Dyspraxia is a common disorder that affects movement and co-ordination. It is also known as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD).
Dyspraxia/DCD is often spotted at a young age but there may be many adults with dyspraxia who remain undiagnosed.
Dyspraxia affects co-ordination skills such as tasks requiring balance, kicking and throwing a ball and fine motor skills (such as writing or using small objects carefully) 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.
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.
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
The first person to contact if you think you may have undiagnosed dyspraxia or co-ordination difficulties is your GP. It’s a good idea to take in information with you, such as a checklist with examples of how the symptoms and signs of dyspraxia apply to you.
You may be referred for an assessment by a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist, who will assess your movements and how it affects you day to day.
Who is affected?
Estimates vary, but dyspraxia is thought to affect around 3% of adults 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 related conditions, such as:
You may also have another health condition that may require separate treatment, such as depression or anxiety. Talk to your GP if either of these conditions affect you.
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.
Although there is no cure for dyspraxia, there are therapies to help adults cope. These are described below.
- Occupational therapy can help you find practical ways to remain independent and manage everyday tasks such as writing or preparing food.
- 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.
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.
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.
Page last reviewed: 13/10/2014
Next review due: 13/07/2017