by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
Dyspraxia is a disorder/disability that affects motor skill development, making it difficult for
individuals to plan and/or complete fine motor tasks as simple as waving goodbye or as complex as
brushing teeth. Dyspraxia, however, does not affect the one’s intelligence, although it can cause learning
problems in children.
The National Center for Learning Disabilities estimates that dyspraxia affects at least two percent
of the general population, with 70% of those being males. The NCLD also estimates that as many as six
percent of all children show some signs of dyspraxia.
Someone with dyspraxia can learn to function independently by special learning methods and
repeated practice of basic tasks. Occupational, physical, or speech therapy for some individuals may also
Does dyspraxia ever go away?
Unfortunately, dyspraxia is a lifelong disability. Its severity, symptoms, and effects vary from person
to person at different stages of life. Dyspraxia affects many basic functions required for independent daily
living and falls into one or more of the following categories:
- Ideomotor Dyspraxia – Completing single-step motor tasks such as combing hair and waving goodbye.
- Ideational Dyspraxia – Completing multi-step tasks: brushing teeth, making a bed, putting clothes on in order,buttoning, buckling, or lacing.
- Oromotor Dyspraxia – Coordinating muscle movements needed to pronounce words.
- Constructional Dyspraxia – Establishing spatial relationships, e.g., accurately positioning or moving objects from one place to another.
Dyspraxia often exists along with learning disabilities:
dyslexia (e.g., trouble reading, writing and spelling), dyscalculia
(e.g., trouble with mathematics), and other conditions that impact
learning such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Some symptoms of all of these disorders are similar in nature.
Weaknesses in comprehension, information processing,
and listening can also contribute to the troubles experienced by people with dyspraxia. They may also have
low self-esteem, suffer from depression, and have other emotional and behavioral issues.
Are there warning signs for dyspraxia?
Babies with dyspraxia may avoid crawling, rolling over, and other tasks involving motor skills.
As they get older, children with dyspraxia are prone to other problems listed on the next page. Having
these problems does not necessarily mean one has dyspraxia. If problems continue, consider having your
child tested by trained professionals. You and your child may benefit from special help. If these troubles
continue over time, the NCLD suggests you consider having your child tested for dyslexia which sometimes
Is there treatment for dyspraxia?
Yes. Early identification and intervention can help, but there is no cure. Depending upon the
severity of one’s dyspraxia, working with occupational, speech, and physical therapists can improve a
person’s ability to function and succeed independently. For a young child having trouble communicating or
moving steadily, parents must offer patience, encouragement, help, and support.
Children with dyspraxia must practice the simplest tasks step-by-step and progress toward more
complex activities. Engage your child with easy physical activities that help develop their coordination,
which in turn increases confidence. Encourage your child or teen’s friendships to help broaden their social
experiences and understanding of social relationships.