Dyspraxia: What You Need to Know

By The Understood Team
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At a Glance

  • Dyspraxia refers to trouble with movement.

  • The term dyspraxia has been around a long time, but it isn’t an official diagnosis.

  • There are many ways to help kids improve motor skills.

If your child struggles with motor skills, you might hear people describe it using two different names. Dyspraxia is one. Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is the other. These terms aren’t totally interchangeable. But they describe many of the same difficulties.

Learn more about the term dyspraxia and the motor skills challenges it refers to.

What Is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia refers to trouble with movement. That includes difficulty in four key skills:

These challenges usually don’t exist on their own. Kids with motor skills difficulties often have other challenges, too. These include:

It’s important to know that dyspraxia is not an official diagnosis. DCD is the official diagnosis for motor skills challenges. Explore signs of DCD at different ages.

Who Uses the Term Dyspraxia

The term dyspraxia has been around for decades, but it’s being used less and less. That’s because it doesn’t have a set definition and it isn’t an official diagnosis. Still, you may hear the term from some professionals and from other families.

In the U.K., the term dyspraxia is used more often. Sometimes they use the term to include other challenges beyond trouble with motor skills. For example, they might include trouble with social skills or attention under their definition of dyspraxia.

Some people in the U.S. may also view it that way. They may use the term dyspraxia because they feel it best describes their child’s difficulties.

But most professionals no longer use the term. Evaluators use DCD when they make a diagnosis. But they typically talk to families about areas of difficulty, not labels. Schools and specialists also typically focus on challenges and services, without giving the difficulties a name.

What Can Help Kids Improve Motor Skills

If your child struggles with motor skills, there are lots of ways you can help. Working with the school and with specialists can help your child get the best possible help.

There are two types of professionals who often work with kids who struggle with motor skills. They are occupational therapists (OTs) and physical therapists (PTs).

OTs work on fine motor skills and the ability to do everyday tasks, like holding a pencil and cutting with scissors. They might also work on gross motor skills, like the ability to catch or kick a ball. And they help kids with motor planning challenges that get in the way of daily tasks, like washing hands.

Physical therapists, meanwhile, work on building body strength, if that’s part of a child’s trouble with movement.

At school, your child might be able to get these services. The school might also provide accommodations. These are supports to help your child learn the same material as the rest of the class. One example is speech-to-text technology, or getting notes from the teacher instead of having to copy them off the board. You’ll have to request an evaluation to find out if your child is eligible for some or all of these things.

There are many strategies you can use at home, too. Playing board games, cooking together, and tossing a ball around are ways to make practicing motor skills fun. You can also work with your child on self-care routines, like brushing teeth, getting dressed, and tying shoes.

If you think your child is struggling with movement, learn about steps you can take to find out. If you just learned that your child has motor skills challenges, discover what you can do next. Share success stories with your child. And read how one mother learned to cope with her daughter’s difficulties.

Key Takeaways

  • People may use dyspraxia and DCD interchangeably. But the official diagnosis for motor skills challenges is DCD.

  • Occupational therapy can help kids improve motor skills.

  • There are fun ways to help kids practice motor skills at home, too.

About the Author

About the Author

The Understood Team 

is made up of passionate writers, editors, and community moderators. Many of them learn and think differently, or have kids who do.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Bob Cunningham, EdM 

serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.

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