What is Dyspraxia (DCD)?
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) – or dyspraxia – is a common disorder affecting movement and movement control. It can also affect speech. It can affect people of all ages, and can make them appear clumsy. DCD does not affect intelligence, but it can make daily life more difficult as it affects coordination (balance, playing sports, learning to ride a bike, learning to drive) and fine motor control (writing, drawing, using small objects). DCD should not be confused with other disorders that affect movement, such as stroke and cerebral palsy.
- DCD is 3-4 times more common in males than females.
This disorder is often genetic – it runs in families.
What causes it?
There is no single factor which is solely responsible for the development of DCD – it is thought that there could be many factors involved. Some include: damage to brain areas in charge of coordination and movement; pregnancy issues (premature birth, low birth weight, mother drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs whilst pregnant) and genetics.
What are the symptoms?
DCD can affect children and adults, and their symptoms may change over time.
In infants and younger children, there may be delays in developmental milestones like rolling over, sitting, crawling and walking. They may also have difficulty playing with toys that require coordination and may have difficulties learning how to use cutlery.
In older children, there may be difficulties taking part in playground games (hopping, running, throwing, catching), walking up and down stairs, writing, drawing, using scissors, getting dressed, and keeping still. A child with DCD may appear awkward and clumsy; however this may not always be a sign of DCD. Children with DCD may also display problems with concentrating, following instructions, organising, learning new skills, making friends, self-esteem and behaviour. Children with DCD may also be diagnosed with ADHD, Dyslexia and ASD.
In adults with DCD, there will be difficulties with coordination, learning new skills, writing, drawing, typing, social situations, dealing with emotions, time management and planning. Adults may also have comorbid conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia, ASD, dyscalculia, anxiety and depression.
How is it diagnosed?
In children, parents/carers can talk to a GP, health visitor or SENCO if they think their child has DCD. The GP can make a referral to other professionals such as a paediatrician, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, clinical psychologist, CAMH clinician or an educational psychologist. A neurologist may also be involved to rule out any underlying brain and nervous system conditions. An assessment will then take place, which tests a child’s ability to use large and small muscles.
In adults, a GP may refer the patient to a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist, who will also assess movements and investigate how the symptoms are affecting the patient’s life.
How is it treated?
DCD can’t be cured; however, there are ways that people can manage their condition. After diagnosis, a treatment plan can be drawn up by healthcare professionals tailored to the person’s needs. This can be task-orientated or process-orientated. Task orientated approaches involves finding specific tasks that someone struggles with; such as handling cutlery and writing; and finding ways to overcome them. Process-orientated approaches focus on the patient’s senses and perceptions, aiming to improve movement in general rather than improving specific tasks. Children and young people can receive extra help at school, and combined with the treatment plan, can help improve confidence and adjustment. Other methods include keeping fit (which may help with coordination), using diaries or planners to improve organisation, and seeking support through charities and support services. DCD may also improve when any comorbid conditions are treated.
Want to know more?
Dyspraxia foundation: https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/
Dyspraxia UK: http://www.dyspraxiauk.com/