Dyspraxia (children) - Symptoms 

Symptoms of dyspraxia 

Problems caused by dyspraxia, a type of developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), may be visible from an early stage.

Development problems

An early sign of dyspraxia may be that your child does not reach the normal stages of development. For example, they may take slightly longer than expected to:

  • roll over
  • sit
  • crawl
  • stand
  • walk
  • speak
  • toilet train

Your child's speech may be very immature or impossible to understand in their early years, and language and vocabulary skills may take longer to develop.

Problems in childhood

As your child gets older, they may find it harder than other children of the same age to join in playground games and to perform fine (detailed) movements, such as handwriting. They may also have difficulty processing thoughts and concentrating. 

Some children may also start to avoid activities at home or school to avoid feeling embarrassed in front of friends or family.

Movement and co-ordination

If your child has dyspraxia, they will have problems with movement and co-ordination. They may find the following difficult:

  • playground activities such as hopping, jumping, running, and catching or kicking a ball (they often avoid joining in because of their lack of co-ordination and may be at risk of becoming unfit)
  • games including shape-sorter toys, building blocks and jigsaws
  • using scissors and colouring pens (their drawings may appear scribbled and more childish than they should be for their age)
  • fine movements such as handwriting, tying shoelaces, doing up buttons and using a knife and fork
  • keeping still (they may swing or move their arms and legs a lot and find it hard to sit still)
  • walking up and down stairs
  • getting dressed

A child with dyspraxia may also bump into objects or drop things, and may fall over a lot. This makes them appear awkward and clumsy.

Concentration and learning

If your child has dyspraxia, they will have difficulty concentrating and learning. They may:

  • do better at school in a one-to-one situation than in a group, as they are able to be guided through work
  • have a poor attention span, finding it difficult to concentrate on one thing for more than a few minutes
  • not automatically pick up new skills and need encouragement and repetition to help them learn
  • have problems with writing stories and copying from the blackboard

These problems can be upsetting for the child.

Persistent problems

As your child gets older, these problems may start to have a different effect on them. For example, problems with muscle movement may mean they:

  • find PE (physical education) difficult
  • cannot take part in team games, which may have an effect how well they make friends
  • may be bullied for being ‘different’ or clumsy
  • may avoid certain activities or subjects, such as drawing
  • are more tired, as they have to use more energy than other children to complete the same activities 

Your child may also have low self-esteem (the way they feel about themselves) as a result of these problems.

Similar conditions

Sometimes, dyspraxia may be confused with other, similar conditions. However, dyspraxia is different to:

  • a learning disability, where your child finds learning, understanding and communicating difficult, which can be caused by an illness or problem before or during birth, or during childhood
  • a general developmental delay, where your child does not reach certain milestones of ‘normal development’ which can affect a number of areas, such as speech or social skills

Dyspraxia specifically relates to the development of a child’s motor skills (their ability to make smooth, co-ordinated movements).

Children with dyspraxia may also have other conditions, such as:

  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) a group of behavioural symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness
  • dyslexia  a common type of learning difficulty that mainly affects the skills involved in the reading and spelling of words
  • autistic spectrum disorder  a range of related developmental disorders that begin in childhood, such as Asperger syndrome (which causes difficulty with social interaction and behaviour)

Page last reviewed: 05/07/2012

Next review due: 05/07/2014

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