Many with Autism Have Dyspraxia, But What Is It, Exactly?

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Can you imagine what life would be like if you struggled to perform everyday tasks? For many people, this is their reality; things like fastening a button, tying shoelaces, holding a pencil, and even sitting up straight can be an immense challenge for them due to a condition called dyspraxia.

Also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), dyspraxia affects more kids (i.e. five to six percent of school-aged children) than other common disorders like autism and ADHD. However, it often appears alongside these neurological differences, too. And in spite of its relative commonality, it oftentimes goes undiagnosed.

What Is Dyspraxia?

Photo: Adobe Stock/kozorog

Photo: Adobe Stock/kozorog

Dyspraxia is, simply put, difficulty with movement. It can affect gross motor skills (large movements that involve the limbs or entire body, like walking or running) as well as fine motor skills (smaller movements, such as writing, grasping, or looking around). Some struggle with single-step motor movements, like hair-brushing, whereas others have difficulties with tasks that involve a series of different movements, such as making the bed. Still others have trouble with speaking; also known as verbal apraxia, these individuals may struggle to move their mouths in the delicate, complicated movements that produce words and sounds, resulting in slurred or hard-to-understand speech. In some cases, those with verbal apraxia may not be able to speak much at all.

Some symptoms of dyspraxia include…

  • Child does not have the same motor abilities as typical children of the same age; development is delayed
  • May not have a dominant hand, or may be slow to develop having one
  • Appears clumsy—dropping things, tripping, bumping into stuff, moving stiffly, or otherwise moving in uncoordinated ways
  • Struggles to grasp things
  • Speech is slow or difficult to understand, with words often pronounced differently each time spoken
  • Struggles to play with other children
  • Inconsistency with movement; sometimes the child is able to do something, other times not
  • It takes a long time to learn new movements
  • Responses to requests may be delayed
  • Repetitive movements due to child getting “stuck” in motor patterns (and they welcome having their movements stopped).
Photo: Adobe Stock/EvgeniiAnd

Photo: Adobe Stock/EvgeniiAnd

Causes of Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia seems to be the result of a disconnect between the brain and the body. The brain may have trouble processing information and sending complete signals to the body’s muscles, which results in difficulties with motor tasks.

As for what leads to this issue, experts aren’t sure. We don’t have great evidence that it’s genetic, but some believe it could be. It is also believed to be more common in those born prematurely or with low birth weight, as well as those who were prenatally exposed to alcohol.

See the next page for more information on dyspraxia—including the effect it has on life, ways it can be treated, and one final, very important note we want to make.

A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.
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