Dyspraxia / Developmental Coordination Disorder

This is a recently-devised term used to describe problems that children may have with motor (movement) co-ordination. It has previously been covered by many other terms such as ‘clumsy child syndrome’, developmental disorder of motor function, motor-learning difficulty, sensory-integrative dysfunction, perseptuo-motor dysfunction and dyspraxia. Dyspraxia may be present as a form of DCD, highlighting an immaturity in the way that the brain processes information. This can affect the organisation of movement as messages to the brain are not being properly or fully transmitted.

DyspraxiaDCD is a common disorder amongst children, who may then continue to have difficulties with motor skills and co-ordination into adulthood. Problems with movement and co-ordination may significantly affect an individuals’ ability to perform everyday activities, and associated problems can include a poor attention span, language and perception difficulties, and problems with handwriting.

Children with DCD can take longer to learn and automate fine motor skills (involving both large and small muscle groups) and with hand-eye co-ordination. Activities such as riding a bike, playing ball games, and dressing may be a problem, and this can be challenging for both parent and child, affecting the way in which they interact and develop at home and at school.

DCD may become evident when a child fails to achieve certain developmental milestones, or problems may become more obvious at school, when a child is expected to perform higher-level functional activities, or is required to concentrate in class. At school, this may affect the way in which they play and interact with their peers, and / or how they perform in class. This may lead to low self-esteem, isolation, problems with making friends and, unfortunately, may encourage the child to give up sport or academic pursuits prematurely.

Symptoms and their severity vary from child to child, though each usually has difficulties with one or more types of motor skills. Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Unsteadiness
  • Altered muscle tone at rest
  • Difficulties in moving smoothly
  • Developmental delay in reaching particular milestones e.g. crawling, walking, speaking
  • Difficulties with co-ordination of walking and running
  • Problems learning how to get dressed, tie shoelaces, etc
  • Tripping and falling frequently into objects
  • Difficulties with holding a pen, forming symbols, copying things down from the board at school, etc
  • Problems concentrating, sitting still, writing stories, etc
  • A dislike of sports and P.E. at school
  • Difficulties organising oneself and remembering instructions, and frequently losing things

Dyspraxia may occur alongside other problems such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and dyslexia.

Our Specialist Paediatric Physiotherapist can assess your child to determine the nature of their difficulties and how these are affecting their behaviour and function. Having identified any problems and needs, a suitable physiotherapy programme would then be discussed, and the appropriate therapy options recommended to you. If required, we can liaise with your GP, any other health professionals and your child’s school teachers, and we can also provide specific training and support at school as appropriate.

A physiotherapy programme for DCD will vary depending upon each child’s individual presentation and needs. It may combine a variety of rehabilitation approaches in order to address the different aspects of their particular DCD. Rehabilitation may involve breaking down specific problem tasks into their component parts (to learn in stages), balance and co-ordination exercises, and skill-based activities that develop confidence and are transferable to the playground or classroom. Whichever approach is adopted it is essential that rehabilitation is individually tailored and also important that your child enjoys their physiotherapy sessions in order for them to develop new skills more effectively.

Please do get in touch with one of our team if you have any further questions about any of the services that we offer, or if you are concerned that your child may have dyspraxia or DCD and would like to discuss your child’s difficulties with us. We would be happy to talk to you about your concerns, and we can provide advice and reassurance over the telephone if this is all that is required. However, if you would like, we can arrange an assessment of your child, at a location that is convenient to you. This may be based within one of our designated clinics or, if it is more appropriate, at your home or at your child’s school.

Evidence shows that early intervention can dramatically improve the ability and performance of a child with dyspraxia or DCD, altering the way in which the condition plays out in adulthood, and improving their quality of life both now and in the future.


To arrange an appointment or to speak to one of our team, please contact our Clinical Director Sarah Joice on 07908 684441. You can also email us at info@yorkshirechildrensphysiotherapy.co.uk

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