Dyspraxia/DCD Children2024-06-05T19:47:57+00:00



Dyspraxia/DCD can be difficult to identify because it looks different from one child to the next. It may even differ from one day to the next.

Listed below are the diverse areas that may be impacted by Dyspraxia/DCD as well as what the child may experience. Remember, all children with Dyspraxia/DCD will have some difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills. Other areas of impact may differ depending on the child.

“Parents, educators, physicians, and therapists working with children with DCD must recognize how their quality of life is affected by the physical and emotional toll of their efforts to participate successfully in daily activities.”

Zwicker et al., 2017

Signs & Symptoms

Listed below are the diverse areas that may be impacted by Dyspraxia/DCD as well as what the child may experience. Remember, all children with Dyspraxia/DCD will have some difficulties with fine and/or gross motor skills. Other areas of impact may differ depending on the child.

Movement, Coordination & Motor Planning
Symptoms of Overlapping Conditions
Symptoms Other than Movement
Difficulties Living with Dyspraxia/DCD

Main Symptoms: Movement, Coordination & Motor Planning

Difficulty coordinating large (gross motor) and/or small (fine motor) body movements.

  • Feeding difficulties as infant (struggling to coordinate mouth movements needed for effective sucking/swallowing)
  • Delayed developmental milestones (rolling over, sitting, walking)
  • Poor pencil grip
  • Messy handwriting
  • Difficulty using utensils and scissors
  • Avoids games and toys needing good hand dexterity
  • Immature Art work
  • Tendency to spill
  • Difficulty learning how to tie shoes
  • Difficulty learning how to ride a bike
  • Difficulty running, hopping, or jumping
  • Trouble tracking across a page
  • Slow and uncertain actions
  • Difficulty kicking or catching a ball
  • Trouble sitting still for long periods

Symptoms of Overlapping Conditions

Someone with Dyspraxia/DCD may have another diagnosis at the same time.

Concentrating and staying on task.


  • Have a hard time in a whole class setting, but do significantly better on a one-to-one basis
  • Have limited attention span
  • Be Impatient and/or impulsive
  • Intrude in other people’s activities
  • Struggle to keep up with peers
  • Leave tasks unfinished
  • Forget or leave belongings behind

Producing and using language.

May have been late in reaching speaking milestones.

May demonstrate:

  • Difficulty writing thoughts on paper
  • Inconsistent use of capitals and punctuation when writing
  • Immature handwriting
  • Difficulty explaining needs or answering a question
  • Difficulty retelling an incident


  • Blurt things out or be slow to respond
  • Not know when to speak up
  • Not learn from past consequences

Responding to input from the senses.


  • Be over or under sensitive to stimuli such as noise, light, feel of clothes, food textures
  • May avoid playing roughly or play too roughly
  • Eat only certain foods and refuse to try new foods
  • Have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time
  • Perform repetitive movements such as flapping, tapping, swinging feet, fidgeting

Symptoms Other Than Movement

Someone with Dyspraxia/DCD may have symptoms in addition to movement and coordination.

Perceiving how far objects are from you and from each other.


  • Bump into objects and people
  • Have difficulty tracking and/or skip words when reading
  • Struggle with 3D images
  • Be hesitant to use the stairs
  • Have difficulty following directional instructions with no understanding of in/on/behind/in front of
  • Have trouble with copying from the board.
  • Need lines on paper to guide writing across a page

Planning, monitoring, and executing tasks.


  • Appear to not learn instinctively, must be taught skills.
  • Have trouble with math
  • Be generally poorly organized
  • Have trouble following sequential steps/instructions
  • Have trouble retelling a story
  • Have trouble organizing thoughts to put on paper
  • Planning, organizing, and carrying out daily chores

Remembering and using information for a short time.

May experience difficulty with:

  • Remembering instructions
  • Following instructions
  • Remembering something just read
  • Misplacing items and finding them

Difficulties of Living with Dyspraxia/DCD

The stress of living with Dyspraxia/DCD may lead to emotional or mental health issues.

Managing one’s emotions and/or behavior.


  • Exhibit immature behavior
  • Fit in to socially accepted behavior at school, but throw tantrums at home
  • Become overly excited quickly and take a while to settle down
  • Become upset easily, especially when unable to complete a task
  • Have difficulty coping with change

Communicating and interacting with others.


  • Find it difficult to keep friends or judge how to behave in company
  • Prefer the company of adults and struggle to maintain relationships with peers
  • Exhibit a growing awareness of difficulties, affecting confidence and self-esteem
  • Be susceptible to bullying

May not:

  • Pick up on non-verbal cues
  • Make eye contact when interacting with others

Experiencing emotional and psychological well-being.

May experience:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Distractibility
  • Obsessive and/or compulsive behavior
  • Lack of interest in preferred activities
  • Changes in school performance
  • Low self-esteem

Feeling tired or lacking energy.

May experience:

  • “Running out of steam” quickly
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Sleep difficulties, including wakefulness at night and nightmares
  • Avoidance of tasks
  • Frequent headaches and/or stomach aches

How is Dyspraxia/DCD Diagnosed?

Signs and symptoms will begin early in life, but a diagnosis may be made at any age.

A formal diagnosis will use criteria for Code 315.4 Developmental Coordination Disorder from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) or for Code 6A04 Developmental Motor Coordination Disorder (Developmental Dyspraxia) in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the global standard for diagnostic health information. For an official diagnosis, all the criteria in the DSM-5 or the ICD-11, which are fairly similar to each other, must be met.

Here is a high-level summary of the main diagnostic criteria:

  1. Motor skills are significantly below the level expected for the individual’s age.
  2. Lack of motor skills and coordination affects activities of daily life at home, school, and/or the workplace.
  3. Symptoms were present early in life.
  4. Difficulties with motor skills are not better explained by other medical conditions such as intellectual disability, neurological conditions or visual impairment.
In the United States, Dyspraxia/DCD must be diagnosed by a medical doctor (MD).

A diagnosis will include assessment of the following:

  • Medical history including development and symptoms
  • Gross and fine motor skills, coordination and balance
  • Other possible causes of motor difficulties.

Healthcare professionals providing input for a diagnosis may include:

  • Neurologist
  • Pediatric Neurologist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Pediatrician
  • Developmental Pediatrician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Psychologist

A diagnosis will include the following:

Who Can Help With Treatment?

There is no cure, however there are therapies and treatments available to help an individual in reaching their goals and full potential.

The best treatments for Dyspraxia/DCD and overlapping conditions, with or without an official diagnosis, are therapies that support the individual’s needs:

An occupational therapist helps develop skills specific to everyday activities at home, school, and work.
A physical therapist uses exercises, equipment, and hands-on therapy to help develop motor skills.
A developmental optometrist helps improve visual skills using exercises to strengthen the connection between the eyes and the brain.

Psychological therapy can strengthen mental health by improving resilience in the face of challenges and by addressing issues such as depression and anxiety.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a structured, goal-oriented type of talk therapy used by mental health professionals to help people understand and change negative thought patterns and improve coping skills.

In addition to providing assessments for diagnosis of Dyspraxia/DCD, a neuropsychologist may help individuals develop learning and coping strategies tailored to their individual needs.
A speech pathologist develops and implements a treatment plan that will help you or your child communicate more effectively.

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