While many people in the UK use the term 'dyspraxia' to refer to the difficulties with movement and co-ordination that first develop in young children, the term is used less often by health professionals nowadays.

Instead, most healthcare professionals use the term 'developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD)' to describe the condition.

This term is generally preferred by healthcare professionals because, strictly speaking, 'dyspraxia' can have several meanings. For example, dyspraxia can be used to describe movement difficulties that occur later in life as a result of damage to the brain, such as from a stroke or head injury.

Some health professionals may also use the term ‘specific developmental disorder of motor function (SDDMF)’ to refer to DCD.

Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination that causes a child to perform less well than expected for his or her age in daily activities and appear to move clumsily.

Early developmental milestones of crawling, walking, self-feeding and dressing may be delayed in young children with DCD, and drawing, writing and performance in sports are usually behind what is expected for their age.

The problem is not due to general delays in development or a learning disability, and is not caused by cerebral palsy or another neurological disorder (conditions affecting the nervous system).

Although signs of the condition are present from an early age, children vary widely in their rate of development and DCD is not usually definitely diagnosed until a child with the condition is around five years old or more.

Read more about the symptoms of DCD in children.

This information is about DCD in children, although the condition often causes continued problems into adulthood. There is a separate topic on DCD in adults.

Getting help for your child

Talk to your GP or health visitor – or a nurse, doctor or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child's school – if you have any concerns about your child's health or development.

If necessary, they can refer your child to a community paediatrician, who will try to identify any developmental problems and arrange for an assessment of the child's motor (movement) skills if appropriate.

Read more about diagnosing DCD in children.

What causes DCD?

Carrying out co-ordinated movements is a complex process that involves many different nerves and parts of the brain. It is not usually clear why co-ordination doesn’t develop as well as other abilities in children with DCD.

However, a number of risk factors that can increase a child’s likelihood of developing DCD have been identified, including being born prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy) and being born with a low birth weight.

Read more about the causes of DCD in children.

Who is affected

It is hard to estimate exactly how many children are affected by DCD, although a study carried out in the UK in 2009 suggested that up to one in every 20 children between seven and eight years of age may be affected by the condition to some degree.

DCD is thought to be around three or four times more common in boys than girls and the condition sometimes runs in families.

How DCD is treated

There is no cure for DCD, but a number of therapies can make it easier for children to manage their problems.

These include:

  • being taught ways of carrying out troublesome activities, such as breaking down difficult movements into much smaller parts and practising them regularly
  • adapting tasks to make them easier, such as using special grips on pens and pencils so they are easier to hold

Although DCD does not affect how intelligent a child is, it can make it more difficult for them to learn and they may need extra help to keep up at school.

Treatment for DCD will be tailored to your child and usually involves a number of different healthcare professionals working together.

Most children with DCD will continue to have difficulties as teenagers and adults but those with mild problems might find things improve as they grow up.

Read more about treating DCD in children.

Page last reviewed: 16/07/2014

Next review due: 16/07/2016


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 105 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 9 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

futuremrsromeo71 said on 29 June 2012

My 4 year old has been under an OT for a while now. I wasn't being given much information about why apart from hypermobile joints etc. Then I asked her directly, what is he being treated for? She said DCD, and I asked "Is that the same as Dyspraxia?". She corrected me and said that was the old fashioned term for it.
On reading more about DCD, it was astonishing just how much of the diagnostic criteria related to my experience as a child, and even now as an adult.
How would I go about getting a definitive diagnosis of this? I've gone through most of my life thinking my clumsiness was just "one of those things..." and being hopelessly disorganised. But the more I read about DCD the more convinced I am that there is a strong tendency in my family for this, alongside, ADD and Aspergers. I have male relatives who have ADD and Aspergers. Indeed, I suspect my son has Aspergers but with only being 4, would a paediatrician give a diagnosis at that age or would they adopt a "wait & see approach". There are at least 4 women in my family who would fit the DCD profile and are extremely clumsy/accident prone (I am talking broken bones, contusions etc). Are there any clinical studies of DCD being conducted and if so, do any focus on families and genetics?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

biggles26 said on 13 May 2012

I get rather annoyed when people assume that dyspraxia and autism are one in the same thing. I have dyspraxia but I do not have autism. What can be done and is being done to dispelled this myth?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Pete3243 said on 07 May 2012

Hi I am Peter Keegan Adult Representive Dyspraxia Foundation. I have dyspraxia and dyslexia and was informed at the age of 33 whist at university; I qualified as a Staff Nurse. I served in the army as a Combat Medical Technician were I have deployed to a number of war zones in the past (Croatia, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan). I have a facebook page Dyspraxia Foundation National Adult Support Group (officially supported by Dyspraxia Foundation) and of there is Dyspraxia Foundation. I & my fellow panel members continue to work hard in representing adults with dyspraxia in all issues (Employment, Further/ Higher Education and Late diagnosis) at all levels (local, regional and national). I aim to raise public awareness of dyspraxia at national level, end discrimination against persons with dyspraxia at universities and in the workplace and have better support for adults with dyspraxia in diagnosis, further/ higher education and employment.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

First Five Coaching said on 28 September 2011

Hey guys, This post was so re-assuring to me, Im 21 and have suffered with Dyspraxia (among other things) Im now Nearly Finished my Degree in Sports Coaching and Im also Captain of the Basketball team. this is a miraculous in itself because i have always struggled with sports especially ones that involve lots of sequencing and throwing and catching. I believe that i have triumphed in my chosen sport because my parents took me to Dance lessons when i was very young up until i was 16 and transferred my skills to Basketball.

So what im wondering is if there was a Sports Coaching session (either multi skills or normal sports) specifically aimed at people with Dyspraxia would this be of interest to anyone. the coaches would all be trained specifically to understand how people with dyspraxia learn and it would also be a safe environment for dyspraxics to simply enjoy taking part in sport without feeling self conscious or left out. it will also give people a chance to build self esteem and connect with other like them.

there has been research that suggests that an OT can help reduce dyslexic symptoms, so why cant sport?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

williespivey said on 26 August 2011

I agree stop calling it a childhood disorder - some like myself (60+) who never had the luck to be diagnosed during childhood have had to put up with comments, eye rolling etc for decades - is a real problem still

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

MThursfield said on 13 October 2010

Why is this just listed as a childhood problem? As the text says there is no cure and 90% of sufferers will continue to have problems beyond childhood.

You don't list dyslexia as solely a childhood problem, so why dyspraxia?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Wendy Fidler said on 28 September 2010

I wonder if we could gain permission to use your very helpful video on our website
Wendy Fidler, Chair, Education Panel
Vice Chair Dyspraxia Foundation

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Ganesha15 said on 10 January 2010

As is pointed out in the previous comment, it is indeed a condition which continues into adult life, so it is insulting to the many adults who have the condition for it to be described merely as a 'childhood' disorder. Unfortunately, there is still widespread ignorance of the condition amongst the medical profession, leaving many people with dyspraxia to struggle on without the kind of support they need. A lack of awareness of dyspraxia can severely impact on the life chances of those who are affected!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

hangilley said on 09 June 2009

I wonder if this could be rewoerded as Developmental Coordination Disorder to fit in with the Internationally recognised definition? It is confusing for parents when Dyspraxia continues to be used without understanding.
The video clip does not relate to the topic but describes the benefits of play. The child with DCD has difficulty with the performance of movement not the lack of opportunity.
This condition does continue into adult life and it would be innnacurate to describe it exclusively in terma of a childhood condition.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Caring for a disabled child

If your child has a disability, read the parent carers' section of Care and support for advice

Learning disabilities: education

How your child's special educational needs can be met through mainstream school or with the help of a statement from the local authority

Special needs in children

If your child has a health condition or disability, they may need specialised healthcare and help at school. Find out more here.