In regards to the actual cause of dyspraxia is currently unknown.

The most recognized theory currently is that it is due to a lack of connections in the brain for motor neurons. These are the nerve cells that control muscles, and if difficulty is encountered in their development, this could lead to more time being needed to process data in the brain.

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What is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder that affects many parts of the body but is often misunderstood and thought to be something that only affects coordination. This, however, is not the case, and it is essential to understand the many interlinked aspects of dyspraxia to understand a diagnosis or, indeed, the potential for a diagnosis.

Which parts of the body does dyspraxia affect?

A person with dyspraxia may experience effects on the nervous and immune systems, as well as potential issues within the brain with processing and retaining information and judgment of information. As previously mentioned, the most well-known symptoms of dyspraxia are problems with movement and coordination.

Are there any alternative names for dyspraxia?

A few other terms are sometimes used to describe dyspraxia as a condition. These include development coordination disorder, DCD, perceptuo-motor dysfunction, and motor learning difficulties. Previous terms have also existed, but these have since been removed from usage. There are, however, some differences between these terms – DCD is a formal diagnosis, while Dyspraxia is more informal terminology.

What are the symptoms of dyspraxia, and how may it affect the individual?

The first sign of someone living with dyspraxia is often an appearance of being ‘out of sync’ with their environment. Dyspraxia does not affect intelligence, despite having some impact on thought and perception in some cases. However, it can affect cognitive processing in other ways.

Dyspraxic individuals find the planning and processing of specific tasks complex, particularly motor tasks. Motor tasks cover various situations, from instinctive tasks, like picking up an object, to more complicated ones, such as tying up a shoe. This is because the brain is not fully transmitting neural messages that allow these movements to occur. This difficulty within the brain with the transmitting of messages is seen as an immaturity within the brain created in development – leading to the condition being known as developmental dyspraxia. More information about developmental dyspraxia can be found on the official website of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Another way that dyspraxia affects those who live with it is through difficulty learning languages – although this does not affect all individuals, this is the case for many with the condition.

Overall, dyspraxia is expressed and experienced differently in adults and children despite some overlap – here’s an overview.

Symptoms and effects in adults

In adults, the symptoms of dyspraxia include noticeable differences in speech, such as stumbling over words. They may also struggle with learning languages.

They may struggle with coordination and balance, trip over more often, and generally feel more clumsy compared to others they know. Dyspraxia can also lead to poor posture, noticeable when the individual is standing/sitting in a position where they might otherwise be more upright.

Dyspraxic individuals may also have difficulty with close control (which is required for skills such as drawing or writing) and hand-eye coordination, for example, when playing sports. The disorder can also affect rhythm, which is noticeable in some situations, such as dancing.

Dyspraxia can also lead to struggling with getting to sleep, insomnia, and fatigue in daily life. Chores may feel more difficult, even simple chores that may be straightforward for individuals not living with dyspraxia. The disorder can also affect planning and organization due to increased difficulties with processing information. The condition can also lead to mood swings and frustration, leading to low self-esteem.

In general, someone living with dyspraxia might also struggle to identify particular sounds or speak amongst background noise and can be more sensitive to aspects of their environment, such as light and sound. Behavior can also be erratic and unpredictable.

Symptoms and effects in children

Dyspraxia can, for some individuals, cause learning difficulties in childhood, which is one of the reasons early diagnosis is so beneficial, as children can be provided with the assistance they need. However, as children get older, the symptoms can change.

After they are born, in very early childhood, it can be noted that children with dyspraxia may take longer than others to sit, crawl, stand, walk or even speak. They may also take longer to be fully potty trained, and their vocabulary may develop slower than other children.

As they get slightly older and begin attending school, they may find that activities they are involved in on the playground, such as kicking a ball or using a jumping rope, can cause problems. Their coordination may cause challenges in getting involved with such activities, and they may generally struggle with getting involved in school and making friends. In general, they may have more problems than others with learning new skills due to their dyspraxia, as well as some difficulties with focus and concentration and processing their thoughts.

Young school-age children’s dyspraxia may also be expressed through difficulties with fine motor skills such as handwriting, and they may also struggle to dress themselves and go up and down stairs. Children with dyspraxia can also be more likely to bump into or drop things.

In later childhood, a primary consideration is whether the symptoms mentioned above are still difficult for the child or if they are only slightly improved. Children/teenagers who are dyspraxic may also struggle with math and writing (and spend a longer time than others on this work) and may try to avoid sports as they find them harder. They may also struggle to follow and retain instructions and learn better in one-on-one settings than with other children. Their overall organization levels may also suffer as a result of their dyspraxia.

What causes dyspraxia?

Men are four times more likely to have dyspraxia than women, according to the website of Dyspraxia Foundation USA. However, there is some discussion about whether dyspraxia is underdiagnosed in girls.

Otherwise, another factor that can increase the likelihood of a child developing dyspraxia is a hereditary one – researchers at the University of Hull have found that some genes are implicated. There are commonalities found with several members of a family all affected by dyspraxia.

How is Dyspraxia diagnosed?

Dyspraxia is a fairly common disorder – It is predicted that around six to ten percent of the population may have dyspraxia.

Despite so many people within the population believed to struggle with some degree of dyspraxia, underdiagnosis is a potential problem – as mentioned above, some studies indicate dyspraxia in girls may be undiagnosed. The Dyspraxia Foundation in the UK notes further details on this on its website.

It is, therefore, important that if you believe your child may be dyspraxic that you make an appointment with your doctor. They will then be able to set you up with an educational or clinical psychologist, an occupational therapist, or a pediatrician who can make a formal diagnosis. The assessor will investigate the child’s motor skills and their ability with intellectual problems. They may also ask some questions about the developmental history of the child. The assessment of the child’s motor skills will cover both their fine motor skills (how the child can carry out activities such as doing up buttons or writing, which uses smaller muscles) and gross motor skills (how the child uses larger muscles for the movement of their body more generally).

For adults, a neuropsychological evaluation will usually be set up by your physician, which may include assessments relating to cognition, perception, memory, motor skills, and verbal communication. This will aim to establish how your brain is functioning and provide information that could lead to a confident diagnosis of dyspraxia.

Are there any conditions similar to dyspraxia?

According to the website of dyspraxia USA, there are several conditions or disorders similar to dyspraxia that could be considered ‘look-a-like’ conditions. It is essential to establish when diagnosing the condition that one of these look-a-like conditions is not in existence, rather than dyspraxia, to ensure that the patient receives proper treatment. These conditions include muscular dystrophy and other muscle disorders, mild cerebral palsy, neurometabolic and neurodegenerative conditions, some specific neurogenetic conditions, and diseases of the cerebellum.

How is Dyspraxia treated?

With treatment, the symptoms of dyspraxia can improve, even though there is no cure for the disorder. The most common treatments are therapy of some form, including occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physical therapy, psychological therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and eye vision therapy.

As the different symptoms of dyspraxia vary between adults and children, so too, of course, does the treatment. Specialist assistance can be provided to children with dyspraxia to alleviate any difficulties they face when learning due to the condition. This includes active play or perceptual-motor training.