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Motor planning and co-ordination difficulties

Dyspraxia goes by many names: developmental coordination disorder, motor learning difficulty, motor planning difficulty and apraxia of speech. It can affect the development of gross motor skills like walking or jumping. It can also affect fine motor skills. These include things like the hand movements needed to write clearly and the mouth and tongue movements needed to pronounce words correctly.

Although dyspraxia is not as widely discussed as other conditions that impact learning, like dyslexia, it’s believed to be fairly common. Roughly 6 to 10 percent[i] of children show some signs of dyspraxia and boys are affected more often than girls. 

Hearing or suspecting that your child may have dyspraxia can stir a lot of emotions. Even though dyspraxia is fairly common, many people have never heard of it.

Dyspraxia is not a sign of muscle weakness or of low intelligence. It’s a brain-based condition that makes it hard to plan and coordinate physical movement. Children with dyspraxia tend to struggle with balance and posture. They may appear clumsy or “out of sync” with their environment. Dyspraxia can affect social skills too. Children with dyspraxia may behave immaturely even though they typically have average or above-average intelligence.

Dyspraxia can affect a child’s ability to do a wide range of everyday physical tasks. These can include things like jumping, speaking clearly and gripping a pencil. Some kids have mild symptoms and others more severe. There are lots of ways to help with dyspraxia at home and in school. Learning more about it can help you find the most effective solutions for your child.

Dyspraxia affects some children more severely than others. The signs you may be seeing can also look different as your child gets older. But generally, the symptoms are present early in life. Babies may be unusually irritable and have difficulties feeding. They may be slow to reach developmental milestones, such as rolling over or walking. Here are some common symptoms for different age groups. Some or all of these symptoms may be present.

Warning signs in a toddler

  • Is a messy eater, preferring to eat with fingers rather than a fork or spoon
  • Is unable to ride a tricycle or play with a ball
  • Is delayed at becoming toilet trained
  • Avoids playing with construction toys and puzzles
  • Doesn’t talk as well as kids the same age and might not say single words until age 3

Warning signs in Preschool or early Primary School

  • Often bumps into people and things
  • Has trouble learning to jump and skip
  • Is slow to develop left- or right-hand dominance
  • Often drops objects or has difficulty holding them
  • Has trouble grasping pencils and writing or drawing
  • Has difficulty working buttons and zippers
  • Speaks slowly or does not enunciate words
  • Has trouble speaking at the right speed, volume and pitch
  • Struggles to play and interact with other kids

Warning signs in middle and late Primary School

  • Tries to avoid sports or Physical Education sessions
  • Takes a long time to write, due to difficulty gripping pencil and forming letters
  • Has trouble moving objects from one place to another, such as pieces on a game board
  • Struggles with games and activities that require hand-eye coordination
  • Has trouble following instructions and remembering them
  • Finds it difficult to stand for a long time as a result of weak muscle tone

 Warning signs in High School

  • Has trouble with sports that involve jumping and cycling
  • Tends to fall and trip; bumps into things and people
  • May talk continuously and repeat things
  • May forget and lose things
  • Has trouble picking up on nonverbal signals from others

With treatment and support, children with dyspraxia may improve their muscle tone and coordination over time. Children do not outgrow dyspraxia. But occupational therapy, and speech therapy and other tools and strategies can help. Children can learn to work around areas of weakness and build on their strengths.



Inspiring Possibilities: MOBILE Occupational and speech therapy
T: 1300 845 863
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