Dyspraxia is a relatively common neurodevelopmental disorder that results in a child’s inability to coordinate their movements properly. It’s estimated that around 5% of school-aged children have dyspraxia, with mild to severe difficulties. Dyspraxia is usually diagnosed around age 6 or 7, but can often be detected far earlier by parents and primary care practitioners.
Children with dyspraxia have difficulty planning and completing movements. From walking downstairs to brushing teeth, children with dyspraxia have difficulty accomplishing everyday tasks that require balance, control, and coordinated movement.
The neurological cause of dyspraxia is unknown, but it is believed to be due to improper development of motor neurons in the brain that control muscles. In dyspraxia, the brain signals are not correctly communicated through motor neurons out to muscles, resulting in poor coordination. There may be a genetic component to dyspraxia, with a family history of dyspraxia being common. It is also common for dyspraxia to be co-diagnosed with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.
Children with dyspraxia typically do not meet developmental milestones: they are delayed in crawling and walking, have trouble climbing up and down stairs, and have a great deal of difficulty dressing themselves (zipping up, buttoning sweaters). They lack balance and are often described as clumsy, often bumping into things. On a fine motor level, children with dyspraxia typically have difficulty drawing, cutting with scissors, gripping a pencil, and writing. They also often have problems with short-term memory and have difficulty completing tasks, as they can get lost in processes. Like dyslexia, however, dyspraxia itself has no bearing on a child’s overall intelligence.