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Learning Disabilities: Dyspraxia


  • What is a learning disability?
  • It is a specific problem in the brain that affects the way a person processes and responds to information.
  • ADHD
  • Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder - a disorder which affects the brains ability to concentrate.
  • A learning disability that makes it difficult to learn to read, write and spell in the conventional way.
  • A learning disability that involves problems with movement.
  • A learning disability involving mathematics.

Other resources

  • Food For Thought

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is an immaturity of the organisation of movement. That means that when the brain comes to telling the body to move a certain way, the message gets mixed and so the movement doesn't happen properly. Dyspraxia affects the planning of what to do, and how to do it.

Dyspraxia is also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), perceptuo-motor dysfunction (PCD) and Motor Learning Difficulties. Dyspraxia affects people in varying degrees. It is thought that up to 2% of the population are affected severely, with up to 10% being affected overall. It affects males 4 times more than females and, as with Dyslexia, it sometimes runs in families.

There are three (3) types of Developmental Dyspraxia. Oral Dyspraxia, Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD), and Motor Dyspraxia. The three variations effect approximately 5% of the population with approximately 70% of those effected being boys.

Oral Dyspraxia causes children not to be able to reproduce mouth movements. When asked to put their tongue up to the top of their mouth a child with oral Dyspraxia may not be able to, even though they do this unconsciously.

Children with Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia have difficulty in making sounds or making sounds into words. For example, a child with DVD might have trouble producing sounds in the beginning, middle or end of words such as 'sh'. When trying to say "shop" it might come out as bop, regardless of how hard they try to produce the sound/word correctly..

Motor Dyspraxia limits an individual from moving as planned and organising sensory input. Children with Motor Dyspraxia appear to be clumsy, but don't confuse a clumsy child with a child that has Motor Dyspraxia. While some refer to Motor Dyspraxia as "Clumsy Child Syndrome" they are not the same thing . (Source: Australian Dyspraxia Support Group and Resource Centre)

Dyspraxia and dyslexia are often present in the same person so that they not only have motor problems, they also have problems with language, perception and organising their thoughts.

As Dyspraxia affects motor skills, daily life can be a huge struggle - buttoning clothes, writing, coordinating a knife and a fork, etc. Dyspraxic children are usually of average or above intelligence. As you can imagine, having Dyspraxia and not being able to get your body to do what you want it to do, when you want it to do it, (i.e. talk properly or throw a ball correctly) can be very frustrating to a child.

Common Signs of Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia has different indicators at different stages of development.

Babies with dyspraxia:

  • are often irritable and may have difficulties with feeding.
  • are slow to reach the expected developmental milestones such as sitting and walking.
  • don't go through the stages of crawling - they prefer to bottom-shuffle and go straight to walking.
  • may resist tasks involving motor skills.

As children get a little older, they may:

  • have difficulty with eye movements, moving the whole head to look around, instead of just the eyes.
  • have trouble using cutlery or holding a cup to drink
  • have difficulties with most gross motor (large movement) skills like walking, skipping, throwing, catching and riding bikes.
  • have a delay in speaking or has speech that is difficult to understand
  • be delayed in establishing their left or right handedness
  • have difficulties with fine motor (small movement) skills such as buttoning clothing, tying shoelaces and hand-writing
  • be sensitive to touch
  • have a poor sense of direction

In school-aged children, dyspraxia can make life very challenging, causing difficulties such as:

  • problems in physical education classes because their coordination is not at the level of their peers
  • a reluctance to participate in class discussion because of problems with speech and organising their thoughts.
  • frustration with completing school work because of the physical difficulties that accompany hand-writing.
  • Strategies for managing Dyspraxia

There is no cure for dyspraxia, but early intervention with occupational, speech or a physical therapist can make a great difference to a person's ability to be independent and to function properly.

Parents and teachers need to be patient and offer encouragement to their children. Children will benefit if they get the chance to participate in tasks they find a little easier and to have lots of practice with the tasks they find challenging, so that their confidence and self esteem are increased. Success builds success!

Learn more about Dyspraxia:

  • National Centre for Learning Disabilities - US
  • LDOnline.com
  • Dyspraxia Foundation website - UK
  • Australian Dyspraxia Support Group and Resource Centre

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