Dyspraxia (adults) 

Introduction 

Acquired dyspraxia: Dom's story

Dom's traffic accident caused severe head injuries and he was in a coma for several months. As a result, he was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a disorder that affects movement and co-ordination. He describes the physical and mental effects of dyspraxia and how he adapted to everyday life.

Media last reviewed: 01/10/2012

Next review due: 01/10/2014

Useful tips for dealing with dyspraxia

  • use a calendar or diary to improve your organisation – synchronise this with your phone and computer if possible
  • learn how to talk positively about your challenges and how you have overcome them
  • learn how to use a computer or laptop if writing by hand is difficult
  • seek out support through programmes such as Access to Work from JobCentrePlus

For more information and support for dyspraxia/DCD, you can visit the following websites:

Similar medical terms

Some conditions have names similar to dyspraxia, or share some of the symptoms. Some of the similar medical terms you may come across are explained below.  

  • Apraxia – the inability to carry out certain tasks, although you know how to do them and have the physical ability to perform them. For example, you may not be able to lick your lips or move your eyes. Apraxia may be caused by another health condition or brain damage.
  • Aphasia – a language disorder where people have problems speaking, writing and understanding the spoken and written word. Aphasia is not a condition in itself, but a symptom of brain damage, such as a stroke.
  • Dyslexia – a common type of learning difficulty that mainly affects skills involved in reading and spelling words. Dyslexia should be recognised as a spectrum disorder, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Dyspraxia is a common disorder that affects movement and co-ordination. It is also known as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD).

Dyspraxia affects basic motor skills (such as walking or sitting upright) and fine motor skills (such as writing or picking up small objects) in children and adults. It is a condition that will last for life and is recognised by international organisations, including the World Health Organization.

Dyspraxia is different from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke, and occurs in people of all intellectual abilities. 

This page focuses on dyspraxia/DCD in adults. Read about childhood dyspraxia.

Symptoms of dyspraxia

The symptoms of dyspraxia can vary between individuals and may change over time.

Co-ordination difficulties

The co-ordination difficulties associated with dyspraxia can reduce the person's ability to participate and function in education and employment.

Difficulties with self-care, writing, typing, riding a bike and playing may start in childhood and continue into adulthood. An adult may also experience new difficulties, for example with driving a vehicle or DIY.

Other difficulties

Adults with dyspraxia may also have social and emotional difficulties, as well as problems with time management, planning and personal organisation. These may affect the person's education or employment.

Diagnosing adult dyspraxia

See your GP if you think you have undiagnosed co-ordination difficulties. You may be referred for an assessment by a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist, who will look at your ability to move.

Dyspraxia/DCD is a condition only really recognised in the last 20 years or so. This means there could be many adults with dyspraxia who were not diagnosed as children.

Who is affected?

Estimates vary, but dyspraxia is thought to affect around 5-6% of people in the UK. It is more common in men, and often runs in families.

It is not known what causes dyspraxia, but some children born prematurely have a higher risk of having dyspraxia.

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

Treating dyspraxia in adults

Dyspraxia does not affect intelligence, but may make learning new skills more difficult. Adults with dyspraxia may have developed coping strategies to find ways around everyday tasks they find difficult.

For example, you may find your movement problems improve as you find ways to adapt. As you grow older and accept yourself, your confidence and self-esteem may also improve. This may be because the pressure to 'fit in' as an adult is not as strong as when you were a child and teenager.

Some people also find staying fit helps their co-ordination, reduces feelings of fatigue and helps with potential weight gain.

Therapies

Although there is no cure for dyspraxia, there are therapies to help adults cope. These are described below.

  • Occupational therapy can help you find ways to remain independent and manage everyday tasks such as dressing yourself or getting to the local shops. Your occupational therapist can help you work out practical solutions.
  • Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) may also help. CBT aims to help you talk about your problems and identify ways to change your behaviour so you can manage your problems more effectively. SFBT aims to help you identify what you wish to achieve through therapy, rather than talking about the problem itself.
  • Speech and language therapy can be useful if you have problems with speech or language, or both. Your therapist will arrange a programme to address your needs.

Other conditions

If you have dyspraxia, you may also have another health condition that requires separate treatment. For example:

  • depression (long-term feelings of sadness) – this can be treated with a combination of exercise, talking therapies and antidepressant medication
  • anxiety (constant feelings of worry and unease) – this can be treated with medication, talking therapies and a number of self-help measures, such as relaxation techniques

Talk to your GP if either of these conditions affect you.

Page last reviewed: 10/10/2012

Next review due: 10/10/2014

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Comments

The 8 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Flower101 said on 17 July 2014

In response to beegee 68 I to had difficulties throughout school with comprehension and co-ordination skills, which was not picked up throughout growing up, by teachers.Even though I did achieve 8 Gcses grade A*- C and Bs at A level it did however take me longer time to understand information in comparison to my class mates.it was only until I reached my second year at university that my tutors recommended going for a dyslexia and dyspraxia assessment .today I was diagnosed with both, again thanks to Bolton university.Now understanding the condition I can now get the support I need to help improve my grades.Not only that working as a youth worker I can now relate and help motive other young people with the same condition in order for them to become successful adults :-)

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Beegee68 said on 20 January 2014

When my son was in reception class a newly qualified teacher told me she thought he had a learning need, but she was ignored by the head teacher. One teacher even told me to leave him with her and she would 'sort him out'. He was bullied by his peers and sometimes teachers. We knew the NQT was right and we battled with the school to have him assessed. Finally, the Head Teacher, under pressure from us, bought in a dyslexia test as she said he didn't meet the thresholds for the council test. He showed dyslexic tendencies, but they were 'mild and nothing to worry about'. I was by this time, working with young people with disabilities, many with Dyspraxia, and knew that this is what my son had. Although High School was initially supportive, it was all talk, and by year 10 they were still procrastinating over support. I went to my GP who agreed to send him for an assessment. It was found that he had a range of coordination problems, and a laptop was recommended for school, but they didn't go as far as to say Dyspraxia and the School did not accept the recommendation so he got no additional help when taking his GCSEs, except 10 minutes extra in exams because he has a back complaint. He studied IT at college and did well and was accepted at Bolton University. Within one term of being there they have recognised he needs additional support, greatly subsidised his Assessment, and he has been told today that he has Dyspraxia, possibly Irlen Syndrome, and should have been receiving support all through his education; something we have known since he was 5! He will get additional financial support, be provided with equipment, as well as a mentor. Never give up! My son is elated today, because he has learned a little more about himself and he finally understands. Thank you Bolton University.

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Binesme said on 27 December 2013

I have reason to believe that my partner of 8 years has Dyspraxia but i am not sure what i should do about it. Should i make him an appointment with the GP and tell him what i suspect

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ALADDIN_1978 said on 28 May 2013

Dyspraxia is just as common as dyslexia affecting around 10% of the population, but far less
known. See http://www.dyspraxiausa.org. Dyspraxia is unrecogniosed, misunderstood and poorly
supported especially for adults. I have a GP who has children with dyspraxia but does
not understand adult dyspraxia. We need to talk about dyspraxia, lots of adult dyspraxics
are unemployed or underemployed.

My dyspraxia has caused me a history of problems. I passed my driving test after 10 attempts,
I am not a brilliant driver, I have had several instructors. My degree, Postgrad qualification
and Professional qualification did not go brilliantly.

I tried to see an education psychologist during my Postgrad studies aged 21. My GP
thought that I did not need to see an educational psychologist because I was too clever.

In 2002, aged 23 I saw a speech therapist, she thought I had dyspraxia. I researched dyspraxia.
The Dyspraxia Foundation said dyspraxia was being clumsy. I realise now that information
was directed towards parents of young children. It is a white middle class charity for
the shires.

In 2004, people thought I may asperger syndrome. The psychiatrist gave me a non-standard
diagnosis of aspergers traits. He said - "aspergers traits not a problem" . The medical note says ASD.
I have borderline aspereger syndrome. The N.H.S gave me no support.

I learned about adult dyspraxia in 2008, my problems were dyspraxic not autistic,.
I received my diagnosis privately in Oxford, it could have cost 750 pounds, without support.

Dyspraxics can have aspergers traits. The diagnosis came too late for me.

Do I have a future ? I have had jobs, IT, telemarketing, market research, tutoring.

I want to work as a Statistician/Data Analyst.

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white witch said on 27 April 2013

I have two daughters with dyspraxia one with severe and one mild, both were diagnosed in childhood. both attended main stream schools with some help.my elder daughter is married with a son and works.
My younger daughter who has the severe dyspraxia works in the care industry having achieved a level 3 nvq and also is also a great mum.They do find some tasks difficult but they have managed around these and lead normal productive lives.
I wanted to say this to parents who may have newly diagnosed children that have faith they can have what you and i and everyone else has with a little help and encouragement.

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Marisa232 said on 27 March 2013

Whilst it is good that the NHS website acknowledges the existence of dyspraxia in adults, I consider it to be somewhat misleading to have featured a video about someone who developed the condition as a result of a brain injury. Although I have every sympathy for the man featured in the video, I strongly feel that it would have been more representative of adults with the condition to have interviewed an adult who has always had dyspraxia (ie developmental dyspraxia).

There is currently not enough awareness of dyspraxia in the medical profession, particularly amongst GPs. I have come across a significant number of people whose GPs have known nothing or very little about dyspraxia, and as a result have either not taken them seriously or not known where to refer them next for assessment and support.

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toolman said on 11 September 2012

Thank you. My husband and I have always known our son has Dyspraxia even though his only label thus far has been Dyslexia mainly due to the speech, coordination, attention etc etc problems. (as well as having low intelligence apparently) We have been treating and grooming him to be "normal" and have a normal life because limitations are not allowed for by those with no difficulties. In conversation with a friend who is trained and has experience with dyspraxia and seeing the anguish we are going through finally accepting that the problem is never going to go away with repetitive teaching and training has used expressions such as Dyspraxia, co morbidity due to other problems, ADHD, hightened sensitivity to etc, neurological, and brain injury. Our son has done very well under the circumstances. We are on a huge learning curve. Thank you again.

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zone_tripper said on 20 December 2011

Thank you.

I was recently diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, but I have subsequently learnt of Dyspraxia. In addition to ASD, Dyspraxia helps explain my past motor coordination difficulties.

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