What is Developmental Dyspraxia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2019
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Developmental dyspraxia is a disorder which is neurological in origin. People with this disorder have difficulty planning and executing tasks which involve motor skills. As a result, they lack coordination, have generally poor motor skills, and reach developmental milestones such as crawling and walking later than other people. In some cases, developmental dyspraxia occurs with other disabilities, but it can also be a standalone condition.

References to unusually high levels of clumsiness among some people are very old, suggesting that developmental dyspraxia has been around for a long time. It was not until the 20th century that doctors began to recognize a constellation of symptoms which went beyond mere clumsiness to suggest that some people had a developmental disorder which involved their ability to plan and coordinate movements. In people with developmental dyspraxia, the signals in the brain which are supposed to coordinate movement become mixed up or cut off.

In addition to experiencing difficulty with motor tasks, some people with developmental dyspraxia also experience dyspraxia of speech. These people may have disordered speech and can also have difficulty reading and writing. People with developmental dyspraxia do not necessarily have learning disabilities or intellectual disabilities, but some may have other disorders which cause these disabilities. Some also experience disorganized thought and have difficulty with tasks which involve following directions or planning and executing a series of steps.


Behavioral issues can also be observed in some patients with developmental dyspraxia. Some people with developmental dyspraxia have difficulty in social situations and with social interactions. Students with this disorder may develop behavioral problems in class and these problems are often linked to the coordination difficulties experiences by the student. For example, a student who have difficulty holding a pen or pencil may act out during units during which children are expected to practice writing because the student is frustrated.

There is no cure for developmental dyspraxia. However, there are supportive therapies available. A child can be evaluated by a specialist who can make recommendations on the basis of the patient's specific issues. For example, if a child is having difficulty speaking and swallowing, a speech-language pathologist can provide therapy which will help with this. Likewise, if a student is struggling in school, special attention in class can help the child stay focused and learn. It is important to provide support for people with developmental dyspraxia so that they have an opportunity to realize their full potential.


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